Today is my birthday. And, for my birthday, I want to share a story of a little girl who touched my heart seven years ago.
Siretha White (her family called her Nugget) was 10 years old in 2006. On March 10th of that year, a Saturday, she was having fun with her cousins at her aunt’s home in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
Ironically, the gathering was a surprise birthday party for Siretha whose birth date is March 13th, like mine.
During her party, gunfire exploded outside as two cars passed each other on the street in front of the home.
One bullet grazed the chin of a bystander who was either standing or walking outside. That man was later treated and released from the hospital.
Another bullet pierced a front window of the home where Siretha’s birthday party was taking place. It hit Siretha as she tried to take cover by heading toward the back of the house.
Her wound was fatal. She never saw her 11th birthday.
According to a Chicago Tribune article, “reporters at the scene found the street littered with bullet casings”. At the time of the shooting, Siretha’s mom was at the University of Chicago Hospital with her husband getting treatment for his asthma.
Three years after the murder, Moses Phillips would be convicted of killing Siretha. He was 22 at the time of his conviction, 19 at the time of the shooting. Apparently, his bullets were intended for rival gang members.
Just 7 days before this tragedy, Starkesia Reed, 14, was killed in her own home by gunfire, just blocks away from the site of Siretha’s murder.
Starkesia heard gunfire, an all too common occurrence in Englewood, and, out of natural curiosity, looked out her front window. A bullet that blasted through that window mortally wounded her.
When Starkesia’s sister, Armica, heard about Siretha, her newborn grief was compounded. “It’s scary,” she told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “I know exactly how they feel, the pain they’re feeling. We’ve go to put a stop to this.”
Armica said she knew Siretha.
After the March 10th shooting, Siretha’s uncle, Dwight Stevenson, lamented, “We lost an angel. Another angel.”
Things haven’t gotten any better in Englewood and other violent Chicago neighborhoods since 2006. By many indicators, things have gotten worse – more violence, more senseless deaths.
Chicago became became a national story last year as the city’s death toll by homicide rose by the day – to 500 before the end of the year.
To be sure, whatever Chicago city officials are doing to curb the violence isn’t working. I have my own theories as to what is causing the violence, killing the children, and harming the wider community in certain pockets of the hometown of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. But, I will leave that for another day.
Today, I simply want to remember Siretha, as I do every year on this day.
Rest in peace, sweet child.