It lies at 1210 West 78th Pl., Chicago, IL
By Chinta Strausberg
There is an answer to reducing gun violence in Chicago if only lawmakers and elected officials would take heed, and it can be replicated all over this city, all over this nation if there is unity of purpose.
Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger’s “PEACEMAKERS” Anti-Violence program has been in place since September 15, 2012 when he struck a peace accord with four rival gangs in the Auburn Gresham community. His September 22, 2012 PEACE basketball tournament is now history as is the peace that still exists in that community.
No, it doesn’t take the military. No, it doesn’t take the flooding of our community with police or rounding up gang leaders and threatening them which only increases gang violence.
All it takes are GENUINE LOVE, COMMITMENT, and A HOLISTIC PLAN THAT INCLUDES FREE EDUCATION COUPLED WITH A VIABLE JOBS PROGRAM. What it does not take are empty political promises and feel-good press conferences that evaporate soon after the news goes off the air.
Father Pfleger has provided 62 street organization youth with intern jobs and another 20 will begin in two-weeks. That’s LOVE.
Father Pfleger has put more than 50 in GED classes and for those who pass is assisting them to go on to City Colleges. That’s LOVE.
Father Pfleger has bought those who have been “great voices” in keeping the peace 16 suits. That’s LOVE.
Father Pfleger has provided mentors. That’s LOVE.
Father Pfleger has provided legal help in assisting them to clean up their records–expungement for those who qualify. That’s LOVE.
Last week, Father Pfleger held his Peace League banquet at the Salaam Restaurant–a fitting name since Salaam means PEACE– where he passed out the trophies and special awards to the leaders of the street organizations who have helped maintain the peace in the Auburn Gresham community. Bulls star Joakim Noah came. That’s LOVE.
By the end of this month, Father Pfleger said 82 of the brothers will have intern JOBS and close to 60 in GED. That’s LOVE.
There will be more major programs coming down the pipeline thanks to Father Pfleger for he’ll never stop until there is peace in the streets. That’s LOVE.
And, finally, the weekly PEACEMAKERS basketball games will resume 7 p.m. on every Monday at Saint Sabina’s ARK, 7800 So. Racine. That’s genuine LOVE.
Tell me peace cannot exist in Chicago!! It can if only politicians and elected officials will listen to what can and has been working, but it only done so because of HARD WORK like what Father Pfleger has produced especially when the cameras were not around. He is like the Everready bunny…he just keeps on working and following what Jesus has instructed him to do—work towards achieving peace and to do so without disrespecting our troubled youth. Now, today, we have former rival gang members who once shot at each other, shooting HOOPS OF LOVE on the same gym floor and who are sitting side-by-side in classrooms revitalizing their minds and discovering the treasure troves of talents that were hidden behind weapons of mass destruction.
Out of the weekly marches that often ended in the dark came a beacon of light that today is guiding our youth away from jails and prisons and into potential careers that can earn them millions of dollars and to a path where they in turn can reach back and help their misguided brothers and sisters to choose another path in life.
I thank God for Father Pfleger and pray every day that God continues to give him strength and wisdom to continue the gospel of Jesus and be convicted like his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to carry on his mission of peace even though his critics continue to cast proverbial stones at him. As Pfleger did when he was 16-years-old standing on the side watching his friends and neighbors throwing stones at Dr. King as he marched for open housing in Marquette Park, let that image of strength, conviction and peace continue to be your guiding light and may you continue to pass on that torch to our children.
As you said recently, “There can be a pipeline to prison, but there can be a pipeline to success. We’re going to change the pipeline…” and he is doing just that. There is an answer to ending violence, but it’s hard, gritty work.
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.