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Michael Strautmanis Reflects on the Death of Chicago Teen Seandell Holliday

Chicago lost another innocent life this weekend and this one came close to home. 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was hanging out in Millennium Park with other young people, families, and tourists, when he was shot and killed. The alleged shooter is only 17-years-old.

I can’t help but think of my own Black children when I think of Seandell. I’ve been fortunate to raise Black boys into manhood and have a 16-year-old daughter in high school, but I’m constantly concerned with their safety.

Seandell was the oldest in his family of four kids. Sadly, he was one of 30 people under the age of 20 to die from gun violence so far this year, and one of hundreds to die in that way in recent years. We’ve all read the headlines and heard how people outside of Chicago talk about the crime in our city.

But Seandell is more than just another statistic. He had dreams. According to the principal at his school, Seandell wanted to run a music studio and was described as “a deep thinker.” He was one of our own. Seandell participated in a mentoring program called CHAMPS, which is affiliated with the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, an initiative started by President Obama and that continues today through the Obama Foundation.

Seandell, and the countless others lost to gun violence, should still be with us right now. Tragically, they are not.

There has to be a better way. The push for more police, tougher enforcement, curfews and other measures cannot be our only response to gun violence. We have to work much harder to give young people like Seandell a chance.

We have to reach these young people before they put themselves at risk. We have to show them how to stay safe. We have to keep them engaged. And when they make wrong choices, as almost every young person does, we have to give them the support and guidance they need to pull back from the edge.

Chicago is our home. We believe in our city. We believe in our kids. At the Obama Foundation, we’re partnering with those who are leading the way to support young people – from the mentoring work at the MBK Alliance to the violence interrupters being trained at University of Chicago Medicine to the youth jobs program the city of Chicago is running.

Every one of us has a role to play. Our kids are counting on us to get it right, and we have more work to do to create the brighter future all of our kids deserve.

If you or a loved one, friend, or colleague need a little extra support right now, here’s a list of resources I recommend checking out:

Chicago Survivors (Opens in a new tab) is an organization that offers crime victim and support services to surviving family members of homicide victims in the Chicagoland area.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago (Opens in a new tab) provides one-on-one mentoring to 2,300 children and their families across four counties: Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties in Illinois and Indiana.

The Urban Male Network (Opens in a new tab) supports minority men in Chicago through community service, personal and professional development, and mentorship for youth.

Chicago-based Brave Space Alliance (Opens in a new tab) offers support groups, and fills a gap in the organizing of and services to trans and gender-nonconforming people.

The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM) (Opens in a new tab) offers a range of resources to help Black people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, social unrest, and more.

—Mike