Playground dedicated to murdered teen

April 22, 2008 4:18:59 PM PDT
A playground was dedicated Tuesday in memory of a 13-year-old girl who was the victim of gun violence. Schanna Gayden was with her grandmother at that playground last year when she was caught street gang crossfire. The girl's mother is calling for an end to the violence that continues to take lives in Chicago.

There isn't a day that goes by that Rita Sallie does not break down in tears when thinking about her daughter Schanna. Sallie says the hurt only gets worse when she hears about another child being shot. Sallie thought her daughter's death may have been a wake up call to end gang violence, but that is not the case.

With the cut of a ribbon, Rita Sallie made it official, this Logan Square playground is now dedicated to her daughter Schanna Gayden. Dozens of community members came out for the ceremony.

"Every time I pass this park I think, Wow, this is Schanna Gayden Park. Wow, as she would say, this is awesome," said Sallie.

Sallie and her daughter used to sit on this bench and watch the kids play. This park was a big part of Schanna life's until the 13-year-old was killed in gang crossfire last summer as she walked across the park to buy fruit from a street vendor.

"Knowing Schanna paid a deep price for something she had nothing to so with, it cuts me, deeply," said Sallie.

Schanna's murder touched many. Her funeral received a police escort, politicians spoke, and in the days following, community members marched to get guns off the streets.

Yet, the violence never stopped. During the past year, Sallie has watched as other children have been gunned down. This mother takes every one of the shootings personally.

"Did you learn nothing from when this child was murdered? Did you learn nothing from when this child was murdered? Did you learn anything from when the last 10 children were murdered? These children could be your children. Or, you ought to tell the gang members, this child could have been your brother or your sister," Sallie said.

While many talk about solutions to curb violence, Rita Sallie doesn't have any answers. Her only hope is that gang members, and their parents, will start to listen and understand the impact one killing like Schanna Gayden's has had on an entire neighborhood.

"She touched so many in 13 years than I've touched in my whole life," said Sallie.

Rita Sallie is grateful for all the community support. A tree at the park was dedicated to Schanna Back in October. This week the tree began to bloom.

Sallie is hopeful Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis' plan to deploy SWAT officers on the streets to battle violence will help save other innocent children from gang violence.


Load Comments