RIP Lee McCullum, One of the Main Characters in CHICAGOLAND
BY MARC LEVIN
I was reading the NY Times article headlined, "FBI Director says 'Viral Video Effect' Blunts Police Work." Director Comey was speculating on the reasons behind the recent spike in murders in cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and Las Vegas. And then I got the text: "Lee Jr was shot and killed last night."
My heart stopped. I felt sick. All of a sudden the morning news, with its analysis and statistics, became painfully personal. Lee McCullum was one of the main characters in our 8-hour CNN series, "Chicagoland." He was the homeless ex-gangbanger who graduated from Fenger High School as an honor student and athlete. When he was crowned prom king, it brought tears to our eyes, all of us hoping he would beat the odds and make it.
Although he was a product of the mean streets of Chicago's south side, Lee had an easygoing warmth and charm. But despite Principal Dozier's heroic efforts, and many others who tried to help, Lee could not escape the dangerous street life.
For many of us who didn't grow up like Lee, it's hard to comprehend how difficult it is to leave the hood behind. Somehow the physical, psychological, and spiritual scars can end up pulling you back to the heart of the urban war zone. One of the sad ironies is that many young men in inner city neighborhoods echo the NRA's mantra: "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun." They have embraced the gunfighter nation ethos, turning guns on their so-called enemies which too often means their classmates, their neighbors, and sometimes even their own family and friends.
I don't know the details of Lee's murder. I just know it’s another tragic example of a young man with tremendous heart cut down before he ever had a chance to achieve his true potential.
The war at home continues and the body count grows.
We are all numb and heartbroken.
LEE MCCULLUM AT 601 STUDIOS. March 2013