“One out of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male.”
The powerful opening quote to one of the greatest films ever created Boyz n the Hood. The year was 1991, the year I was born ironically so I feel that is a big reason why I have always been so connected to this film ever since I was a young bull on the south side of Chicago. Growing up in similar environments like the ones we see in the film made it so much easier for me to understand what this movie was about. Seventeen-year-old Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has only two friends: the half-brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube), a violent drug dealer and ex-con, and Ricky (Morris Chestnut), star football prospect with promising future headed for college with hopes to play in the NFL one day. “The movie is a thoughtful, realistic look at a young man’s coming of age, and also a human drama of rare power – Academy Award material,” said Roger Ebert. The film takes you through many different emotions throughout. Worried, joyful, downhearted, anxious, there are just too many ways to describe this film. Towards the end of the film, Ricky is murdered walking home from the store with Tre, only a few minutes prior to an argument with brother Doughboy. I also thought Ice Cube deserved Academy Award recognition for his role because he played it flawlessly, though he is from those LA streets. As he’s walking away from the fight, the mail is being delivered, which turned out to be his acceptance letter to play football for the prestigious USC Trojans that fall. Senseless killing that took someone’s father, son, and brother. It is really sad how often this is happening still today.
Los Angles was a bloody place in the late 80s coming into the 90s. John Singleton the writer, producer, and director of the film lived on these Los Angles streets and had a firsthand view of what was going on in the community. By 1980, which for most of the decade stood as the county’s most violent year, the homicide rate was 24.4 killings per 100,000 residents according to the Los Angeles Times. The rate dipped, but it surged up again in 1991 setting a record, 28 per 100,000 residents. The numbers included pretty much every way someone can be murdered, beaten, shot or stabbed to death. Even also vehicular manslaughter. The blame in the city back then of course was gang violence, but actually only a third of the city’s killings were reported due to that. Los Angeles was a crazy place and fast forward to 1992, this was the deadliest year in Los Angeles County history. 2,589 homicides, based on a tally by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, was up about 8% from the year before 1991. 517 murders in July and August alone. Astonishing. Los Angles found a way to deflate the numbers somehow by the late 90s and early 2000s.
Chicago in the early 2010s looked similar to what was happening in Los Angeles twenty years prior, with gang violence being blamed as the main reason. During the decade, more than 5,200 people were killed throughout the city of Chicago. In 2016, the Chicago Police Department recorded 800 murders a record for the city. 670 in 2017, 579 in 2018, and more than 500 in 2019. We have seen a decline in the numbers but the rate and the places these murders continue to happen gives me anxiety because it seems like the black community is the only ones affected by these murders. Of course people get murdered everywhere throughout the city, but not as frequent as Chicago’s south and west sides. The Calumet District on the far south side alone saw 61 murders in their neighborhood in 2018. In 2019, the total dropped to 32, though the district was still the seventh deadliest in the city overall. The CPD’s statistics also do not include shootings that occur on Chicago expressways, as those are investigated by the Illinois State Police according to the Chicago Sun-Times. 2020 has not been much better sadly, 18 people were killed Sunday, May 31, making it the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Nine children under the age of 18 have been shot dead in Chicago since June 20. Most homicide victims in Chicago are young, black men, and the suspects are, too. Breaks my heart.
John Singleton truly brought the essence of what is happening in many black communities to life like no other. He went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director and Original Screenplay. John Singleton passed away suddenly in 2019. I just want to thank him for this film. I have seen it over 100 times and I am sure it made me think of the place where I am from. Chicago has to do better. Who is gonna tell our story, Brooklyn’s Spike Lee? I certainly doubt it. Someone in our community has to tell our story. I think of all the mothers who have had to deal with their child/children being murdered and compare it to how Ricky’s mother Brenda (Tyra Ferrell) reacted seeing her baby shot to death laying on her couch while his son and girlfriend stood there screaming in shock as well. The black community has dealt with a lot of trauma and we have to start changing history. They say history repeats itself but we need that to stop, especially for black people. We do not want to go back to how things used to be, we need a new age, new rules, new police officers, just more people who care about where they are from. Our story has to be told, because if not, what Doughboy said in the final minutes of the film will continue, “either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.”
Sports & Culture Editor for SWGRUS.