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When they tore down the projects here, they left the high-rises and came to the neighborhood with that gang mentality

When they tore down the projects here, they left the high-rises and came to the neighborhood with that gang mentality

Brooks has since moved away from Chicago’s West Side. But he is still working in North Lawndale. If you got a nice house, you live in a nice neighborhood, then you are less prone to violence, because your space is not deprived, Brooks said. You got a security point. You don’t need no protection. But if you grow up in a place like this, housing sucks. You don’t have nothing, so you going to take something, even if it’s not real. You don’t have no street, but in your mind it’s yours.

The Guardian of North Lawndale

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We walked over to a window behind his desk. A group of young black men were hanging out in front of a giant mural memorializing two black men: In Lovin Memory Quentin aka Q , e and face of the other man had been spray-painted over by a rival group. The men drank beer. Occasionally a car would cruise past, slow to a crawl, then stop. One of the men would approach the car and make an exchange, then the car would drive off. Brooks had known all of these young men as boys.

We watched another car roll through, pause briefly, then drive off. No respect, no shame, Brooks said. That’s what they do. From that alley to that corner. They don’t go no farther than that. See the big brother there? He almost died a couple of years ago. The one drinking the beer back there … I know all of them. And the reason they feel safe here is cause of this building, and because they too chickenshit to go anywhere. But that’s their mentality. That’s their block.

Brooks showed me a picture of a Little League team he had coached

He went down the row of kids, pointing out which ones were in jail, which ones were dead, and which ones were doing all right.