Chicago’s Scoop Jackson is searching for LaTravis Hawkins

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There is tragedy in all corners of our world. People in need of some kind of help everywhere you look. And where help is needed, good people respond. Tragedy and aid look like one thing in Sudan, like something else in Iran. Like one thing in Mexico, like something else in Canada.

And in Chicago, quite often, it looks just as Scoop Jackson has described it in his emotional four part study titled “The Saga of LaTravis Hawkins.”

The Saga of LaTravis Hawkins, PART I, from December 2007

PART II, from December 2007

PART III, from September 2009

PART IV, from September 2009

EXCERPT, from PART III:

In the four-plus years I’ve known LaTravis, this is the first time I’ve ever met or spoken to his mother. It seemed that since her boyfriend was (finally) gone she’d (finally) decided to be a parent to her child. She said she needed help with LaTravis. “He don’t wanna listen to me,” “I can’t get him to do anything,” “I don’t wanna lose my child.” The all-too-typical, all-too-often-heard story of the stereotypical type of parent Bill Cosby wrote about in his last book.

So LaTravis has spent 13 years of his life living with his mother but hardly ever seeing her. No guidance, no direction, no limits. The only thing the kid has had to cling to has been the game of basketball. It’s been his escape from the neglect. It loved him back. The fact that his face still has an innocence beneath the scratches and scars of the streets that had developed over those years is a miracle in itself. The difference between 12 years old and 13 years old is enormous. Especially when the life you happen to be living is on pace to end by the time you’re 15.

[…]

It was after June 1 when everything changed. No sight of him, no phone calls. His 22-year-old “superstar” cousin returned home from college and took LaTravis under his wing. Reintroducing him to the side of the game that he hadn’t had a chance to do while the NCAA had him under scholarship. And while the older cousin “hoop dreamed” around the city, he took LaTravis with him.

From ball courts to Benz shops. From Attack Gym to Avalon Park to Altgeld Gardens. I heard stories: stories that I shouldn’t have been hearing, stories a child should not be living. Out of the apartment by 8 a.m., back after 2 a.m.. No cell phone, no calls, no check in. The day I met his mom was the day I had planned to take him and his crew with me to a weekend basketball camp. I needed to do something to get him out of the streets, away from his “cousin.”

A NOTE ABOUT THE ABOVE PICTURE

I found this photo through a Google image search, and it seemed entirely perfect for this story. I found it here: http://history-and-education.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html. I contacted the writer of that post to inquire about the photo–photographer, location, etc.–but he, like me, had also found the photo via Google. The playground looks like a South Side Chicago spot along the lake, but I can’t place it.

If you have any info on this photo–if you can identify the park, or if you are actually the photographer!–please drop a comment here or email me at jack@readjack.com.

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SEPTEMBER 24th UPDATE!

I found the park! Just happened upon it on Sheridan in Rogers Park, just south of Touhy. How about that?

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