CHICAGO – The funeral of a Chicago teen who was beaten to death on his way home from school drew civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan on Saturday, both calling for an end to youth violence.
Farrakhan said he came to the funeral because he was “deeply pained” by the death of 16-year-old honor roll student Derrion Albert. The boy was walking to a bus stop after school when a group of teens attacked him during a street fight late last month.
“Naturally, we wonder why such a beautiful life? Such a future we thought was waiting for this young man,” Farrakhan said. “This was a special young man of righteous bearing who God took from us so young.”
Cell phone video footage shows Albert being kicked and hit with splintered railroad ties. Four teens are charged in his death.
‘Eyes of the world are watching’
President Barack Obama is sending U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who once led Chicago Public Schools, to Chicago on Wednesday to meet with school officials, students and residents and talk about school violence.
“The eyes of the world are watching,” Pastor E.F. Ledbetter Jr. told mourners at the Greater Mount Hebron Baptist Church on the city’s South Side. “This has affected people all over the globe.”
Mayor Richard Daley, just off a plane Saturday from an International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen where Chicago lost the 2016 Summer Games, said he would work with police, the community and school officials to break the “code of silence” that happens after street violence.
Police, ministers and community leaders have been asking people to come forward with information about Albert’s killing.
“The code of silence is unacceptable in this day and age where we have young children being killed,” Daley said at a news conference at O’Hare International Airport.
‘We will always remember’
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman also both attended the funeral along with other city and public officials. Huberman called the Christian Fenger Academy High School sophomore a “bright light.”
Jackson demanded children and teens to be given safe passage to and from school.
“Derrion didn’t have to die,” Jackson said. “He was murdered. His pain, his suffering, his death have shook the world.”
As mourners filed into the church, video screens scrolled through pictures of Derrion as a baby and with his family, as well as photos of his academic awards. Some mourners wore T-shirts with Derrion’s picture that read “We will always remember you.”
The program included a poem Derrion’s mother, Janette Albert, wrote to her son titled “May I Go Now?”
“I know you’re sad and afraid because I see your tears,” she wrote. “I’ll not be far. I promise that.”
Farrakhan also called for communities to support their youth.
“Let’s go get our young people,” Farrakhan said. “His righteousness was to serve as a redemptive force to command us to get up and get busy and save our children.”