To learn more about the two part series on Harper High School,
ThisAmericanLife.org, where you can also here a short
promo for the episodes.
Listen to more This American Life stories on:
This Friday, President Obama will stop in Chicago to talk about
urban gun violence, something the city knows far too much about
after last year's record homicide numbers.
Eight of last year's homicide victims were students at Harper
High School in Chicago's West Englewood neighborhood. 21 additional
students also suffered gun shot wounds but survived.
In an effort to better understand the communities suffering the
most from climbing gun violence rates in Chicago, specifically in
the city's high schools, three reporters from public radio show
This American Life spent a full semester observing and
reporting at Harper.
"For everything we've all heard about children and gun
violence," says the program's host Ira Glass, "there are basic
things we don't hear so much about. Like what it's like to live in
neighborhoods that have to cope with so much bloodshed. This is a
school that knows this problem in a way that most of us around the
During their five months at Harper, the reporters recorded
both sides of the school: the students and their families, and the
staff and administrators. The result of their time at Harper is a
two part series airing this weekend and next, Feb. 15-17 and Feb.
In the broadcasts, reporters Alex Kotlowitz, Linda Lutton and
Ben Calhoun share their experiences at Harper and what they learned
about gang violence among teens.
Harper's attendance area alone includes more than 15
gangs that operate very differently than they used to, according to
the This American Life press release about the series. Many of the
gangs don't sell drugs, don't have colors or wear caps tilted to
the right or left. Most important, boys are nearly always assigned
a gang affiliation, whether they want it or not, based on where
"When I ask kids what their parents don't
understand about gangs these days," Lutton says, "they say it's
this. Their parents tell them not to join a gang-as if there's some
initiation to go through, some way to sign up." Aaron Washington, a
Chicago police officer stationed at Harper, told Lutton that
because the only safe way to walk home through gang territory is in
a group, there's almost no way for a kid at Harper to avoid
To learn more about the episodes and hear a preview of the
upcoming broadcasts, visit ThisAmericanLife.org.
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.
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