Violence Interrupters in Chicago
Over 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Most of these murders were concentrated in a few historically black neighborhoods on the West and South sides of the city. And most of the victims were under 30 years old.
For many people listening to this show in the comfort of their home or car or while at the gym, it’s probably difficult to grasp what such a high rate of murder and violence does not only to those involved but also to the wider community.
In some of these Chicago neighborhoods, the impacts from violence have been compounded by a raft of school closures. A WBEZ Chicago report found since 2002 over 70,000 children – “the vast majority of them black — have seen their schools closed or all staff in them fired.” In 2013 alone, 50 schools were closed, which was the largest intentional mass school closing in recent history.
My guest today is Tio Hardiman, president and founder of Violence Interrupters, Incorporated and an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice. Tio is on the front lines of conflict resolution, restorative justice practices, and community organizing. He has seen what violence does to a community and the way it impacts and is impacted by schools. In our conversation, we talk about the history of violence in Chicago and what this means for children today.
Citation: Hardiman, Tio, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 175, podcast audio, October 7, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/tiohardiman/
Will Brehm 1:58
Tio Hardiman, welcome to FreshEd.
Tio Hardiman 2:00
I’m really glad to be here.
Will Brehm 2:02
So, can you just give me a quick overview of what’s going on on Chicago’s west and south sides?
Tio Hardiman 2:09
Well, when it comes down to what’s going on, on Chicago’s west and south sides as it relates to gun violence, and some of the factions and the cliques out here, it’s just the violence is all over the place. There’s no method to the madness; you have women being killed, children being killed, some babies, and you have the different cliques on the different blocks out here that used to be a part of a bigger gang structure. But now you have factions and offshoots of the bigger gangs. And it’s like every man for themselves, like the wild, wild west, so to speak. That’s what you have going on in Chicago right now.
Will Brehm 2:40
And how many killings are we talking about in a given year?
Tio Hardiman 2:44
Well, on average, in Chicago, you have anywhere from … well, put like this, 500 to 700 homicides every year in Chicago. And it’s unfortunate because at the beginning of the year, let’s say January first of any year, we already expect that Chicago would surpass 500 homicides. And that’s sad, because the reality is that that means people will lose their lives, and that’s what’s going on in Chicago.
Will Brehm 3:07
Wow. We’re sitting in Chicago today, and just last weekend while I was here, I saw in the paper that six people were killed and 28 or so were injured from gun violence. But what’s interesting is that it’s concentrated primarily in just a few neighborhoods, basically.
Tio Hardiman 3:27
Well mainly in Chicago, you just said that the history in the Englewood community, the Austin area on the far west side, or the Chatham area, Roseland and way far south, and then the South Shore Community. So, Chicago has a, what you might say, an “entrenched history”, so to speak. I use that word. But you know the gang violence is, or the factional violence is, entrenched in the fabric of the minds of some of the young people that are involved in the violence. But the neighborhoods on the south and west side, the history dates back to about 40 years ago. About 40 years ago when you had the establishment of the bigger gangs. Like on the west side, you had the Vice Lord Nation, which are one of the oldest gangs in Chicago and African American community. And then in Englewood community, that’s like the birthplace of the Gangster Disciples. And then you had the birthplace of the Black Stones over in the Woodlawn community. So, you have, what you call, “the gang lifestyle” has been institutionalized with some of the people here today, in present time. Because they grew up, their uncles were gang members, some of their grandfathers were gang leaders. So, the beat goes on and on for the next generation to come. But instead of young guys going to college as a rites of passage, some of the guys are going to the streets or to jail as a rites of passage.
Will Brehm 4:42
So, what happened 40 years ago that these gangs were established to begin with?
Tio Hardiman 4:47
Well, if you look back in the history of Chicago, there’s two answers to that question. One is that back in 1990, you had a race riot in Chicago, where mainly some of the Irish gang members over in Bridgeport, Canaryville on the south side of Chicago, they were attacking African American, men in particular, on a high level, which led to the race riot. That’s what actually led to the race riot. So, a lot of the African American gangs began to organize and unify, a lot of African American young men began to organize and unify back then. But at the same time, what happened is that you had something going on simultaneously in the African American community, where a lot of guys began to turn on each other because it was about territorial issues. Even with some African American guys back then. They organized the fight the white gangs, but then they start fighting one another as time moved on. So that’s what led to the birth of the super black gangs.
