18 seconds of fame: Take Two

As part of the “How Long Will I Cry?” book launch, Miles Harvey asked me to join him on the local Fox 32 News station to talk about the work.

Here’s how it went:


The coverage was great. The “How Long” website received almost 100 requests for books in just a few hours after this segment ran on the noon news.

But there’s a reason I never worked in TV: It was too fast, too superficial. I had just a few seconds and wanted to address so much.

So, in hindsight, this is what I would have said:

More than 90 undergraduate and graduate students at DePaul participated in this project, fanning out across the city to document the stories of parents and siblings, gang members and healers, young and old who have been impacted by youth violence.

What many of us took away from the experience — especially those of us who participated for many months  — was how powerful it can be to find voice to our own story.

Some of our interview subjects had never been asked about their lives, or even about the death of their loved ones. By listening and asking questions and listening more, we helped our subjects dig deep to find themes in their lives. They discovered insights about their experience, and often strength in the telling of their story.

As someone who struggled for years about whether to share my own story, I understand how terrifying it can be to open up. Yet dozens of Chicagoans did just that, and for some it has touched their own life as much as it has touched those of us who have read their stories.

For example, Latoya Winters lost numerous family members and friends to gun violence during her youth in East Garfield Park. You can read her entire story here, but I’ll say that she managed to attend college with the help of mentors who encouraged her dreams of a different life.

I have seen Latoya speak several times during the release of  of “How Long Will I Cry?”, and each time she amazed me with her poise and confidence. She told a packed audience at DePaul that having her story in the book not only helped her feel more powerful, it helped her connect with loved ones who had never fully understood her pain.

The people in this book gave a tremendous gift to Chicago and to readers nationwide. Their stories — their descriptions of love, fear, hope, and hopelessness — resonate with us all. Their stories are personal, but they are also universal. As a result, they are powerful — they touch anyone, regardless of where they live or their skin pigment. Anyone who reads the book will view youth violence in Chicago differently.

And what is just as inspiring, for me, is that many of those in the book also received something of a gift: the power of their own stories, a source of strength, guidance, and pride.