By Dana Rettig, Chicago Crusader
Everyday, people are dying from gun violence, leaving their friends and loved ones to suffer tremendously from the grief of knowing that their loved one is gone forever. One student decided he would not allow himself to be overwhelmed with the violence in Chicago. Instead, with the help of his mother, he worked to begin the process of changing his future and the future of his mother, and his three remaining siblings.
Eric Wilson, now 19 years old, is one of the many people that have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence. Wilson was his senior class president at Kenwood Academy, located in Chicago’s Woodlawn community. At the age of four this Kenwood Academy graduate lost his father to gun violence. Though he doesn’t recall much about his father, he does however, remember the moment when one of his close relatives told him that he’d lost his father to gun violence forever.
“When I was a kid, I heard stories about how great a man he was. They told me that he was a hard-working engineer that loved his family and friends dearly,” he said. “It hit me pretty hard to know that I’d lost my father forever due to gun violence, but it hit me even harder when I lost my younger brother to gun violence, as well,” he said, adding, “He was here one minute, gone the next. It was hectic for me to try to understand why my brother died so suddenly, in a blink of an eye.”
Witnessing more and more people either harmed or killed by gun violence in his Marquette Park neighborhood, Eric’s mother, Veronica Coney, decided that she would help her son escape the vicious cycle of gun brutality by helping him get into a good college. She hoped that her son would go someplace where people help uplift each other instead of tearing each other down. He’s the first in his family to ever attend college.
“My mother is a wonderful person. She’s motivated me to become the best person I can be. Before the stroke, she used to work seven days a week, making sure that I had everything I needed. She was always there for me. She called people to help me to get into [Clark Atlanta University]. As a kid, she used to drive me to sports and school events and keep track of all of my accomplishments,” he affirmed, proudly. “She has always been in my corner.”
Eric’s mom reached out to the founder of a scholarship foundation she saw on television. It eventually led to Eric sharing his story with others while attending Clark Atlanta University (CAU). Lately, people on social media have been contacting Eric a lot asking him various questions with respect to him losing his family to gun violence. Though doing daily interviews can become hectic, Eric takes it all in stride.
Wilson said, “I look at social media as an advantage to help others overcome the despair of losing someone to gun violence. I feel that I have people supporting me by helping me reach a new level in life, so I can encourage others to alleviate themselves from negativity and allow positivity to become a new factor.”
Wilson is the freshman class president at CAU and a Common Ground Foundation volunteer, majoring in Mass Media Arts with a minor in Radio, TV, and film. He also strives to one day become a successful entrepreneur and role model for those who feel trapped in hopeless situations. Wilson hopes his life will serve as a blueprint for others to find their own success.
“The environment in Atlanta is more peaceful compared to Chicago. The people in Atlanta support each other and that’s a wonderful thing, because we need to uplift each other to move towards progression.”
Besides crediting his mother for being the motivator of his existence, Eric credits others for keeping him focused and grounded towards a new direction despite his past struggles. “Different leaders are stepping up to the plate to end gun carnage. I believe that the increasing numbers of gun violence will decrease, eventually.
“Karl Kemp is another person, who I credit for being a great mentor because he’s always counseling and motivating others to strive for excellence,” he said solemnly. Kemp is a Common Ground Foundation mentor. The foundation has various youth educational initiatives to expose underserved inner city youth to new opportunities through the creative arts. The Grammy award-winning artist Common founded it.
Despite the frequency of today’s violence, Wilson encourages people to never close their ears and to always keep an open mind. “God has a plan for everyone because everything happens for a reason,” he concluded.