By Amanda Wicks
When Jennifer Hudson recently spoke with Glamour Magazine about her upcoming role in Spike Lee’s Chiraq, due out in December, talk of the movie inevitably turned to talk of her own loss. “Chiraq” is a slang term that characterizes Chicago’s South Side and the extreme, almost war-zone-like violence that occurs there nightly. In Chiraq, Hudson plays a mother whose daughter is killed by a stray bullet.
During one moment of filming, Hudson found that art connected with real life in a powerful way for her. “There’s a scene where we’re all holding up boards with [photos of] our slain children on them,” she said. “I turned around, and it’s a sea of real women [as extras] holding pictures of children they actually lost. I’m a character holding a picture of a little girl, but in real life I have the same story.”
That “same story” pertains to the 2008 murders of her mother, brother and nephew in Chicago. Her sister’s estranged husband shot all three. Hudson rarely addresses that, but told Glamour how upsetting it was to discuss it with people who hadn’t experienced any kind of loss, let alone something so traumatic. “It’s frustrating as hell to me to have somebody who ain’t lost nothing try to talk to me about it,” Hudson said. “I want to say, ‘Don’t even bother, because you know nothing.’ But you never know how much you can get through until you’re going through it.”
Giving birth to her son David a year after the homicides helped her cope with the tragedy. “I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child,” she said. It’s a gift she doesn’t take lightly; she reminds her son every day how he saved her life.
Despite the brutal personal events that took place in that city, Hudson moved back to the Chicago area from Florida shortly after David was born. She explained the decision, saying, “Here I get to take off Little Miss Celebrity and be normal, let my feet touch the ground. I feel like it keeps me me.”