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Loved Ones Honor Slain Teen Activist Caleb Reed: ‘I’m Going To Keep Pushing His Legacy No Matter What’

Caleb Reed, 17, was shot to death July 31 in West Ridge. He was a vocal activist prominent in the ongoing debate to remove police officers from schools.

Balloons are released to honor Caleb Reed Aug. 4, 2020 in front of Mather High School, 5835 N. Lincoln Ave.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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WEST RIDGE — Caleb Reed loved breakfast food — both eating and cooking it.

Jasmine Bradley said she remembers more than once her little brother would stay up late into the night, cooking up breakfast feasts for the family. 

“I’m his big sister but he’s there in the kitchen making breakfast,” said Bradley, 23. “Waffles, pancakes with the crispy edges and sausages and it was so good. He really knew how to cook.”

Dozens of family members, friends and community activists gathered Tuesday afternoon to memorialize Reed, 17, who was fatally shot Friday afternoon in the West Ridge neighborhood.

Police are still investigating the shooting in the 1900 block of West Granville Avenue. No one is in custody. 

Credit: alex v. hernandez/block club chicago
Jasmine Bradley, sister of Caleb Reed, speaks during the Aug. 4, 2020 press conference in front of Mather High School as her brother Jermaine Pleasant comforts her.

Reed was about to start his senior year at Mather High School in West Rogers Park this fall. He was also an organizer with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, which is part of the city’s youth-led movement to remove police from Chicago Public Schools.

In a June press conference outside City Hall, he shared his personal experience with armed police in schools.

“It happened like a year ago. He went to just watch a game and they held him in a cell for six hours just because he didn’t have that school ID with him,” said Derion Smith, 19, one of Reed’s friends who graduated last year.

“I felt so bad for Caleb. I’m like, man, I never wanted you to go through that.”

Smith met Reed when he first arrived at Mather and the two quickly became friends. In their free time they would spar in the boxing ring at local parks, and talk about their life goals, football or just crack jokes to make each other laugh. 

“I love our memories. I always laughed when I was with him,” Smith said.

The friends couldn’t hang out in person as much recently because of the pandemic. But they were both at the June press conference downtown and Smith could tell something had changed in his friend. 

Credit: provided
Caleb Reed was a student at Mather High School, 5835 N. Lincoln Ave., and part of the city’s youth-led movement to remove police from Chicago Public Schools. He was fatally shot July 31, 2020.

Reed’s bad experience with school police combined with the mass demonstrations across the country against police misconduct had made him more outspoken than ever. 

“It was the last straw for him. He wanted everyone to hear him and I remember telling him I was so proud of him,” Smith said. “He was excited to be on the news.”

Bradley also remembers that day. Reed called and told her to be on the lookout for him on TV. 

“I’m hearing him talk all excited and I’m teasing him like ‘You better be on the news for a good reason,’” Bradley said, smiling. “And when I saw him I just couldn’t believe he’s out there talking to the aldermen and in the limelight like that.

“That’s how I want to remember him. He meant the world to not just me but to all these people.”

Reed’s older brother, Jermaine Pleasant, also has a cherished memory of the brother whose diapers he used to change: when his small kids grew old enough to say “Uncle Caleb.”

“Growing up, he depended on Jasmine and me. And with him gone now, I feel like I lost my son in a way,” said Pleasant, 25. “My two kids just turned two and three and when they ask about what happened to Uncle Caleb, it’s going to eat me up inside.”

Dozens of Chicago public high schools are weighing whether to retain school resource officers on campus. The majority of local school councils have voted to keep the officers in place. The advisory board at Mather, Reed’s school, is scheduled to hold their own vote next week.

“I’m not going to let Caleb’s legacy end today,” Smith said. “He wanted to push students to do more in schools to improve them than any student I knew had ever done before.

“He was amazing and I always told Caleb that no matter what I’d always be by his side. Even though he’s gone I’m going to keep pushing his legacy no matter what.”

RELATED: Teen Activist Fatally Shot Friday Afternoon In West Ridge

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