The death of Nykea Aldridge
Town hall discussion preceded her murder in Chicago’s most violent month in nearly 20 years
Nykea Aldridge was a dreamer.
Aldridge, 32, was a mother of four children, engaged to be married to her fiancé, David Harrison. As an aspiring writer, Aldridge would share poetry and scripted plays with her family, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article. She hoped to one day write a book.
But that day will never come.
On Aug. 26, Aldridge’s dreams ended in a barrage of stray bullets sprayed in her direction while she was pushing her infant daughter’s stroller on the way to register her children for school. Although Aldridge was not the intended target, she was struck in the head and arm, and later pronounced dead at a hospital. Her baby was not harmed.
Pastor Jolinda Wade stood before a news crew after learning of her niece’s death. She consoled her grieving sister, Aldridge’s mother Diann, who rested her head on Wade’s shoulder and sobbed as Wade spoke.
“Just sat up on a panel yesterday, The Undefeated, talking about the violence that’s going on within our city of Chicago, never knowing that the next day we would be the ones that would be actually living and experiencing it,” Wade said. “I believe it’s senseless. I know a lot of us are trying to do so many things to try to bring this thing together and make sense of it. Wasn’t bothering nobody. Just going to register her kid for school but bullets fly around and have no name decided to find its way to her head. And so we’re now in a very, very sensitive grieving place.”
Less than 24 hours before Aldridge’s death, Wade sat in front of a crowd that gathered in the gymnasium of the YMCA on Chicago’s South Side. The center sits on South Stony Island Avenue, just 1.7 miles and a six-minute car ride from the location where Aldridge was gunned down.
Wade was a panelist for a town hall discussion hosted by The Undefeated to address gun violence, policing and responsibility. Wade delivered her messages as if preaching a Sunday sermon while talking about Chicago’s youths, staring directly at the children who were brought in by youth groups to listen to these discussions. Her comments focused largely on the state of communities around Chicago, where, in many cases, positive images are foreign and hope can often be a mirage.
“Quiet as its kept, when you go in [the communities], it’s really nothing there,” Wade said. “What’s there for the children? They’re dreamers … they got a dream inside of them. They wanna to grow up and do this, they wanna grow and be that, but when they grow up and look around, there’s nothing there.”
Wade shared with the audience bits of her personal life, her time as a pastor and what she feels Chicago needs to curb the violence. She ended her time with a call for unity.
“We got to come together,” Wade said. “We gotta unite. It’s not unity for real, it’s a bunch of daggers. Everybody’s stabbing everybody in the back and nobody’s coming together.”
Jolinda Wade’s son Dwyane Wade, NBA star and one of the newest members of the Chicago Bulls, also joined the discussion by satellite to discuss his experiences while growing up in Chicago.
“When I was there, it was a lot of us killing us,” Dwyane Wade said. “It was a lot of gang-related issues when I was growing up. It was a lot of black and brown people killing each other. It was about territory.
Nearly two decades later, things more or less remain the same.
The two brothers arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in Aldridge’s shooting death are allegedly gang members. From the time of Aldridge’s death on Aug. 26 to Aug. 29, 11 people were killed and 56 others wounded due to gun violence in Chicago. With more than 400 people shot and 78 homicides in August alone, it is on track to be the most violent month Chicago has seen in nearly 20 years, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Right now there is no safe place on the South or West sides of Chicago,” Father Michael Pfleger, the head pastor at The Faith Community of St. Sabina, said via email.
Shortly after Aldridge’s death, Dwyane Wade vented his frustrations to his 5.82 million Twitter followers and anyone else who happened upon his series of tweets.
“My cousin was killed today in Chicago,” his tweet read. “Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough”
My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) August 27, 2016
“[Nykea Aldridge’s death] is a reminder that no one is safe or exempt from this plague of violence, which is why we all have to get involved,” Pfleger said.
Pfleger hopes communities will remain encouraged and striving for change, despite recent incidents that seem to hinder progress.
“It’s difficult [to remain hopeful], but fear either paralyzes us or motivates us,” Pfleger said. “We have no choice but to be involved, meaning every person on every block, if we want to save the next generation.”