Let’s save Hales Franciscan

I’m not just a legislator; I’m a Hyde Park resident and – most importantly – a father. Like any father, I’m deeply worried about the recent rash of gun violence in my neighborhood. At times in the past two months, gunfire has even been exchanged across from my house, along paths my own kids walk daily. Any parent who has ever feared for a child’s safety understands that we cannot simply accept this violence as a way of life.

This dangerous attitude of resignation now threatens Hales Franciscan High School and its unique, critical role in our community.

As Chicago’s only all-male Catholic high school dedicated to educating African-American youth, Hales Franciscan has graduated more than 10,000 students who carry with them into adulthood not only a solid academic background, but core values that allow them to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Those who are resigned to allowing Hales Franciscan to close its doors suggest the school is no longer sustainable. What isn’t sustainable is the status quo: African-American boys and young men are six times more likely than their white counterparts to be sent to prison, five times more likely to be killed with a gun and twice as likely to drop out of school.

All too often, both victim and shooter are young African-American males. It is no coincidence that these are the youth our society has turned its back on, disinvesting in their communities and schools. Now, more than ever, we need institutions like Hales Franciscan, with its proven heritage of investing in the lives of Black boys and the mission of raising them “Unto Perfect Manhood.”

That’s why all proceeds from my fifth annual Kwame Klassic 3-on-3 basketball tournament, to be held Saturday, October 10, will go to support Hales Franciscan. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I’ll welcome special guest players Arne Duncan and NBA Retired Players Association President Jeff Sanders. To participate or for more information, call (312) 854-8018. You can also donate at www.gofundme.com/halesfranciscan.

As a lawmaker, I willingly bear a responsibility to introduce and advocate for commonsense policies that address gun violence. I’ve sponsored laws that mandate background checks for private sales of firearms and require gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen weapons. We must do even more to stem the flood of illegally trafficked guns and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those whose criminal or mental health records put them at greater risk of using them to do harm.

But the floor of the legislature is not the only front in the war to take back our streets. Ultimately, the most important battle is waged in the hearts and minds of the next generation. We must resist the impulse to give up competing for our most vulnerable youth against the destructive influences that threaten to overwhelm them. I would personally appreciate it if you would join me in supporting Hales Franciscan as it continues taking on a mission for our time.

Sen. Kwame Raoul (D- 13)