University Park, IL,
15:52 PM

Los Angeles Gun Violence Jolts GSU Community

Saieed Ivey had big dreams. He wanted to make money. He wanted to work for himself, to create his own clothing line, to go pro. The Chicago native, a Simeon Career Academy graduate and former basketball player and honor roll student at Governors State University, wanted to succeed. He was going to be more than a statistic, more than another young Black male swallowed alive by the city’s South Side, and he was willing to do the work to make it out. His Instagram and Facebook accounts are punctuated with his motto, typed by his own hand: #FINAO – failure is not an option.

On June 9, Saieed turned 20, and on that morning—according to a press release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department—he was found dead in a car behind an apartment building in Monterey Park, a small suburb of Los Angeles. He'd been shot by an unknown assailant.

According to Coach Tony Bates, athletic director at GSU and Saieed’s former basketball coach, the young man had moved to L.A. to take a shot at playing for a bigger school—and to get away from the gun violence that has reached a feverish pitch in Chicago over the last several years.

“Saieed Ivey was a basketball player who fit all the criteria I look for. He was highly intelligent, personable with a lively personality, and he was a tremendous ball player,” Coach Bates said. “When it came to him leaving, we talked about it and I didn’t try to hold him back. It’s always about the kids. In the end, it’s about what they feel they need to do. Who am I to say, ‘No, stay here’? When you feel that there’s a higher mountain for you to climb, I say go for it—but I’ll still be here for you.”

And he was. Coach Bates stayed in contact with his former player, catching up here and there in text, and even seeing Saieed on occasion when he came home to catch a game.

His older brother, Sondale Conner, is still a student at GSU, and he was visiting in Los Angeles when Saieed was slain. They had reportedly been celebrating Saieed’s birthday with friends, a late-night Wednesday gathering stretched into the early hours of Thursday, when the shooting occurred. Saieed had gone down to the car, telling his brother and friends that he would be back, but he never returned.

According to the release, Monterey Park Police responded to an early morning call about gunfire in the 800 block of West El Repetto Drive on June 9. When officers arrived, a young man, later identified as Saieed Ivey, was discovered nonresponsive in the backseat of a Mercedes Benz. The vehicle’s lights were on, and the doors were locked. Paramedics determined that he had been shot in the chest, and he was pronounced dead on the scene.

There is cruel irony to the story of a young man from Chicago fleeing his hometown’s violence only to be murdered in another city.

According to Coach Bates, Saieed is one of several GSU recruits who have been lost to gun violence. GSU’s basketball program is only two years old, but Saieed is the fourth player that the coach has lost. The other three, though, were prospects who never made it through the door. They had been recruited and committed to the university, but violence took them before they arrived. One, a senior from Bogan High School, was fatally shot in his neighborhood on a Sunday morning. Another, a Fenger High alum, survived one shooting just weeks before he was fatally stricken in the head in the West Pullman neighborhood.

Dr. Shaniqua Jones, a GSU graduate and staff member who is active in the university’s mentorship programs, works with many of the university’s first-year students who, like Saieed, come to college in search of a safe haven and pathway out of their environs.

“If we don’t shed light on these external factors, (they) won’t all make it to graduation. We have to face the reality of what people are dealing with outside the classroom,” Dr. Jones said.

Yevette Brown, Associate Professor in Media Studies and Program Coordinator for Communications at GSU, has devised a way for the university to address these issues. In 2012, after her son was pierced by a stray bullet while driving home from the grocery store in Bronzeville, Brown founded Respond to Violence, what she calls “a multimedia initiative that gives voice to those impacted by violence.” Her son thankfully survived, but Brown said she recognized that “so many parents do not have that outcome,” and her response was to bring GSU together in an interdisciplinary and cross-departmental effort to initiate open dialogue on all forms of violence.

“With Respond to Violence, we have a public square that gives our university a place to gather as one to use our voices and resources effectively to assist our university community and the surrounding community,” Brown said.

In the pall cast by Saieed’s death, the Governors State University community found itself stunned and almost muted. News of the tragedy moved through the university’s classrooms and halls quickly on June 9, and on June 10, the campus—although usually quiet in the summer—seemed even quieter. Funereal, somber.

By all accounts, Saieed was a well-known and much-loved part of GSU. President Elaine P. Maimon said, "On behalf of the GSU community and with my own personal sorrow, I extend my most sincere condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Saieed Ivey. Saieed was a talented young man whose loss will be felt through the halls of GSU and beyond."

Dalvin Echols, a junior in the Communications program, was especially close to Saieed. He said he received a phone call early in the day from a mutual friend delivering the sad news. The two had played basketball together, both with and against one another, for about five years.

“He was a cool person, laid back, outgoing, always giving good advice and helping people out. All he wanted to do was play basketball and help out his family. He supported everybody and showed up for everybody,” Echols said of his friend. “I was in shock when I found out. I didn’t see this coming at all. I told him happy birthday, talked to him, then I woke up and they said he was gone. It just shows there’s violence everywhere, not just in Chicago. You have to just keep your head up and keep fighting.”

Saieed’s mother, Chareda Carter, flew out to California with her father on Thursday to be with her older son. In an email to Governors State she said, “I believe you all know him as I know him. He's an amazing soul. A natural born leader, a motivator and encourager, extremely tenacious, an honor student, community oriented, and an aspiring athlete. He’s a lover of God and a friend to all who know him.”

Through Respond to Violence, GSU plans to host an open community conversation in the near future to address their community’s loss. Details of the event will be made available on their Web site as they become available.