This morning, a young man of Evanston, Demarcus Cokley, will be laid to rest. The funeral is limited to 50 people, but it will be streamed on Christ Temple Church's YouTube channel at christtemple8.
If you can, please honor his memory and show support for his family by watching the service.
Demarcus, 21, was one of three young men who were shot last week in broad daylight while sitting on an Evanston porch on Hovland Street. Jose Sanchez-Guerrero, 20, also lost his life, and Kyle Wilson, 18, was seriously wounded.
Demarcus is the second son of Nadine Cokley to be killed by gun violence in Evanston. Jose is Debbie Caluya's third and last son to lose his life to a gun.
I believe that when we lose ANY young person to violence in Evanston it should be felt and acknowledged and mourned by every single one of us. All of Evanston's kids and young adults are ours, and until each of us feels the sorrow -- and anger -- at their loss, the violence won't stop.
But even more than that: we need to SEE and care about ALL of Evanston's young people while they live and breathe! Instead of mourning their deaths, let's show them love and support while they live. Instead of learning their names from an obituary, we must get to know and support them while they're here. Demarcus was a graduate of Curt's Cafe as was Jose's older brother Bey, who was shot and killed five years ago.
"We are extremely saddened. Our students and staff are grieving this senseless act of violence. We are holding the families of all involved in our hearts," Curt's posted the day of the shooting.
When I talked to Demarcus' mom Nadine shortly after his death, she said, "People need to stop not telling what they see stand up for these kids because if we don't, no one else will."
Of Demarcus, whom she calls her "BOOBOO," she said, "He was a beautiful gift from God. He would give you the shirt off his back if he had to."
Demarcus had been through rough times, but, Nadine said, he had changed his life around for his son and was focusing on his music.
Here are some of Demarcus' poignant recent Facebook posts. Life was looking up for him.
January 4, 2021:
"People try so hard to maintain an image they forget about growing."
January 12, 2021:
"I really just wanna take the time out to thank God My life is changing in a blink of the eye! I started chasing a dream, I felt as if no one had believed in at first. Then I start believing in myself & taking it way more seriously, I have believers! Moral of the story 'Forever chase what you know your good at cant no one tell you your worth' "
January 15, 2021:
"I still try, even when I think I’m gonna fail."
Jan 1, 2021:
"Been drug free a year now!"
Sept. 2, 2020:
"Why do Black lives matter only after we die?"
DE started five years ago as a social media project around youth gun violence in Evanston, and it became clear quickly to our group that we can’t talk about reducing or ending gun violence without recognizing and working to repair its many and varied historic causes.
And of course, as we've tragically seen yet again this week and last in Atlanta and Colorado, we can’t talk about any kind of gun violence without talking about this country's obsessive gun culture, along with racism, misogyny, domestic violence, toxic masculinity, and white supremacy.
We have to get illegal guns off our streets and work for more sensible gun laws. But we have to also address the intergenerational trauma of white supremacy right here in Evanston: enslavement, Jim Crow, systemic and all manner of racism, inequity, and the havoc these have wrought. Poverty, mental health, lack of employment opportunities, inequity in education, disenfranchisement, drug addiction. The list goes on. So does the anger and violence.
There are so many organizations working for systemic change, against gun violence, and to support our kids.
Curt's trains young people, 15 through 24 years old, who are living in at-risk situations (having contact with the judicial system, or are homeless, food insecure or have dropped out of school). Curt's students are determined to build a positive future for themselves and Curt's teaches them life skills and restaurant skills so they can get and hold a job.
Also consider a donation to James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, which provides Evanston youth and their families with the support to successfully emerge from a challenging legal situation, tools to make positive life choices, and the ability to thrive in the Evanston community. Moran's approach focuses on justice in the courtroom, access to the classroom, and support in the community.