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Mom, pastor of Chicago man shot 17 times preach hope

CeaseFire’s Ameena Matthews also encourages hundreds

Those reading news accounts about his shooting death have chimed in on message boards that it’s just another black man dead, and that his death helped to “thin out the herd.” But for those hundreds of family, friends and mourners who turned out to celebrate Aaron Price Sr.’s life on a recent frigid Tuesday morning, he was not just another fatality. He belonged to a family and had close friends who loved him.

Price was found shot dead January 10, at the age of 32, in an alley in Edgewater onChicago’s North Side. His mother, Evang. LaDonna Price—as hundreds of black mothers across the nation—doesn’t want his death to be in vain. She admonished those at his service to wake up and accept Jesus Christ and have faith that there are better ways to live. And judging by the dozens of young people who answered the call, just maybe Aaron’s passing might mean more than just another black man making the wrong choices and having his lifestyle catch up with him.

As hundreds of people filed through the South Side church—Aaron’s father, Anthony, some older family members and friends, but mostly friends who appeared to be in their 20’s; some even wearing garments that celebrated Aaron’s gang lifestyle—many probably wondered how such a young man could attract so many people. Everyone agreed: Aaron was the life of the party and would always make you laugh. But Aaron didn’t always heed the advice and values his mother tried to stress, while raising him and his brother, who is one year older.

Price shared with the crowd that she ignored an assignment that God gave her many years ago to reach out to the youth and that as a result many lives were lost. “I don’t have tears for Aaron right now,” she said. “I am grieving for you all.” She told stories of looking for her son as he was out in the street dealing drugs and running into many of the people who now mourned his death.

She recounted stories of when Aaron was in jail and he said he would talk about the Bible to other inmates, always promising to do better when he was released. But as many Black men have done before him, he just couldn’t let the street and fast money attained by drug dealing go. “He was doing everything and anything that he wanted to do, even after I poured all I could into both of my sons to show them the right way to live,” Price added.

She spoke of the prodigal son, who in the Bible left home but eventually returned to his father. “However, Aaron never made it back home,” she said. “I can’t put him in Heaven, because of his lifestyle, and you all have choices,” she told the audience. “But his lifestyle hurt and harmed people.” As the mourners waited for her next words, many still believing he was the model son, Price jolted some to reality: “You just don’t get shot 17 times for nothing.” Autopsy reports show that Aaron was shot 17 times, and his hands were covered with gloves in the casket.

His death greatly pains Aaron’s father, who loved and will sorely miss him. “I’ll never forget the good times we shared, always thinking you should have been spared,” was his poem to his late son. “But it’s not my call.”

However, the funeral didn’t appear to be services for a gang member; everything was peaceful and there were no instances of conflict. But this is a fact that Pastor Olivia Johnson ofChicago Heights,Illinois’GenerationalBlessingsFamilyWorshipCenter, of which the Prices are members, wanted to impress to the audience. “You spend so much time on Facebook, putting halos up to remember Aaron,” she said. “But he sold drugs to children and he hurt families. Don’t let his dying be in vain. Drug dealers don’t get halos, and drug dealers don’t go to Heaven, not even our sons.”

After imploring those to turn from the streets and to go back to school and become productive adults, Pastor Johnson prayed for dozens of youth who joined at the altar, many becoming swept up in the spirit.

To further spread a message of reform and hope, Ameena Matthews shared her story of transformation, after growing up as one of the oldest children of noted Chicago El Rukin gang leader Jeff Fort. “We have lost countless brothers on the street,” Matthews, who is enjoying phenomenal acclaim for her starring role in the violence intervention documentary The Interrupters, told everyone. “I went through the same journey and thought I was invincible.”

She advised the mourners to take the love they had just experienced by hearing the eulogy saying, “Your promise to the Creator can’t be forgotten.” She encouraged the older people in the audience to take younger ones under their wings. “We can’t keep killing one another, just because we have an argument doesn’t mean we have to shoot.”

Indeed, Aaron’s death is not in vain, says Pastor Johnson. “The service made an immediate impact on the crowd, for within a few days afterward, Facebook postings were no longer filled with profanity and anger but now spoke of simple condolences and fond memories, along with a notice that the Facebook page memorializing Aaron and reflecting his lifestyle would voluntarily be removed by week’s end. Also, young people who had been living wayward, destructive lives outside of their family homes were returning back home for guidance.”

Elaine Hegwood Bowen lived in the Edgewater neighborhood for 10 years and is a freelance writer residing


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