To President Obama: â€˜Help us stem the violenceâ€™, likening violenceÂ to Darfur or Rwanda
By Chinta Strausberg
CHICAGO, IL â€“ Father Michael L. Pfleger Sunday called on President Barack Obama to provide help in stemming the rise of violence in Chicago and around the nation and equated the increase of fatal shootings to Darfur or Rwanda and nothing short than â€œgenocide.â€
Pfleger is outraged over the increase in crime that has taken the lives of so many children, and he is angry over the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by 28-year-old George Zimmerman a neighborhood watch volunteer. To the racist he says called and e-mailed him for speaking out about the death of Martin, Pfleger said, â€œI got something for you.â€ He then pulled a gray-colored hoodie over his head and denounced the fatal shooting calling for justice for the parents of the teen.
Asking the youth to stand around the altar to represent those children who were killed, Pfleger said, â€œYou see, itâ€™s not just about Trayvon. Itâ€™s about children being killed in the city and all around the country. Weâ€™re all Trayvonâ€™s.â€
Pfleger said 57 children have been killed in Chicago since the school year began. He asked women who are â€œprayer warriorsâ€ to stand in the aisle and pray for the safety of the youth.
But while the nation has rallied around the unarmed Martin and the alleged racial profiling of Zimmerman who said the teenager looked suspicious because he wore a hoodie, Pfleger took aim at the New Black Panther Party as well.
Pfleger also denounced the New Black Partyâ€™s offer of a $10,000 bounty for the shooter of Martin. â€œEvil does not beget evil. Dr. King said, â€˜Darkness cannot drive out darkness. It is just as wrong to put a bounty on Zimmermanâ€™s head, as it was to kill Trayvon Martin. You cannot handle evil with evil. Murder doesnâ€™t justify murder,â€ Pfleger bellowed.
But with the number of body bags continue to grow; Pfleger has channeled his energy into launching a letter-writing campaign. Heâ€™s asking President Obama to assist in reducing the violence that continues to mar the reputation of Chicago.
â€œThe job of ending this violence out here, the job of ending crazy, racist laws that are so easily interpreted, â€˜Stand Your Ground,â€™ the job of ending racism and poverty in America is the churchâ€™s job because we got the power to tell the President, the governor, the mayor, the aldermen, to tell them what they got to do.
â€œDonâ€™t wait for them to tell you.Â You tell them. Youâ€™re the church. Youâ€™re the conscience. Youâ€™re the one who is supposed to have God with you. If God is with you, then act like it and stop begging and start telling them what you want,â€ said Pfleger.Â He asked, â€œWhy should I turn to somebody who is as jacked up as me to solve my problemâ€?
Saying what gets him through the day is Godâ€™s promise that he would end racism, poverty and violence, Pfleger, said, â€œIâ€™m a prisoner of hope. You canâ€™t make me hopelessâ€¦.â€ He urged his members to sign the letter asking for President Obamaâ€™s help in reducing violence.
In releasing his letter to Obama, Pfleger is asking supporters to sign the letter and fax it to him at: 1-773-483-7583 and he will mail it to the President Obama.
Earlier during Sunday worship, Pfleger, who wore a gray-colored hoodie in solidarity with supporters of 17-year-old slain Trayvon Martin who was shot on February 26, 2012 by 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, said, â€œWe are all Trayvon Martin.â€
Pfleger had a bust of an African American young male holding an armful of Skittles. When Martin was fatally shot, he was returning from the store and was holding a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. He did not have a gun.
Martin was killed while on his way home from a local convenience store. He was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. Pfleger displayed a bust of an African American young male holding an armful of Skittles that sat at the foot of the altar. He had pictures of young black men wearing a hoodie which has become symbolic of racial profiling in America since it was Zimmerman who when talking to a 911 operator said Martin looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie.
After service, Pfleger told reporters: â€œAmerica, deal with racism, There is no question in my mindâ€¦that would have happened to a white kid walking down the street with some Skittles and some ice tea.Â America has to stop denying racism, and we have to face racism, deal with it openly and aggressively in America.â€
But what bothers Pfleger the most is the possibility that Martin died in vain. â€œIf Trayvonâ€™s death does not wake us up to deal with violence here, violence in Newark, Oakland, across this country, if we donâ€™t wake up to deal with violence here, then Trayvonâ€™s death was in vain.â€
Pfleger said itâ€™s time to not only get angry about what happened in Sanford, Florida with the killing of Martin, but people should get angry â€œabout whatâ€™s going on in Englewood, Lawndale, in Auburn Gresham, Little Village and Roseland. Letâ€™s get angry about any child that gets killed in this country. Thatâ€™s unacceptable. Itâ€™s like Darfur or Rwanda. Itâ€™s unacceptable.
â€œI pray that this Trayvonâ€™s murder is the fuse that wakes up America. Enough children have died. Letâ€™s stop the violence. Everybody break the code of silence. Get rid of these laws that are covers for murders and deal with racism in America,â€ Pfleger told reporters after service.
Referring to HB 5831, a handgun registration act he says is like titling guns like cars, Pfleger told reporters laws like Floridaâ€™s and 21 other states that adopted â€œStand Your Groundâ€ need to be stopped. â€œEverybody wants to have conceal carry. We have a violent culture and to get laws to protect murders. Hell no. We need to stop those laws. We need to stopped it in Orlando, and we need to stop it in every other state that has it.â€
Pfleger said you canâ€™t talk about Trayvon Martin without talking about racism and the number of children killed in Chicago. â€œWhen any child is killed, we are all Trayvon Martinâ€¦. Let this be a moment of enlightenmentâ€¦of truth in Americaâ€¦. Be outraged when any child dies. They are our childâ€¦whether they be rich or poor, black, or white or brown. We are all Trayvon Martinâ€¦. We demand that you protect our children.â€
After service, the youth headed by Mack Julion, chairman of the Saint Sabina Young Adult Ministry (JAM) held a press conference outside of the ARK, 7801 S. Racine, where he held a moment of silence.
