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Updated: Apr 12, 2022

With the violence plaguing urban community's around the country and especially in cities like #Chicago, Illinois, Bogan Computer Technical High School senior 17-year-old #StephenThomas will be graduating with a 4.47 GPA. Thomas is an inspiration not only to his peers but to others who come from situations that isn't always picture perfect. Raised by single parent in a seven sibling home, Thomas is another student beating the odds and using his award and scholarship as a beacon and example that determination and perseverance conquers adversity. “When I am recognized, I won’t just have been another Black teen on the news for something bad like gang violence or me getting wrongfully shot. I want people to look at me and be like ‘wow he’s really out there doing something that we really thought we couldn’t do just because of how we looked,’” Thomas said. Chicago experiences devastating levels of violence, and this has been especially true since 2016. From January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020, 3,276 people were killed. There have been 13,546 non-fatal shooting victims, and 101 domestic-related homicides. Serious crimes are being committed by teens on a national level, which are comprised of homicides and non-fatal shooting, represent the most severe forms of community violence, and serve as another stereotype placed on the melanated men and women as being angry and overly violent.

His mother Ericka is an educator herself and Thomas’ first teacher. “No matter what life presents you just go for it you write your own story we know there are narratives out here about our Black boys but it is our responsibility to change that narrative,” she said.

Though the rise in murders slowed from 2020, last year was the deadliest since the mid-1990s. Mayor Lightfoot and her City Council critics are at odds over what to do. Angela Hernandez-Sutton, 44, has lived on the same block in West Garfield Park nearly her entire life, but it wasn’t until this past summer that she stopped sitting out on her front porch. One afternoon this summer she raced to shove her dad out of harm’s way as a carload of men sprayed the block with gunfire. Her own car was strafed with bullets that, as far as she knows, were intended for a group of young men on the sidewalk a few houses down. The block — near the open-air drug markets of the city’s West Side and a border between rival gangs’ territory —has always had its share of violence. When Hernandez-Sutton was in high school in the early 1990s, Chicago regularly saw more than 900 murders per year. “It feels different now than it was,” she said. “You used to get a couple weeks, months even, where you didn’t hear shooting. Not anymore.” Hernandez-Sutton’s intuition isn’t wrong. Chicago in 2021 saw 836 homicides, according to data maintained by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, though six of the victims died from complications of “remote” gunshot wounds that at least four suffered in previous years.

The county’s death toll is significantly higher than the 797 homicides reported by the Chicago Police Department, which doesn’t include expressway shootings and killings in self-defense. Nevertheless, the department’s tally is the highest in 25 years. We have escaped 400 years of organized slavery but we are in a fight in our own community and we must take a stand. For every child committing violent crimes and murder there are those parents that either look the other way or don't make anonymous calls to law enforcement because of a deep rooted mistrust of police practices that continue to plague the community. These are words of inspiration to all those mothers and fathers raising children in urban communities plagued with gang violence, poverty, murder and homelessness. We must believe to achieve and fight to stay upright. The high school senior humbly hopes others are motivated to put in the work while also destroying the negative stereotypes placed on children growing up in violent communities. He dreams of attaining higher education and giving back to his community to help other at risk youth and adults by becoming a psychologist. Solomon Magazine hopes to inspire other noteworthy stories to inspire and motivate individuals throughout the nation. Please submit stories to

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