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A New WTTW Digital Series on Gun Violence

Daniel Hautzinger
Reality Allah. Photo: WTTW and Zakkiyyah Najeebah
Reality Allah, an outreach worker with READI Chicago and subject of the upcoming WTTW digital series FIRSTHAND. Photo: WTTW and Zakkiyyah Najeebah

The coverage of gun violence in Chicago can often seem impersonal, abstracted, overly scientific. The local press shares statistics about the dead and injured like so many sports scores, comparing the data with previous years and reducing the city’s homicide victims into numbers on charts and graphs. But there are real people behind those statistics who must cope with the psychological trauma that gun violence leaves behind. 

In a new digital series called FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence, coming in early November, WTTW follows the stories of some of those real people, five Chicagoans who are living with the repercussions of gun violence. Through three-part documentaries on each person, feature and analysis stories written in partnership with The Trace, a nonprofit news organization covering guns in America, filmed talks by experts and policymakers, and a discussion guide, WTTW attempts to put a human face on a critical issue. 

On October 14, in a Chicago Ideas Week Talk presented by WTTW and titled "Does activism make a difference?" Reality Allah, one of the people profiled in FIRSTHAND, will speak about his work as an outreach worker for READI Chicago, a violence prevention organization. Allah was actively involved in a gang at a young age and spent 22 years in prison for murder. He vowed to help others like him if he ever got out of prison. 

FIRSTHAND follows four other people besides Allah. Jsaron Jones was shot in the leg as a result of a neighborhood rivalry, and was assisted in his recovery by a childhood friend who is an outreach worker. Despite Jones's transitional job, a gun charge threatens to put him in prison, and his "love affair" with guns persists.

Noemi Martinez's son Andy was murdered 15 years ago. Having watched her mother struggle after her brother was killed, she started working for the organization Chicago Survivors, responding to crime scenes and managing support groups.

India Hart is a college-bound high school senior from Auburn Gresham struggling in the wake of the shootings of her father, uncle, and a friend. With the help of her family, she begins to learn to manage her PTSD.

Julie Anderson's son Eric shot at a van he thought carried rival gang members when he was 15, murdering two women instead. Eric was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, later reduced to 60 years, and Julie has since dedicated her life to criminal justice issues, advocating on behalf of incarcerated individuals and their families.

Watch the FIRSTHAND: GUN VIOLENCE trailer below.