I live in the neighborhood where Adam Toledo was killed. Here’s what it’s like to raise a child there.

Like the mother of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, I am a mother in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. I cannot imagine her grief and do not know her personally. But I know that the people who condemn or blame her for his death, as she herself has said many, do not understand what it means to raise a child in our neighborhood today.

Little Village, a largely Latin American neighborhood where Adam was fatally shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29, is a community in need of many resources. For example, he attended Gary Elementary, where 95% of the students are from low-income families. . Working parents in our neighborhood in particular have financial problems. Even some families who have lived here for 15, 20 or more years work multiple jobs to afford the rent, which is rising due to gentrification.

Many in our community are also undocumented, which means that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not eligible for stimulus checks, food stamps, or other government assistance. That made the economic situation even worse.

Of course, as parents and carers, we want our children to have the best possible life. But we don’t have the support we need to overcome poverty and invest in our children the way they deserve. Children in other wealthier areas have access to a variety of after-school activities. We have a YMCA in the neighborhood, but even that is too expensive for many families. Instead, whatever we earn must be used to support our families or pay for the car our children use to drive to school and we to work. That is not right.

This pattern is repeated in institutions across Chicago: wealthy white communities have access to resources that low-income and marginalized communities do not. I saw this game in my work with SexEd Works, a sexual health education campaign across all Chicago public schools. We – a group of gender-based violence survivors – organized the campaign because we believe that learning about healthy relationships can help prevent community violence. We started this campaign because, as survivors, by sharing this information we could identify violent patterns and help each other heal. We are community members who want change for our schools and children, and we believe this investment is one of many that our city officials and education committee can make.

When creating this campaign in 2018, we found that 70% of Chicago public schools do not meet the mandatory sexual health education program. The majority of these schools are on the south and west sides of the city. We believe that the provision of community resources such as sex education, mental health counselors and nurses in every school, as well as free after-school programs, prevent violence in our communities. When our children know more about consent, how to say “no,” and ultimately have stronger boundaries in trusting relationships, they are more willing to face social pressures. Many people bear responsibility for parents who have problems without giving us the support we deserve.

The people of Little Village and other marginalized communities are fed up with us constantly accepting that this violence is normal or somehow unavoidable. Our elected officials see us as “empty voices” due to systemic obstacles and make no effort to help us unless they can take a photo opportunity or include this project on their résumé.

We – teachers, caregivers, parishioners, elected officials, everyone – need to invest in more community-led efforts so that our children can live in a world that is free from violence, where they can thrive and not just focus on survival from poverty concentrate the police. We need to organize campaigns that focus on the needs of our communities, and especially the health, joy and safety of the next generation. The responsibility for the safety of our children and neighbors rests with all of us – not just our parents, not just our mothers.

Adam Toledo deserved more support from this city. His mother and all of the Mothers of Little Village now deserve everyone’s support. We are all responsible for protecting one another.

María Serrano is a resident of the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago and the director of Healing to Action, a grassroots organization that works to combat gender-based violence in Chicago.

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