Harper High School, Part Two
By This American Life
This American Life spent five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot.
We pick up where we left off last week in our second hour of stories from Harper High School in Chicago. We find out if a shooting in the neighborhood will derail the school's Homecoming game and dance. We hear the origin story of one of Harper's more prominent gangs. And we ask a group of teenage boys: where do you get your guns?
Principal Leonetta Sanders is worried that in the wake of a recent shooting, some of her students at Harper might be in danger of retaliatory violence. The threat is so real, she's considering canceling the school's Homecoming football game and dance. The possibility of canceling is heartbreaking to her, though, as all she wants is to give her students one normal high school dance. On Homecoming day, she gathers her staff to announce that there has been word of more shooting in the neighborhood. (5 minutes)
ACT ONE - The Eyewitness:
Most murders in Chicago happen in public places — parks, alleyways, cars. Scores of Harper students will tell you they've actually seen someone shot. Reporter Alex Kotlowitz talks with a junior named Thomas, who has seen more than his fair share. Thomas meets with his social worker, Anita Stewart, and tries to explain what it feels like to hold all of these images — and feelings — inside of him. He worries he can't hold on to them much longer. (10 minutes)
ACT TWO - Your Name Written On Me:
Reporter Ben Calhoun tells the story of Terrance Green, a 16-year-old who was killed three years ago but is still an iconic presence at Harper. Ben asks Terrance's dad and his best friend: Why did this one kid's death lead to slickly produced songs, tribute videos, a gang in his name, assault rifles on the street and an entire remapping of the violence in the area around Harper High School? (15 minutes)
ACT THREE - Get Your Gun:
Chicago has strict gun laws but, obviously, teenagers are somehow getting their hands on guns. Lots of guns. We've all heard about straw purchasers and gun shows but 15-year-olds aren't spending hundreds of dollars to buy guns, or exploiting gun show loopholes. Reporter Linda Lutton gathers together a group of Harper boys and asks them: where do you get your guns? They tell her not only where they get them, but where they keep them, too. (6 minutes)
ACT FOUR - Devonte, Part Two:
In the first hour of our Harper High School shows, Alex Kotlowitz talked to a junior named Devonte who a year earlier had accidentally shot and killed his 14-year-old brother. Devonte was forming a strong relationship with Crystal Smith, one of the social workers, and beginning to come to terms with both his grief and guilt. Alex checks back in with Devonte and finds out that his life has taken some troubling turns. (8 minutes)death • teenagers