CHICAGO — ‘The Bloc’ in Humboldt Park is a place kids on the West Side come to learn how to box while receiving tutoring and other support.
Ja’lon James, 11, was one of them.
“Ja’lon was everything a kid could be. He was full of joy, full of curiosity. He was a little mischievous,” said boxing mentor Jamyle Cannon. “What struck me the most about Ja’lon was how much he loved his brothers, how much he loved spending time around them, making them laugh, learning the things they learned. It also struck me how much they loved and protected him.
Last week, when he received the tragic news, Cannon was about to pick up Ja’lon, his twin brother Jaylin and older brother Jamar for a gym trip.
“Right after we had sent a text to their mother to confirm pickup, we saw on social media that Ja’lon had been struck in a hit-and-run car crash and killed,” Cannon said. “Everything just kind of stopped in its tracks.”
It happened around 10 a.m. last Thursday, at 16th and Christiana in North Lawndale.
Ja’lon and his twin brother were riding bikes together when he was hit while crossing the street.
“He was 11, just turned 11. He deserved to grow up and be whoever he wanted to be,” said The Bloc mentor Sabrina Canchola.
“It’s just something you never think you would see,” Canchola added. “I saw that drive. He loved working out. He loved showing off his grades. He was full of love and happiness. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be here.”
On Tuesday night, neighbors gathered in Lincoln Square to remember 2-year-old Rafi Cardenas, who was hit and killed by a driver while riding his scooter on June 12.
Rafi’s mother, Marina Ross, donated $100 to the GoFundMe page for Ja’lon James’ mother, saying ‘we are here for you if you want to connect and grieve together. Sending all our love and support and lifting you up.”
Ald. Matt Martin (47thWard) says the gesture moved him.
“It’s absolutely wonderful and it really shows and it shows what our community really looks like,” Martin said. “It extends beyond a block, a neighborhood it’s citywide.”
Three children in Chicago were killed by drivers this month.
“We all have the individual responsibility to keep people safe,” Cannon said. “It’s a responsibility we need to heed and respect because it is costing us lives.”