I-Team Report: Generations

May 26, 2010 8:34:06 PM PDT
As we continue our investigation of life in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, the I-Team wanted to look through the eyes of one family to see how they manage amidst the danger.

In Chicago's Gresham district on the mid-South Side, not far from where that police officer was killed last week, what we came away with was a sense of how generations are dealing with life, one night in Chicago at a time.

They are the modern faces of an Auburn-Gresham generation. Vince and Cheryl Clark now raising their son on the same block where Cheryl grew up. Her parents - married more than 50 years - still live down the street as do her sister and a niece.

"Here you had extended family that really believed in you that when they saw you do something wrong or when they saw you doing something good they commented on it, they got involved," said Cheryl Clark.

"The community on my particular block is very family-oriented. You have people who have been here 30 40 years, people who look out for me the way people looked out for each other years ago. That unfortunately doesn't happen as much today. But it's a very family based block, I love it," said Vince Clark.

"Our community was more like family and that's what I enjoy and that's why I decided to come back here and raise my son; not only because I work and I get help from my parents when I need a babysitter or someone to look after my son," said Cheryl.

Cheryl Clark is a Chicago police officer in the 9th District. Her brother is also a city cop. Vince has worked at St. Sabina Church in the administration office for 27 years.

This spring their afterschool ritual is homework first so Chazz, who is 7, can meet up with his dad at church league baseball practice.

"We try to instill in them friendship, sharing, courtesy and that kind of thing and we've done a half way decent job," said John Godbolt, youth baseball coach.

Godbolt has lived in the neighborhood for 33 years and says the violence isn't as pervasive as the reputation.

"I think if we had more fathers who had time to spend with their sons and point them in the right direction we'd have less crime on the streets," said Godbolt.

"It's only a small area and a few that is committing all these crimes and the violence. Ninety percent of the residents here are very peaceful and friendly, real friendly," said Marshall Gray, youth baseball coach.

But it is the other 10 percent that seems to get the attention in crime plagued neighborhoods such as Gresham, where the Clarks live.

The past three months, there have been nearly 30 instances of violent crime within a half mile of their home. The most recent was last week - a homicide on the next block. And also last week, just two miles away, Chicago policeman Thomas Wortham IV was murdered in an off duty stickup.

"The loss of any life is very heart wrenching and very hard and it sends out a message that 'oh here we go again' here in Auburn-Gresham. But for the most, families are involved in good things and are really good hard working people, church going people that love the lord and serve the lord and families who look out for each other and that's why I'm still here," said Cheryl.

"We are never profiled until something bad happens like a shooting or act of violence. I feel safe in this community, or I would not be here, particularly raising a child if that were not the case. If I felt I was putting my child or my family in danger I would have vacated this community years ago but that's not the case," said Vince.

"The one good thing about me being in Auburn-Gresham is he won't forget where he came from, whether we stay here or whether we move, he's had this base and foundation of a neighborhood, of helping people and getting along and he's lived it first hand," said Cheryl.

"It's not just a community full of gangbangers and drug dealers and prostitutes. It's not that. I'm here in this community. My wife is here in this community. My son is here in this community. We are not any of the things I just described," said Vince. "My in-laws live on the same block as me. I have other relatives and other friends in this community. There is more good in the community than bad."

This month we spent four night's in Chicago neighborhoods with the highest rates of violent crime, investigating its effect. Our first story looked at how residents dealt with shootings as they occurred near their homes. We then profiled community activists working to stop the violence. We spent our third night with the men and women whose jobs are to help the victims. And finally, we spent a night with generations of families, like families across the country, who live day to day as part of a caring community.


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