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Lil JoJo, Yung Teddy and Freddy E: The tragedy of being young, black and dead

Another teenager in Chicago was gunned down this past week, and the young man was the stepbrother of controversial hip-hop star Chief Keef.

Ulysses “Chris” Gissendanner III, 19, was shot in the head while sitting in a parked car, reportedly near 124th Street and South Union Avenue. Authorities don’t believe the killing had anything to do with his relationship to Chief Keef.

Gissendanner is yet another sad casualty of the ongoing violence that has plagued Chicago’s streets over the past few years. The murder total in the city passed 500 in 2012, with many of the victims and perpetrators black and Latino teens. In September, another teenage rapper, Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, was gunned down. In December, JoJo’s friend and fellow rapper, JayLoud (born Joshua Davis) was killed — allegedly for wearing a T-shirt in support of JoJo.

Outside of Chicago, 23-year-old rapper Yung Teddy was murdered in a western suburb of Atlanta last week. And 22-year-old Seattle rapper Freddy E committed suicide with a gunshot to the head this past weekend.

With the dark cloud of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting still hanging over the country’s collective consciousness, its important not to become desensitized to the young lives that are being taken on inner city streets on a seemingly-daily basis. And its important to remember that there are countless young people, who aren’t hip hop artists or relatives of hip hop artists, that are dying in these streets without getting national media coverage or blog posts.

The easy access to guns is something that has to be addressed, and not only when mass killings occur in Newtown or Aurora, CO. Reform is necessary to protect the lives of our youngest citizens. Regardless of where they happen to live, or whether or not they have colorful names and recording contracts. And we have to hold audiences and labels equally accountable for music that trivializes the loss of life that is taking place in our communities. Labels sign artists and audiences co-sign them and enable them. The image of a kid too young to vote brandishing automatic weapons should give everyone pause. It’s past time to demand accountability from everyone. For the sake of these children.

–stereo williams