Minister Melech Thomas, an intern at Saint Sabina, prayed for the mother of Martin and other mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. â€œWe come with weeping eyes not just in a spirit of defeat but in a readiness to fight because we as your people refuse to stay beat down by the demon of violence however we find it in racial profiling or in black-on-black violence in the city.â€
Holding up a bag of Skittles, Thomas said, â€œAmerica, does this make me look suspiciousâ€? â€œI find it no coincidence that the very law that is keeping George Zimmerman from being arrested, the â€˜Stand Your Groundâ€™ law,â€™ is one that is being advocated all across this country by the National Rifle Association (NRA) an organization with such evil intent that it is willing to profiteer off the death of our children by preying on the fears of people all across this country regardless of color.
â€œI am sorry for what happen to Trayvon Martin and weâ€™re all here representing Trayvon Martin, but weâ€™re also here representing James ByrdÂ (killed in 1998 in Jasper, Texas by three white men in a racially-motivated crime). Weâ€™re representing Amadou Diallo (who was killed in a hail of bullets in 1999 by four police shot fired 41 bullets at the victim).Â Weâ€™re representing Ondelee Perteet (who in 2009 at the age of 14 was shot at a party leaving him paralyzed.)
â€œWeâ€™re representing all of the people who have been victim of violence both by racial profiling, by black-on-black violence, by lack of commonsense gun laws, by conceal carry, by Stand Your Ground laws. Weâ€™re coming to come against all of that and we refuse to stay down,â€ said Thomas.
To President Obama, Thomas, who predicted Obama would win his bid for a second term, said, â€œIn this second term, you have to have the moral backbone to stand up against the most evil organization in this country, the NRA, federal assaults weapons ban, limits on the number of guns you can buy each month. We need commonsense gun laws. We are not coming against the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment says a well regulated militia, but the NRA is a well financed militia. We donâ€™t want to protect the murder of our children,â€ he said praying for the children who were victims of gun violence.
Julion said, â€œItâ€™s sad that we still live in a day where children like Trayvon Martin are shot and murdered and justified under the racist undertone laws such as the â€˜Stand Your Ground â€˜law which allows murderers to shoot and kill innocent, harmless and armless youth.
â€œWe must continue to be loud and push for peace and justice because what happened to Trayvon Martin is happening to youth and young people all over the cityâ€¦in New York and in Florida.â€ Julion, who urged teens to continue to mobilize and organize on social media, said, â€œWe must stop the senseless violence that is killing and plaguing our cities and our streets and killing our youth.â€
Several other youth spoke at the press conference including Kendria Harris â€œKâ€™Love, The Poet,â€ Kazzy Thomas, Courvosier Randolph known as Humid Proof, and Shamikka Butler known as S.B.Â Harris is founder of K Love and uses poet and spoken word â€œto teach character development in young peopleâ€ citywide. The youth joined Pfleger in calling for an end to the violence.
In his letter to Obama, Pfleger wrote, â€œI am deeply concerned about the tragic events in the metropolitan Chicago area. During the weekend of March 16-18 alone, over 49 people have been shot and 10 people killed from gun violence.
â€œIf thatâ€™s not enough, statistics from the Chicago Police Department detail that shootings have increased by 27 percent and homicides have increased by 32 percent this year over last year! This is in no uncertain terms a humanitarian crisis that demands the attention of not only the communities, but the government!
â€œAs the murders attributed to gun violence continue to escalate, so does the grief of families. What is even more disheartening is to understand, that had many of these killings taken place in areas other than African American communities, thee would have probably been a public outcry to stop the violence,â€ wrote Pfleger.
â€œDesperate times call for desperate measures. We are reaching out to you, Mr. President, to reach out and provide some assistance in quelling the tide of violence. We are not asking for more police on the streets. We are asking for some substantive action that would get guns off the street and provide more resources for violence prevention.
â€œAs people simply watch while continuous people are killed, we are witnessing nothing less than GENOCIDE. The labeling of these atrocities as GENOCIDE demands now that action be taken to end the genocide.
â€œAs a concerned citizen, I write this letter strongly urging you to employ immediate action to END THE GENOCIDE on the killing fields of Chicago.â€
Looking out over the audience, Pfleger said they must stop being afraid and to break the code of silence he says is an enabler for killers. â€œItâ€™s time to stop speaking negativityâ€¦. Counter evil with the power of Godâ€¦.â€œ He had three groups of people to come to the alter, one representing racism, violence and justice, and to pray for peace.
Referring to Zimmerman he says is being protected, Pfleger bellowed: â€œSome times the condition of our world that murder young children and have a Zimmerman protected and now people are trying to dig up what kind of dirt they can find out about Trayvon and try to make the victim the evil oneâ€¦..â€
He was referring to media reports claiming that Martin had been suspended just before he was killed after school officials allegedly found traces of marijuana inside of his book bag. â€œHow dare you trying to flip it now,â€ said Pfleger.
The mother of Martin, Sybrina Fulton, pointed an accusatory finger at the police officials for allegedly leaking her sonâ€™s school information to the media. In a nationally televised press conference, she said, â€œThey killed my son and now theyâ€™re trying to kill his reputation.â€ Sanford, Florida officials are investigation the leak and promised to fire the person who leaked Martinâ€™s school records.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.