With her son’s death in the heart of Chicago still roiling the city, Seandell Holliday’s mother said she didn’t give the 16-year-old permission to go downtown before he was fatally shot near The Bean on Saturday night.
Seandell was Chanell Holliday’s oldest of six children, and she tried to keep them home as much as possible, worried about Chicago’s violence.
“Whenever my kids even be outside, I’m concerned about my kids. This is Chicago. Aren’t you concerned about your life in Chicago?” Holliday said. “I said, ‘You’re not going to go downtown.’”
But Seandell and one of his cousins took the CTA Red Line north to participate in what teenagers called “trending” by gathering downtown to hang out. Then later that day, Holliday got a call that Seandell had been shot.
“It felt like my soul left,” she said.
The teen gathering Seandell was a part of and his subsequent death have forced city leaders to attempt to control such loose gatherings of kids descending on the Loop and Millennium Park — groups that are often prompted by social media to head to the center of the city.
On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new rules on youths in Millennium Park went into effect for the first time. The guidelines forbid unaccompanied minors from being in the downtown park after 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Shortly after that time Thursday, signs could be seen at security entrances to the park informing visitors of the rules and stating that presentation of a valid I.D. could be required.
Park security were checking bags and scanning people with a metal-detector wand. Armed security walked around the park, some wearing bulletproof vests and one armed security guard stood at each of the park’s entrances. No youths were immediately turned away.
Earlier in the day, Seandell’s school, Gary Comer College Prep, held a balloon release in Seandell’s honor.
In the wake of the mayor’s announcement last weekend, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown and other officials said the new rules would not be a suggestion. But it was not clear whether young people who head to Millennium Park with no parent or guardian will simply be turned away or whether any adult would be held responsible.
“This new policy will be strictly enforced and violations will be dealt with swiftly,” said Ann Hickey, a deputy commissioner of operations for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Brown this week said officers won’t arrest teenagers for simply gathering, but if they, like anyone else, break the law, then officers will take action.
“So we’re not sitting there standing on our hands, waiting for things, but we are engaging these young people and working to make sure they follow the laws, and when they do break the laws, we take strict law enforcement actions,” Brown said.
The new rule limiting minors’ access to Millennium Park has been met with resistance from some civil liberty organizations.
At the ceremony for her son, Chanell Holliday said that despite the new limits, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Stephanie Jordan, an adult cousin of Seandell, added: “They’re stopping the kids from coming downtown, and it’s only going to lead them back in their communities, where there are no type of activities for them to participate in. … It needs to be changed within their communities, so they can have an outlet.”
At Gary Comer College Prep high school, where Seandell was a freshman, his family sat in chairs, and dozens of teenagers from the school gathered outside. They distributed 145 pink and blue balloons — the amount was to represent the number of freshmen at the school, pink for Seandell’s favorite school shirt and blue for his favorite color, said Richard Mosley, the dean of students.
Vondale Singleton, CEO of CHAMPS Male Mentoring Program and Seandell’s mentor, took to the microphone. He said Seandell was part of his first-period class. At the beginning of the year, Singleton asked the students to write down their goals.
Seandell eventually gave Singleton a folded-up piece of paper and asked him to read it. He had written that he wanted to take care of his family, watch his siblings grow up and make sure that he had a studio because he loved music. Then he had written a goal to not die before 21.
“He shared with the class the reason why … He said it’s a lot of things that happened in Chicago, where a lot of young people lose their lives. And I don’t know if I will make it to see 21,” Singleton said.
Seandell’s godmother, Latisha Morris, then spoke to the crowd.
“On my way here, I was wondering, and I was praying because this is probably the hardest thing that I myself and the family has ever had to endure,” Morris said. “We’ve lost many people, but this one, this one is hard.”
Morris, who is a teacher, said she tells her students the three consideration rule: Consider if you actually want to do something, consider how it would benefit you, and, last, consider what you might lose, including your life.
“You can do what my god-baby wanted to do, and that is live,” she said.
Then several of Seandell’s friends took turns speaking, including 15-year-old Jayln Pressey, who said Seandell was like a brother to him.
“It’s real hard dealing with something like this,” he said. “He was present in our hearts. He will always be there no matter what.”
Another friend, 15-year-old Demarion Carlton, also spoke, saying that Seandell would always call to check up on him, no matter what time of the day.
“For him to be gone, that hurts,” he said. “We’re going to miss him, and we’re always going to love him.”
When the students released the balloons, they yelled into the air. People then took turns hugging Chanell Holliday, who wore a white dress and sat in the front row.
Later Demarion spoke to the Tribune and said he and Seandell would play basketball, make rap songs and play video games on PlayStation 4 together. Demarion said he had also told Seandell not to go downtown.
“Because the stuff that be happening downtown. … Fights are going to happen. People get mad,” he said.
Jayln added, “Downtown was a place you go out and have fun. … Now you can’t go nowhere without having to fight for your life. Being outside, it’s not about fun anymore, it’s about survival.”
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