• Jeff Zoline
  • Activist Diane Latiker’s memorial to young lives lost is composed of close to 400 bricks, some 500 bricks fewer, she estimates, than the toll Chicago’s violence has taken on those age 24 and under.

In 2007, 16-year-old Julian High School student Blair Holt was shot and killed on a CTA bus; a gang member fired a shot at another gang member at the back of the bus and Holt, the son of a police officer and a firefighter, was caught in the crossfire. Holt’s death shook the community—it was reported that thousands of people attended the teen’s funeral—but local activist (and grandmother) Diane Latiker wasn’t convinced that everyone had gotten the message about the tragic effect of Chicago’s out-of-control violence.

Shortly after Holt was killed, Latiker began constructing a memorial from bricks that feature the names, ages, and dates of death of young victims of Chicago violence, all of them 24 and under. Across the street from Latiker’s home, on Michigan Avenue in Roseland, and kitty-corner to her nonprofit youth center Kids Off the Block, the memorial is composed of 374 bricks above which a banner reads “How Many More?” That’s about 500 fewer bricks than the monument should hold if it represented every young life lost since the project began, but Latiker says was never her intention to keep up with each death. The purpose, she says, is “to shock the community. Especially the young people. . . . They know a lot of the names on those stones.”

It’s also become a place for families to mourn; from across the street, Latiker ocassionally hears mothers sobbing. Her youth center is a decidedly happier place. Founded in 2003, Kids Off the Block focuses on academics, career counseling, health and recreation, family planning, and violence prevention for youths in Roseland; in 2011, Latiker’s work earned her a place among CNN’s ten “Heroes” (tagline: “Everyday people changing the world”). Latiker estimates her program has worked with 2,200 local youths over 11 years. Tragically, some of their names have ended up on bricks in the memorial.

Have an unusual observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? zoomin@chicagoreader.com.