Floyd and Lloyd: A West Side story

Stacey Baca Image
Friday, August 11, 2017
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They're 13-year-old twins growing up in one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- They're 13-year-old twins growing up in one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods. Over the coming months and years their family has agreed to share their daily lives.

ABC7's Stacey Baca met Floyd and Lloyd Russell in February of this year.

It was a cold night on a street corner in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

A 2-year-old boy and his uncle had just been shot and killed.

I was the reporter assigned to cover a community and police gathering after the shooting.

Floyd and Lloyd were there along with other children from the neighborhood.

Sometimes stories touch you and it got me thinking about their lives - what they see, what they experience.

This is Floyd and Lloyd Russell and their West Side story.

At a church food pantry you'll find kindness in a violent neighborhood.

Lloyd Russell and his twin brother Floyd helping the needy.

Every week, the twin teens volunteer, in one way or another, at Harmony Community Church, across the street from their home.

Love, just steps away from hate and from violence. The twins have seen that, too.

"I just saw a body on the floor with red tape around it," said Floyd Russell.

When it comes to violent crimes, North Lawndale ranks fourth in the city.

"When you go to different places...sometimes you never know, you might not make it back," said Floyd.

That's the twins' reality and if you believe violence can't be stopped or at least averted, you haven't met the twins' mother, Lisa Russell.

"She keeps us on the right path," said Floyd.

The twins' mother is so determined, she says she's faced gangs trying to lure her sons.

"I have to let them know...these are my babies. If I'm going to go down, I'll die trying to save them. I work too hard to have someone come in and just snatch their lives," said Lisa Russell.

So she pushes education and packs their summer schedule with interesting activities.

On this day, it's biology camp at another church, dissecting grasshoppers.

This may look like all fun. It isn't. Lisa Russell says she rarely lets the twins walk alone, even a block. At 13, that can seem brutal.

"They don't understand right now but, in the long run, if they should live to be grown and become a parent, they'll understand where I'm coming from. And I can deal with that," said Lisa.

By now, you may be thinking, "Where's their father?"

"He's still here, but he's just in heaven," said Lloyd Russell.

Lisa Russell says he died of pneumonia a year-and-a-half ago. Leaving her and her mom, a retired teacher, to raise the teens - you can hear the influence.

"Stay in school, get done with school and move forward from the violence," said Floyd.

That's their hope.

"In the morning we leave, we might not get back together," said Lisa.

The reality as Floyd and Lloyd grow up on the West Side.

The twins have an older sister and brother. Their sister works at a Chicago school, their brother is unemployed.

In North Lawndale, the City of Chicago reports that more than 20-percent of those 16-and-older are unemployed 43-percent of the households in that neighborhood live below the poverty level.

Despite those facts, there are families, like Floyd and Lloyd, who are getting up each day, living their lives.

We'll be following these young men in the months ahead.