As it rained last week, a group of roughly 30 students and community members gathered in Scoville Park to remember Michael Reese, the 17-year-old Oak Park and River Forest High School senior who was fatally shot in Austin on Oct. 2. He died roughly a week later, on Oct. 7 and was buried over the weekend.
During the damp vigil on Oct. 15, friends of Reese wore red bandanas, a fashion staple for the young man who District 200 Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams described as quiet but “very stylish and [who] always coordinated his outfits.”
Anthony Clark, a teacher at OPRF who sponsors the school’s Hip Hop Club, of which Reese was a member, recalled a young man who was “easy to talk to, easy to communicate with, easy to build relationships with. He had a loving family.”
Reese, Clark said, “dealt with heartbreak in his life. His older brother was taken by gun violence.” Reese communicated his pain through poetry, journaling and music, Clark said.
“When he got in that booth, he was an extremely talented young man,” Clark said. “Many of his friends, when they heard he’d passed, wanted to come together and pay proper respects to Michael.”
Reese’s close friends registered shock at his sudden passing and struggled to put their pain into words during the Scoville Park vigil.
“When this first happened and we wrote out a poster for his mom, not once did I know what to say or what to write,” said OPRF student Antoine Ford. “It took me a moment to realize that, although Mike is not physically here, as long as the people in this space who truly care about him and who were truly here for him — I feel like he lives on through us.”
“I wrote something, but I don’t feel like reading it,” said OPRF student Trinity Anderson. “I really appreciated Mike. He was a really good friend to me. He came into my life at a really crazy time. So, I really appreciate him. He was a great person. If you believe in God, pray, because I need help. I know I normally help other people, but I so need help right now. Don’t try to make sense of it all, because it’s not going to make sense right now.”
As Reese’s friends commiserated, Sharita Galloway, the mother of Elijah Sims, the OPRF student who was killed in Austin in 2016, looked on.
“This is not my first time standing here,” said Clark. “For many of you, it’s not your first time standing here. I’m looking at Sharita. Who remembers Elijah? We were here not that long ago, because gun violence took another student from us and yet we’re here again, because it hasn’t ended.”
Clark said that Reese is the 12th student he’s known personally who has been killed by gun violence in the 10 years he’s been teaching.
“We don’t want to normalize this,” he said, before calling on the crowd to march to Austin and Lake, where roughly a dozen people stood in a semicircle and prayed for justice.