Will Brehm 5:40
And what years is this? It is like late 1970s?
Tio Hardiman 5:44
No, you’re looking at late 1960s for the Vice Lords, like the mid-70s for the other gangs, like the Gangster Disciples, the Black Stones. Jeff Fort was the leader of the Blackstone Rangers. At one time, he probably had around five to 10,000 members. And I use those numbers, because you have different numbers out there, but I know he had thousands of guys that looked up to him; he was their leader. Then Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples became one of the biggest gangs in Chicago, then the Black Disciple Nation, and then Vice Lords. What happened is that there was an opening. The reality is some guys go to work and become productive members of society. But when you have grown up in poverty, some guys take the gang route or the street life. And that’s what happened with the birth of the gangs, because a lot of them began as gangsters, where they tried to emulate Italian gangsters. A lot of older black gangsters wanted to be like Dutch Schultz, they want to be like Lucky Luciano, they want to be like Al Capone. So, they took on those personalities and roles in the black community. And then it spiraled into like these big gangs.
Will Brehm 6:51
Oh my gosh. So today, when there’s 500 plus murders every year in Chicago, are these two rival gangs, or multiple rival gangs, are they the ones fighting each other that is causing all of this death? How is it playing out today?
Tio Hardiman 7:09
Well, the motives behind most of the violence that’s playing out, let’s say over the last 10 years – it’s the year 2019 now – since let’s say 2000, I’d say, it’s like a lot of cliques. A lot of revenge, vendettas from the past. A lot of old people’s deaths. You get robbery all over the place. People killing about the females. Territorial disputes – I’m talking about block-by-block territorial disputes. I’m not saying big old areas, because the different cliques run their blocks. So, you have a lot of misunderstandings that leads to killings. Revenge is one of the number one factors leading to the killings out here. Because somebody lost a loved one, they’re going to exact revenge as soon as they can. So that’s one of the leading causes of the problem. And believe it or not, the drug selling is not much as a factor like it used to be, as far as the killings in the 80s and the 90s. So, you can clearly point to the drug distribution game in the 80s and the 90s, because guys were making millions of dollars back then. But today, in the year 2019, you got guys selling loose cigarettes, selling some cocaine, marijuana, heroin, but it’s not like it used to be. The million-dollar days are pretty much over now, because crack cocaine is pretty much outdated now. People are not smoking crack like they used to. Heroin addiction is back on the rise, but the reality is the gangs are not making the money they used to make.
Will Brehm 8:29
So, what’s causing it then? Is it just rivalry?
Tio Hardiman 8:32
This is rivalry. It’s reputation. Everybody wants to make a name for themselves. And then you just got the issues; people got issues out here. Right now, in Chicago, 46% of African American young men are unemployed, which means that idle times like a devil’s workshop. And everybody’s like, peer pressure. They’re giving in to peer pressure. They’re giving in to like, “We are from this block. Let’s roll together.” So, you got people like this; you have a lot of guys being misled in the community. And it leads to their premature deaths. Put it like this: let’s say you have a clique of 20 guys. Three or four out of the 20 are psychopaths. Those are the guys that are making it happen for the 16 other members of the clique. Those are the go-getters. So, you have people that are scared of the go-getters; they’re part of the clique. The go-getters don’t get killed all the time, the marginal people end up being shot and killed. But sooner or later, they catch up with the go-getters, you know, sooner or later. But homicide is the easiest crime to get away with. In Chicago, you have a nine to 14% homicide clearance rate. So, what that means is that people get away with murder 86% of the time. And it’s easy to go shoot and kill somebody. It only takes four or five seconds, and you’re out of there. That’s why you have such a high homicide number in Chicago. Because Chicago is not number one in the country, believe it or not, it’s St. Louis, that’s number one in the country, per 100,000 people. But Chicago, with all the money being spent on violence prevention and police overtime, there’s no way in the world we should still be at 5-600 homicides every year. Too much money has been spent to deal with this issue.
