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Daughter Creates Scholarship to Honor Dad Killed by Chicago Gun Violence

With its 500th murder taking place over Labor Day weekend, 2016 is now Chicago's deadliest year in two decades.
Courtesy of Tenisha Bell

With its 500th murder taking place over Labor Day weekend, 2016 is now Chicago's deadliest year in two decades.

The tragedies have hit close to home for Tenisha Taylor Bell more than once and the former CNN executive producer said change has been a long time coming.

In 2010, her grade school friend, Steven Lee, was shot and killed while walking to his car. Ronald Hollister, an honors college student who was home for summer break, and Bell's high school friend, was killed in 1993. And in 1982, her father, Ezekiel Taylor, was robbed, shot and killed on Chicago's Southside—blocks away from where First Lady Michelle Obama grew up—when Bell was only five years old.

Tenisha Taylor Bell and her mother Velma Pate.
Tenisha Taylor Bell and her mother Velma Pate. Reggie Pate /

Her father's three killers were 15, 19 and 21 years old.

Bell said boys like the ones who murdered her father are the inspiration behind her latest project. She said many young boys in Chicago face difficult situations, but she wants them to choose education over retaliation.

That's why Bell said it's "only a coincidence" that Chicago made national headlines again—this time the same day she announced the Ezekiel Taylor Scholarship Foundation (ETSF) in her father's honor.

"The young thugs who stole my father's life had no hope, no vision, and no one to believe in them. That's why it's important for me to seek young boys, and offer them a choice," Bell said in a press release.

Velma Pate (formerly Taylor) and Ezekiel Taylor.
Velma Pate (formerly Taylor) and Ezekiel Taylor.Courtesy of Tenisha Bell

"It will make a way for the young boy who may not have access to the academic scholarship because he's not an A or B student."

The scholarship "provides funding and male mentorship in an effort to educate, empower and encourage," according to the website,

Bell felt led to "do something" about Chicago's staggering gun violence rate last November after writing an essay for NBC News about why she refuses to raise her son in Chicago.

RELATED: Essay: Why I Refuse to Raise My Son in Chicago

"I got a lot of heat for that. I'm okay with criticism and a challenge... So I asked God, 'what is it I can do to make a difference?'" Bell told NBCBLK.

On September 6, Bell posted the scholarship announcement video on her Facebook page to coincide with the start of the Chicago Public Schools academic year.

The sobering video plays Sam Cooke's song, "A Change is Gonna Come," as Bell holds up signs describing her father's final moments before listing the scholarship details.

The song, like the murder statistics and announcement date, was also a coincidence.

"That song just reminds me of my father. I had never heard it around him. It just felt appropriate," she said.

Bell announced the scholarship online and instantly received messages from people with hopes of contributing to ETSF.

"Many have sent cash donations," Bell said. "But I didn't plan on taking any or creating a 'Go-Fund-Me."

Ezekiel Taylor
Ezekiel TaylorCourtesy of Tenisha Bell

"This is my story, it's so personal. I had no social media plan and didn't expect any of this [attention]," she said.

Bell has called others to action and to "prevent another person from being innocently killed" by "provid[ing] an education."

The Ezekiel Taylor Scholars have not been selected, though boys can go online now to submit an application.

For more information about the Ezekiel Taylor scholarship, or to apply, visit

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