Chicago youth center offers refuge from violence

Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:02pm EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - On a sweltering summer day on the South Side of Chicago, a group of teenage boys hauled rocks and pulled weeds in a vacant lot. They were working for free -- and being hollered at by a woman they call "Ms. Diane."

"Pull your pants up!" Diane Latiker yelled at one teen, who quickly hiked his trousers. "Ain't no party!" she scolded others, who were talking instead of working. They got busy.

"I love you, too," she added, as if anyone had forgotten.

The teens were repairing a memorial for victims of violence aged 24 and under in Chicago since 2007. It consists of 226 names inked on paving stones arrayed on blue wooden shelves.

The display sits inside a covered wooden pavilion, so it's protected from the weather but can still be seen from the street. The memorial had been vandalized -- a cross and flowers were stolen, stones were broken -- so it needed to be fixed up.

It's also incomplete -- 177 more names need to be added.

The memorial is in a neighborhood called Roseland, where in 2009, in a video that went viral worldwide over the Internet, a high school student was seen being beaten to death by a mob.

The memorial spotlights a national problem. Homicide is the leading cause of death for African-Americans aged 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Continued...

<p>Diane Latiker gives direction to teens passing around paving stones painted with the names of kids killed by violence as they repair a memorial for the victims of violence in Chicago August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>