Will Brehm 10:11
Through the Police Department?
Tio Hardiman 10:13
No, I’m talking about through violence prevention programs. This is the biggest trick in the world: the police cannot stop killings on the front end, because the police have not been trained to stop killings on the front end. The police have been trained to respond to violence.
Will Brehm 10:29
So, after it happens.
Tio Hardiman 10:30
Yes. The police get involved once a crime is committed. And this is not a criticism; I’m saying this because we have to be transparent. It’s hard to deal with intercepting whispers on the ground level in order to stop the killing on the front end. So, most of the community groups, they come after the fact. And they organize big marches. They say what they’re going to do next, to stop the next killing. So, when the next killing takes place, now they say they need some more resources, get over in that area to march again because everybody’s coming after the fact. People are making a name for themselves about saying they’re violence prevention experts because they come out and march in the community. A lot of people are doing just that. So, my thing is, in order to stop the killing, and from my experience – I can’t speak for nobody else – no matter what program. I’m the president of Violence Interrupters, former director of Ceasefire Illinois. We stopped a lot of killings. It wasn’t so much based on the program; it was based on personal relationships with people. So, if you have a relationship with these shooters out here, you can go to them personally and say, “Man, I need you to do me a favor. Let that go. I’m asking you as your big brother, let it go. Because I talked to the other guy you want to kill. And he said he’s willing to let it go. So let me bring both of you guys to the table, and I don’t care how you got to talk about it. You can cuss each other out. Do what you think you need to do to let the situation go. I’m asking you as your brother.” So, when you multiply Tio Hardiman times 50 violence interrupters that have personal relationships like I have, you end up seeing a reduction in some of the killings, and you stop it on the front end.
Will Brehm 11:58
So, you mediate between these different rival cliques. But that means you have to know all of these different rival cliques. So, you have a reputation on the ground in Chicago, where you can name the head of these different cliques and be able to bring people together. That sounds like it must be, at times, quite dangerous.
Tio Hardiman 12:21
It’s a dangerous work. And I tell people all the time, the kind of work, if you really want to stop killings, this work is not for the faint of heart. Don’t try this at home. We have a violence interrupter training. But most important, people fake all the time. So, you’re not going to stop a killing without a confrontation. People need to stop lying out here. Because nobody’s just going to put their gun down because you talk to them, and just because it’s just a smooth conversation. Because there’s two sides of every story out there. And that’s why it’s more important to stop the killing on the front end, because once somebody has been shot and killed already, retaliation is almost 90% of the time, it may happen. Ninety percent of the time. So, it’s harder once you deal with a death already. That’s why with Violence Interrupters, I train my staff on how to intercept whispers once again, so they can detect in advance what’s about to occur. And then hopefully they have the right relationship to go in and stop it before somebody loses their life. So, that is what we do.
Will Brehm 13:18
Do you think the police department could ever do this?
Tio Hardiman 13:21
I think the police department, yes. I love that question. I truly believe the police department can mediate conflicts because the police know what everybody else knows. It’s no secret that you have police intelligence. They know what’s about to go on. They know all the key players. It’s just a matter of the police establishing a meaningful relationship with some of them tough guys. Saying, “Look, we’re not trying to get all the way into your business, but we would like to mediate this conflict. And you might feel safe about a police doing it.” So, I’m not against the police mediating conflict, as long as nobody gets caught up in no mess. And some people may not like that in the field of outreach work, but I think we need all hands on deck right now. So, I’m not opposed to the police trying to stop killers on the front end.
Will Brehm 14:03
How did you get into this work? This is a very particular work that requires deep connections in multiple communities. It requires you to see violence. You try and mediate among violent people, sometimes probably see people getting killed. How did you get into this type of work?
