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Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan attend Chicago teen's funeral

Derrion Albert, 16, was beaten to death last week in a melee captured on cellphone video. The civil rights leader and the Nation of Islam figure use the occasion to call for an end to violence.

October 04, 2009|Kristen Mack

CHICAGO — A Chicago teenager beaten to death on his way home from school was laid to rest Saturday after a three-hour funeral, during which civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan called for an end to youth violence.

Footage of the brutal attack last month on Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honor student, was recorded with a cellphone camera, and captured the nation's attention.

President Obama has announced that Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will go to Chicago this week to look into the incident. And Obama's spokesman has indicated the administration is preparing an initiative to address the national issues of youth crime and violence.

Police have said Albert got caught up in a fight between factions of students as he walked to a bus stop after school; he was struck with wood planks, punched and stomped. Four teens have been jailed and charged in his death.

Several ministers have used the boy's death as a call to action, encouraging parents to reclaim and protect their children.

Farrakhan on Saturday said he was bothered to hear a father say on a TV report that young people were not salvageable. "I believe all of us can be saved," Farrakhan said. "[Derrion's] righteous life served as a redemptive force to make us get up and save our children."

And, Jackson said, students have the right to attend the "closest and safest school possible" rather than have to take multiple buses to get home.

"Why send these children into harm's way every day?" Jackson asked. "These are war zones. This wasn't an incident, it's a pattern."

Jackson led those attending the service in a spontaneous offering on behalf of the family. Many who filled the 2,500 sanctuary seats walked to the front of the church and contributed.

Pictures and honor roll certificates that were taped on the wall of Albert's living room last week were turned into a five-minute looping slide show at the funeral. Mourners watched it play on the projection screen while they stood in line to view his body before the service started.

Droves of teenagers were in attendance, many wearing T-shirts with pictures of Albert. Others wore pictures of him around their necks like school badges. Teenagers wiped away tears as they leaned on the shoulders of adults for comfort.

In her first public remarks since the melee, Fenger High School Principal Elizabeth Dozier expressed her sympathy to Albert's family and said the teen had "built peaceful relationships with others" and that those at the school had "cherished his sweet spirit and intellect."

In one of the service's most emotional moments, Greater Mt. Hebron Pastor E.G. Ledbetter Jr. told those gathered at the South Side church that there "is no simple fix for what is wrong in our nation."

Every time someone kills, Ledbetter said, the perpetrator dies too. "A lot of folks died when Derrion died," he said. "The ones who were joking and laughing, and the ones standing in the street who did not help and rescue him."


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