Recently, while I was on my way to meet a friend for coffee, I drove by one of the shuttered CPS school buildings being demolished.
It was not long after the Fourth of July weekend of heartbreaking gun violence, and I couldn’t help but make connections as I watched the Bronzeville school named after Crispus Attucks — a Black man whom historians believe was the first person shot and killed in the Boston Massacre — get torn down.
Think about it: An epidemic of shootings and the closure of a school that, along with dozens of other schools shut down in 2013, could have played a role in educating children and preventing all that violence.
Those connections are clear, pointed out by community activists, as well as by research on the impact of school closings on a community.
Yet the public institutions tasked with curbing violence just keep pointing the finger at one another, in a blame game that does nothing to solve the most pressing problem facing our city.
While I was watching the demolition of Attucks Elementary, I thought of the old South Shore High School. It was repurposed as a police facility. Instead, it should have been converted into a community center that could give young people a safe space for recreation, after-school activities and just hanging out.
When teens from marginalized communities have no place to go because the safe spaces that existed for years are gone, where do we think they’re going to end up? On the street, where they run a high risk of becoming another number in that week’s tally of gun violence victims.
Why not turn those shuttered schools, such as Attucks, into places where teens and young adults can learn financial literacy, conflict resolution, photography, how to tie a tie, the nuances of consent or a trade?