Tio Hardiman 14:28
Well, my base is born and raised in the heart of the ghetto in Chicago. I grew up on the south side and the west side of Chicago. The Avalon Park community on the south side, they called it Lions City. Lions City, that is what they called it. And I grew up here in one of the projects. So, I grew up around psychopaths, dope fiends, prostitutes, pimps. I grew up around murderers. I grew up around the element. And I also grew up around businesspeople. Everybody wasn’t running the streets back then. But the neighborhood I lived in was notorious for street life. I’ve seen people get hurt. I understand the element oh so well. And I can vividly remember a story from the projects, when I was around 22. I was going into the building where I lived at, and I stumbled upon a gang leader back then who was intimidating a 13-year-old kid. And the kid had urinated on himself, and he really scared the kid. And I said, “You know, I need to say something,” and it’s not easy to say anything in those type of situations. So, I stood up for the kid. I said, “Man, I’m not going to let you do nothing to this kid. ” And the guy was mad at me, “Man, y’all in my business.” I’m saying, “Well, look y’all, I’m just in your business today because you are dead wrong. This little kid is scared as hell. He’s petrified. I don’t know what y’all are trying to get him to do.” He said, “Well you in our nation business.” But I say, “Well, I just have to be in your nation business today, because that kid is a part of my nation. And I ain’t some of no gang. He’s a part of the fucking black community. [Excuse my language.] He’s a part of the black community. He needs to go home. That kid needs to go home. He just left from school. You guys are trying to force him to do something that he does not want to do.” So, I took the kid with me, even though I put myself in danger. I took the kids to his house, and when I got to his house, his mother was strung out on drugs, no food in the refrigerator. And this kid, we saved him for that day. I don’t know what happened to the kid years later, but it was really remarkable. It was a turning point in my life. So, when you say, “How did I get involved in the work?” It’s because I wanted to give something back to the community at large. And I knew that God had blessed me with the sermon and the aptitude for this line of work. That’s the best way I can describe it. Because I feel I was anointed to go in there and really save lives, because I’ve been in dangerous situations where most people will probably be shot and killed.
Will Brehm 16:39
So, were you a part of any gang or any clique back then?
Tio Hardiman 16:43
I was never part of any gang. I never had the respect for gangs that way. All of my friends were involved in the gangs, I knew all the gang members, I know all the gang leaders. But I never really respected. See where I come from, a man is a man. That doesn’t mean you’re the toughest guy in the world, but I never want nobody telling me what to do. I don’t want nobody sending me off to do something I can do for myself. I didn’t want nobody giving me no orders and stuff. Not that I’m the toughest guy in the universe, but I respect the guys. See there’s two ways I’m saying this. And when I say I don’t have that most respect for the gang, because I saw a lot of things they were doing. Some of their actions were not right for the community: killing their own people, selling dope in the community, right. But at the same time, a lot of my friends were members of gangs. I respected them as my friends. So, when I talked to them, I never saw them as gang members. I saw this is my little partner, Ronnie; we grew up together. This is my partner, John. I don’t look at him as a gang member; I look at him as John. So, I never really looked at them like that, and I get a big brother respect from a lot of people. So no, I never really wanted to be in no gang.
Will Brehm 17:51
What about today? Can a child today, growing up in some neighborhoods in Chicago, decide like you did, “You know what? No, I don’t want to be part of a gang.” Is that a possibility?
Tio Hardiman 18:04
Well, it’s hard nowadays, because you have to look at where the child may live on a particular block. Where gang banging is going on, and the cliques and the factions are really at an all-time high on some of these blocks out here, and they’re very visible. And that child will stick out. So, it’s not like you can just go to school, come back, and not be at least harassed or bullied to a degree. So, it’s not as easy, but I hear stories every now and then. But it’s just not easy, because a lot of young guys are being shot and killed, and they have no affiliation whatsoever. Because they’re just in an environment where, right now, the cliques, it’s like – I’m not going to say the word “epidemic” – but it’s more of a tribal understanding amongst a few people in the African American community. Because the stories that are not portrayed in the media from Chicago are the stories of young men and women going to school every day, getting good grades, taking care of their business in life. But the shootings and killings get most of the headlines, so it’s rare for a guy that’s on the block, a serious block where you have anybody involved in the gangs or the cliques, to escape that. He’s guilty by association anyway, because if a neutron was to go down the street and there’s another clique and they say, “What block are you from?” “I’m from the 59th Street block”, they’re going to associate you with them guys anyway. So, you can’t win for losing. Because if you go, you can’t win. Let’s say you’re not involved in the clique on your block, but you’re from the block.
