“All I ask for is safety,” wrote 13-year-old Malik Bryant, in a letter to Santa this year. “I just wanna be safe.” Specifically, he's looking for safety from gun violence, and he's not crazy to be fearful. Bryant lives in Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side that's frequently ranked as one of the city's most dangerous.
While all eyes may have been focused on recent unrest in Ferguson and New York, gun violence is endemic in cities around America. The Chicago PD reports that the city's on pace for nearly 400 homicides in 2014.
Bryant’s letter was written as part of an annual campaign run by the non-profit Direct Effect Charities, which works with Chicago’s public schools to match students with donors who will fulfill their holiday wishes. While this particular letter didn’t make it to the North Pole, it didn’t fall on deaf ears, either: It worked its way up the U.S. political ladder and landed in the hands of the President himself, who decided to address Bryant’s wish directly. Here is what Obama wrote to the teen:
I want to offer you a few words of encouragement this holiday season. Each day, I strive to ensure communities like yours are safe places to dream, discover, and grow. Please know your security is a priority for me in everything I do as President. If you dare to be bold and creative, work hard every day, and care for others, I'm confident you can achieve anything you imagine. I wish you and your family the very best for the coming year, and I will be rooting for you.
Sincerely, Barack Obama”
“I barely can’t even go outside anymore, can’t ride my bike, can’t play ball, can’t go play with my cousins, because you have to watch your back every 30 seconds... I know the President’s letter isn’t going to, like, solve the safety [concerns] out here, and it’s still going to be dangerous, but I’m excited the President of the United States wrote to me, and I can’t wait to show it off.”