First dispatch from Cambridge —
Seven years now, I covered violence for the Chicago Tribune. I’m on leave, studying childhood trauma at Harvard as a Nieman fellow. (It feels weird to say that but ... I've been here for a month and I'm still adjusting.) Just wrapped up my second full week of classes.
I'm going to use this space to draw attention to interesting passages in assigned readings, journalism I happen into, things I'm reading for fun, music I’m finding now that I’m not listening to scanners … really, just to write.
It’s how I process, so. This will help, I think.
At work, whenever possible, we explain the stress of violence on survivors, witnesses, and those closest to them. Kids, especially. With kids, it's not just a matter of processing pain and learning how to move on from it - there are behavioral responses to trauma, developmental milestones kids are supposed to hit at different ages that are put at risk, changes in the body by repeated stress.
No surprise, in our city, in the context of systems that are perpetually triaging the needs they're supposed to meet, that every gang member we've ever had a conversation with has some unaddressed violence in their past. Our work is about people who are hurting - each in a different way but each hurting.
I need to know more about trauma. About its effect on mind and body. It's an area of study that, if I'm going to keep writing about violence in any way, I need to have a better understanding of.
I'm learning a lot. Catching my breath, too.
About the photo:
One of the last crimes I covered in Chicago was the shooting of a 3-year-old girl. This photo is from that night, where a young man from the neighborhood helped organize a peace march in response to the shooting. It wasn't going to solve Chicago but it it is community in it's purest sense - no cameras, no agenda, no points to be scored. Neighbors bound by faith and good intentions and love for each other. These moments are often emotional, something honest in a city that on its best day vacillates between dishonesty and an inability to be honest with itself.
There's not a concise way to explain the rest of the history here - just that we've done a lot of work from this area over the last few years, by the grace of people who've felt comfortable enough to share with us their stories of love and grief and how violence continues to shape their world. For their trust, I've always been grateful.