Will Brehm 19:26
Right. So, your territory, your geography of where you’re born, matters?
Tio Hardiman 19:31
That’s what makes it hard.
Will Brehm 19:32
Right. And is this primarily a male issue? Or are women, young girls, also involved in these cliques?
Tio Hardiman 19:41
This is a deeply rooted male issue, but you have stories of women out here that are involved, without a doubt. But not to the degree. You see, back in the day, you had women that actually had positions in the gangs. Some women were queens, some women had different positions where they had some authority in the gangs. You had women that had their own clique within the overall gang. And the guys respected the women. So now you do have women that are involved, but not to the degree that men are. The men are the ones that are really totally involved in it.
Will Brehm 20:17
Right. So, one of the things that I’ve read about Chicago lately is the number of public-school closings. I think it’s over 50 schools have been closed in the last few years. Can you talk about what does this do to communities in the south side and the west side, where these gangs are prevalent? What happens when you close a school? I mean in other words, what is the value of a school in communities?
Tio Hardiman 20:44
You are not stood up against Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor, when it came down to closing down the schools. But in retrospect, I’m not real crazy about Rahm Emanuel, but I looked at the totality of information that was presented and gathered. Right now, in Chicago, we have a black Exodus. Over 180,000 African American people have moved out of Chicago over the last 15, 20 years. So that left a void. So, a lot of the schools that were closed down were schools that had under enrollment. The schools were not full to capacity, they were not even 50% capacity. Because of all the gun violence, people are leaving Chicago. And the schools, as an end result, suffered because they could not secure the minimum number of young people to go to the schools. So therefore, yes, it definitely created a problem. Because the schools were closed down, they transferred students to other schools in close proximity, or somewhere on another side of town, or whatever the case may be, busing some students in here and there. And it led to a bloodbath in Chicago. There was an experiment called Renaissance 2010, in which they did close some schools down and transfer students, and it led to a lot of Chicago public school students being shot and killed.
Will Brehm 21:52
Tio Hardiman 21:54
The rationale, this is what happens in academia when you’ve got these high-minded, so called “professional administrators”. They’re not looking at the carnage on the ground level, they’re looking at it from a standpoint as a business level: “I need to make a business decision”. But they’re not looking at the fact that people are going to suffer at the bottom. That’s what happened. It was a way to save money. It was a way the kind of convert some schools that did not have full capacity. But they were not thinking about the different neighborhood conflicts when they experimented with Renaissance 2010.
Will Brehm 22:24
So, what are you saying? You’re saying that because a child in one community, where a school has closed down, they get bused to another community, their sort of territorial neighborhood affiliation goes with them, even to that new school?
Tio Hardiman 22:38
Yes. Well, a perfect example – you can look this one up – Fenger High School. There was a young man by the name of Derrion Albert. He was beaten to death. They transformed a school called Carver High School into a military academy, and that was in Altgelt Garden housing developments. So, when the school was converted to a military academy, the other students were transferred from Altgelt Gardens to go to Fenger High School. It was in an area called the Ville. So now the students from Altgelt Garden were in instant conflict with the young students from the Ville area. So, one day, they were getting out of school, late September, and there was a big riot that jumped up – a big gang fight, it went viral. And Derrion Albert wasn’t involved in any gang; he’s walking out there ‘cos he’s getting out of school. And next thing you know, he gets attacked and his head gets crushed in the ground. These guys had these gigantic two by fours, and they crushed his head in the ground, right on camera. That was the end result of converting a school and transferring students over to another community. That was the end result of that bad decision that was made by some of the administrators at that higher level with CPS. Nobody’s going to cop to it, but the numbers are: 150 students were actually killed during the Renaissance 2010 period. In comes Rahm Emanuel after that. Now, this wasn’t under Rahm Emanuel. So, Rahm decided to close the schools down. It was a business decision, but it was necessary. He took a lot of heat for it. But if you look back, the enrollment wasn’t there. It’s because black people have moved out of Chicago. It’s like a ghost town in some of those schools.
