I Carried A Picture of My Classmate in My Heart

Student essay

by Samantha Latson
(BA African American Studies and Journalism, ’21)

Samantha Latson (BA African American Studies and Journalism, ’21) and 12 other students in Professor John Fountain’s journalism classes traveled by bus caravan to cover a national gun violence protest in Washington, D.C.

Latson wrote about her experience in a piece published by the Chicago Sun-Times on October 10, 2019.

As the caravan of buses pulled away from 78th Street, I felt a sense of unity in Chicago. As we passed South Side corners, heading to the Dan Ryan Expressway, car horns honked in solidarity with our overnight journey.

Kim Foxx and student Samantha Latson

I am 20 years old and a student journalist. I was on the bus so as to gain hands-on experience covering a national event: the National Rally to End Gun Violence in Washington, on September 25.

Some of the others who made the trip brought along framed pictures of their loved ones, holding them in their hands.

I carried a picture of Trevaun Holloway, 16, in my heart.

Growing up in Chicago’s south suburbs, I once felt protected from gun violence. But I can see now that I am not immune.

For the hundreds of men, women and children who boarded the 12 buses outside St. Sabina Catholic Church, gun violence is an everyday reality. Among my fellow passengers were fathers and mothers who have lost children to gun violence. There were high school students whose murdered friends won’t get to walk the stage at graduation or attend prom.

Other Chicagoans who rode the buses, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger, said they were just sick and tired of black children being slain by someone with a gun.

Faces of the many victims of gun violence

“I’m here being a mother on a mission,” said Zonia Cooper, whose son, Jordan Cooper, 23, was fatally shot on September 16 in East Garfield Park. “I’ve seen too many of my children’s friends struck down, and now my own. That is why I’m here.”

“Something must give,” said Cooper, now standing on the west lawn of the Capitol, hours after our caravan arrived from Chicago.

Like other parents, Cooper clutched a picture of her slain son. She wore metal pin-on buttons bearing her son’s smiling face.

“He was so full of life,” she said. “He had the greatest brightest smile you ever wanted to see.”

Jordan Cooper, according to the Chicago Police, was shot several times in the head. His blood stained the sidewalk, an image his mother will never forget.

“Gun violence is more than a Chicago issue. It’s an American issue.”

– Samantha Latson
BA African American Studies and Journalism, ’21

“I began praying over Jordan’s blood,” she said. “I prayed that his bloodshed would not be in vain.”

At the rally, between the prayers and songs, members of Congress gave speeches about the need for tougher gun legislation, and teens spoke about the impact of violence on their own lives. And although the issue disproportionately affects African Americans, it was clear to me by the presence of other marginalized groups, including members of the LGBTQ community and other ethnic minorities, that no one is exempt.

Group of Journalism Students

Gun violence is more than a Chicago issue. It’s an American issue.

“This idea came out of a church service after two mass shootings occurred in less than a day, the El Paso and Dayton Ohio shootings,” Pfleger told me in an interview, explaining why he and others organized the caravan from Chicago. “That week there were also four shootings in Chicago, and we just said, ‘enough is enough.’ … So I said, ‘I’m gonna go to Washington, even if I go by myself.’”

I wanted to go too. And not just because I’m a journalist.

Supporter at the Rally

Not long ago, the issue of gun violence hit home personally for me. I’ll never shake the thought of Trevaun Holloway being shot and killed on Nov. 5, 2018, in Matteson, my hometown.

This time it was not just another name. It was not another story in the Chicago Sun-Times or Tribune. It was not another black face on the TV screen.

This was a name and a face I knew.

Trevaun and I both attended Rich Central High School. I remember him walking the hallway, smiling, laughing.

As the buses headed back to Chicago, this was the picture of Trevaun I held in my heart.

Samantha Latson interviewing Rev. Michael Pfleger

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