Escaping the Trap of Youth Violence

Born and raised in Chicago, John McCullough, submerged in a culture of youth violence, was shot and incarcerated on numerous occasions.

| March 2014

  • “My biggest fear is getting shot down and just being laid out in the middle of the street somewhere. I don’t want to die like that: getting shot down, beaten to death or stabbed to death, just being laid out on the sidewalk, period.”
    Photo by Fotolia/Nomad_Soul
  • “How Long Will I Cry” is a harrowing compilation of interviews with the voices of youth violence in Chicago.
    Cover courtesy Big Shoulders Books

How Long Will I Cry (Big Shoulders Books, 2013) is a compilation of stories from people whose lives have been changed by violence in the streets and bloodshed in the Chicago area. Interviewed by DePaul University creative-writing students and edited by Miles Harvey, the result is an extraordinary and eye-opening work of oral history. The following excerpt is from “Four Bullets” with John McCullough.

I remember it was the summertime that my dad got shot and killed. I don’t really know the reason. He was in Michigan. I don’t know why he was out there. I think it was one of them white girls he was messing with that stayed out there.

My mama told me to come into the crib. I was, like, 13. She told me and my sister that my dad had just got killed. Everything went blank. I remember that day like yesterday. Everything went blank and I couldn’t cry. I didn’t know what to do. It was hard to take it all in. I just remember thinking, like, “He’s gone.”

I think my mama took it worse than me. Even though they weren’t together for a while, she took it harder. While she was telling me, she was crying. My grandma was crying. My sister started crying and I’m just sitting there, the only one not crying. Just sitting there, like I’m retarded, puzzled. The day of the funeral, my little brothers see my daddy in the casket. They was saying, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” They was crying for their daddy. That’s all I could hear.



My Uncle Delvin, he took care of us when my father got killed. He made sure I was straight and didn’t need nothing. He would go to my football games and all that. He took care of his family; he took care of everybody. He was about the only male influence that I was getting. He was a Chicago police officer. He was there for me, so I’ll say he was my biggest role model.

He killed himself. I don’t know why, but he killed himself. I think he shot his wife, like, seven times, then killed himself. Somehow he snapped, because that wasn’t him. He wasn’t a killer and wasn’t the type of person to harm a female. He just lost it.