Will Brehm 24:14
And what ended up happening once he closed all these different schools down that didn’t have a large enrollment? Did you see any similar phenomenon like you did under Renaissance 2010?
Tio Hardiman 24:25
Yes, the violence has been ongoing anyway. Because any time you transfer students to another area, that area has their own block-by-block dynamics.
Will Brehm 24:34
And inside the school? You’re saying that these block-by-block dynamics enter schools?
Tio Hardiman 24:39
They spill over in the schools. Everybody knows the layout. All the students know what to expect, what to do, what lane to stay in.
Will Brehm 24:46
So, how young are we talking that, children know, and are participating in this sort of social system?
Tio Hardiman 24:52
As young as 11 and 12 years old, people know the tribal conditions of their block. They have to know, to be aware, to be alive. You can lose your life because you say the wrong thing, you associated with the wrong person. And you know, you have people out here that just they are not wrapped too tight.
Will Brehm 25:07
Right. It’s taking a group of young people from one tribe or clique, even if they’re not active members in that tribe or clique and putting them in another school. And just by being around another group from a different clique, you’re going to have violence.
Tio Hardiman 25:27
Yes, you’re going to have violence, because people are not ready to “assimilate” – I’ll use that word – assimilate with everybody else. And people are stuck in their ways, stuck in their tribal understanding of how things are supposed to go. That’s why it’s important to help young people think on a higher level. Because a lot of times, they get stuck on the block. “What’s happened on my block?”, So therefore, you’re like an invader to our space, because a lot of young guys, they have been taught to believe they have a space out there. That’s one of the main reasons why I don’t believe anymore that violence spreads as an infectious disease. Because some people are taught violent behavior at an early age, that the way to settle conflicts is with violence. What happens with the issue of violence, especially murder, it’s a condition of the mind? What happens is that – it’s been scientifically proven that some people have a small empathy gland in their brain. They cannot feel the hurt and pain of anybody. They cannot empathize when they go out and kill somebody or hurt somebody. So, it’s not a disease, it’s more of, what you might say, is learned behavior. The first thing that goes through any man or woman’s mind when someone wants to hit you, the very first thought that comes your mind, “I’m going to kill this guy.” Even though you may not kill, because that’s not what you do. Therefore, it’s a natural thought process because killing has been around since the beginning of time.
Will Brehm 26:46
So, okay, so on the one hand, violence is sort of a behavior that is somehow natural to humans. But on the other hand, there’s learned behavior and experiences that sort of socialize groups of people into being violent. So, in that latter case, if we’re looking at Chicago – and we’re saying that there are certain communities that have been extremely violent, and it is sort of intergenerational – it’s sort of being passed down over time. It’s a socially constructed process. What do you do about it, right? As someone both intellectually from the academic standpoint, but also on the ground, what do you do? I understand attacking violence on the front end; that makes sense. But is this situation always going to be the case? How do we begin to solve this problem?
Tio Hardiman 27:47
I plan to give you the real deal answer. Nobody wants to hear this, but I just have to be honest. The only way you’re really going to stop the killing in Chicago, the black man has to unify in major numbers. I’m talking about 50,000 strong for one entire year. And we have to hit these blocks and go talk to all the tribes out there. Not go out there and make them do nothing, not to go out there and intimidate them. Let them know we need to bring all these issues to the table before somebody takes a life, and it’s time to stop. It’s over with. If you really want to be technical about it, it’s over with. The black man has to rise up, talk to these people. I’m talking about every day for one entire year until we get everything under control. And we have to stop the outside forces from influencing: the people that deal illegal guns and the illegal gun trade in our community, and the illegal drug trade. That’s really hitting our community. President Nixon – a blast from the past – some of his former aides are finally talking about how the failed war on drugs was really aimed at African American people. So, our community has been devastated by a lot of different outside influences that hurt us as far as our progress. So now it’s going to take the black man. I’m not talking about no special program. Because black death has become a hustle, people making money on black death, police doing a lot of overtime. I’m not against the police, I will never say anything anti-police, but what I will say is that the police cannot stop the killing; it’s been proven. So, the reality is that if the black man was to unify, you can stop it all. And it goes to show you, violence is not a disease. Because if the black man unifies and tells these young guys to stop it for real, cut it out, they’re going to stop it. But why is it, if it was a disease – let me also strengthen my argument about gun violence not being a disease, let’s strengthen the argument here. So, why is it that if I’m walking down the street as a black man, another black man is more likely to shoot me and kill me, but if a white man is walking down the street in the black community, 9.9 times out of 10, he will not be shot and killed? So, if it was a disease, what is it? A selective thinking disease? Just think about it. Is it selective thinking? And it’s a case in point: on the west side of Chicago, you have a community called Oak Park – it’s like a suburban area of the west suburbs. You have the Austin community. Oak Park is one block across the street from Austin. Oak Park is one block across the street. Nobody’s shooting and killing in Oak Park. Somewhere the minds of the people, they keep it on this side of Austin in Chicago. So, if violence was a disease, why is there a cutoff switch?
