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He Was In Anti-Violence PSA In Chicago — Then He Got Shot


Here in the U.S., people are trying different ways to deal with violence in their communities, like this public service announcement from last year about gun violence in Chicago.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It made me feel a little scared 'cause I don't know - if I'm going to be one of those people who get killed.

MCEVERS: The PSA features boys from a school in Chicago, and it cites a CDC statistic that says the leading cause of death for African-American boys and teenagers is homicide.


ZARRIEL TROTTER: I don't want to live around my community where I got to keep on hearing and hearing people keep on getting shot, people keep on getting killed.

MCEVERS: That was Zarriel Trotter. He was 12 years old when the ad was filmed last year. Then, this past Friday night in Chicago, a few blocks away from home, Zarriel was hit in the lower back by a stray bullet. He's still in the hospital.

Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn is the principal at Trotter's school, Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School. That's also where the PSA was filmed. And she is with us now. Welcome to the show.


MCEVERS: First of all, can you tell us how you found out that Zarriel Trotter had been shot?

JAMISON-DUNN: I actually found out from some of my colleagues. They told me that it was rumored that it was Zarriel, and it was confirmed for me through an email that I received from Chicago Public Schools.

MCEVERS: And what - it happened really close to the school. Is that correct?

JAMISON-DUNN: Yes, it was less than half a mile away from our school.

MCEVERS: And what was your reaction?

JAMISON-DUNN: My first thoughts was just - is, how is he doing? Is he OK? What does the family need? How can we be of assistance?

MCEVERS: And how is he doing now?

JAMISON-DUNN: He's showing improvement, and mom seems to feel very hopeful. We're just continuing to pray for him and keep him in our thoughts. And we hope to go see him this week.

MCEVERS: Tell us about Zarriel. What kind of student is he?

JAMISON-DUNN: He is definitely a fun-loving student. Even speaking with some of his classmates this morning, one of them said, oh, it's going to be boring in class now. He always makes us laugh. He's always the life of the party.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

JAMISON-DUNN: And you know, he's just, like - he doesn't cause any issues for us (unintelligible). So he's always trying to do the right thing And he's one of our kids. He's been with us since kindergarten, and so we've literally watched him grow up.

MCEVERS: I mean, I'm sure that the irony of what's happened has not been lost on you and other people at the school - that somebody who...

JAMISON-DUNN: It has hit.

MCEVERS: ...Himself had stepped forward was hit by a bullet.

JAMISON-DUNN: But it's also for our students. Because the PSA is getting national attention, it's showing them the power of their voice and their words. Zarriel's voice and their voice is being heard across the nation - that they are not OK with things that they see. And they do have opinions, and they do have a voice. And they do want more and better for themselves.

MCEVERS: But this violence is something that's in the community. How can people at school and in the wider community start to talk about addressing the violence?

JAMISON-DUNN: I think that, A, acknowledging that it is a part of what we go through every day but, more importantly, acknowledging that it's not just what we are. Like, it's not the only thing that happens in the community. And I feel too often the narrative that's written about Chicago or the West Side or black and brown children is one that's steeped within violence.


JAMISON-DUNN: And that's not all that we are. And so we constantly reaffirm our students on their greatness and understand that you can't be defined by this. So we need to figure out ways to overcome this and to let the other positive aspects of who we are shine brightly.

MCEVERS: That's Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn. She's principal at Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School in Austin. That's a neighborhood in Chicago. Thank you very much.

JAMISON-DUNN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.