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The Hudson family tragedy: Crime, race, and economics

From the beginning, the Jennifer Hudson story captured the public’s imagination: Baptist-raised Chicago singer with a big, stirring, soulful voice makes her way to the seventh round on "American Idol," yet gets voted off the show with a withering put-down by one of the judges, who predicted she would never be seen again. A year later, she overshadows Beyonce in the movie Dreamgirls and goes on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Fame and fortune follow.

And just as she was promoting her newest movie and CD earlier this month, tragedy strikes. Three members of her family-her mother, brother, and nephew-are brutally murdered in their South Side Chicago home. The media swarm her hometown and her neighborhood. Fans and well-wishers shower her with condolences and messages of support as law enforcement officials search for clues to the motive behind the killings.

Because of her success, Hudson could offer a $100,000 reward to help find her nephew, and news media spent days covering her family’s tragedy. TV news reporters cover the murders from every angle, and online newspapers from around the world post stories. Public comments range from some saying she got this "star" coverage because she was just that-a star-to others saying her being a "black star" from the South Side of Chicago and a neighborhood well known for violence attracted the extensive news coverage.

"You hear gunshots day and night, that’s nothing new," Ken Rasheeda, 38, who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood where Hudson’s family lived, told the Associated Press. "There’s been times I heard gunshots and I didn’t think twice about it, it’s so common." Another Englewood resident, Christine Baines, told the AP, "Because Jennifer Hudson lived here once upon a time you got all these people, all these teddy bears." But Baines also noted that the neighborhood "lost five people in one house in April," and that already has faded into the distant memory of many. Others questioned why would Hudson, famous and now wealthy, would "leave" her family in the ‘hood, stoking the notion that only poor people should live in areas of high crime.

How do we understand Jennifer Hudson’s tragedy using a racial and economic lens? What does the tragedy say about family loyalty and loyalty to a community? What do you think of the media coverage of the Hudson family tragedy? Was it the brutality of the murders or Hudson’s star power that brought so much attention to one more "South Side Chicago crime?" How can we as concerned individuals or as a society begin to address the question of violence in our neighborhoods and communities?

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