Will Brehm 30:14
That segregation is amazing in Chicago. I drove down into Oak Park, and you instantly see the difference, feel the difference. It looks like a different world, all of a sudden.
Tio Hardiman 30:26
That’s my main point. If violence was a disease, why is it that the perpetrators of the violence, they have a cut off? They know what to do and what not to do.
Will Brehm 30:35
Right. And so, obviously, some of these neighborhoods that you just described – Oak Park and some of the surrounding communities and neighborhoods – and how they’re just so different, and how behavior changes between these different communities. Obviously, we have to also then consider the intersection of violence and cliques and gangs with housing policies that are racist, the segregation that has been sort of state-perpetuated, the segregation of schools of communities. When I walk down the streets of Chicago, it’s so apparent to me that there is just racial segregation, pretty much in every community.
Tio Hardiman 31:19
Well, Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, without a doubt. But you also have to take into consideration in the black community, and I’m speaking because I’m African American, is that we are segregated and racist against one another as well. That’s the end result of the fact that we don’t see each other as the same people. That’s what that comes down to. So, whatever happened to our ancestors when we were fighting the Irish and all that, some kind of way we turned on ourselves. And that’s more like a tribal puzzle that we have to kind of solve in order to kind of pull it back together and find out where we went wrong. And I think where we went wrong as a people, you have to go back to the plantation. Nobody wants to talk about this stuff, but the plantation dictated a system where if you were seen as pretty cool to the master, you may get some benefits. And other people that were in the field that never received the benefits of drinking some lemonade, or sitting on the master’s porch, in the master’s rocking chair, eating some of the master’s food, they picked up automatic resentments against the people that had favor from the master. The reality is that tribalism took place on the plantations with African people. A lot of our people did good after slavery ended and they moved on, but there’s a certain segment of the population that gets stuck in the psychological chains of slavery. So, we don’t look at each other the same people. They split us up. Even though a lot of Africans were brought over to America from some of the same tribes, but by losing our language, losing our identity, and losing our culture, we were shifted. We were all over the place. So now the masters, they did a good job of turning black folks against each other. And it was important, because in order for them to maintain a hold on you in slavery, they could not allow you to unify.
Will Brehm 32:54
So, hence why you’re saying this unification of the African American community as a way to really, truly begin to end this inter violence?
Tio Hardiman 33:04
Yes. That ends it. It ends it because then you get black men – and don’t take this statement the wrong way, the people that are listening. I’m talking about guerilla black men, I’m talking about intellectual black men, businessmen. I’m talking about parents, grandfathers, I’m talking about everybody plays a role. But you need some guerilla black men with some serious backbone that are going to say, “Young man, it’s over. Whatever you were fighting for, whatever issues you have with that young guy there. It is over buddy.” And we’re about to take over our community. And we’re not going to come down on you. What we’re saying is, “Give us an opportunity to work with you. We are real serious, and we are real men today. So, no matter what your excuses may be, we got you brother, and you got to come with us.”
Will Brehm 33:44
Well, Tio Hardiman, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, and best of luck with unification.
Tio Hardiman 33:50
Thank you. Okay, brother.