April , 2019

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Saint Sabina offers 1,000 summer jobs to youth

By Chinta Strausberg

Disturbed about the 74 people shot and 12 killed over the weekend and acknowledging the idea of using social media to provide police with crime tips, Father Michael L.Pfleger Monday night said the only thing that will stem the violence is to find ways to “impact the lives of these young brothers on the street” otherwise, “we’re not going to make any real changes.”

One former gang leaders blamed the violence on youth who are called “hitters” because their only aspiration is to be known as someone who goes out and kills someone. He says that is their claim to fame in the ‘hood.

Flanked by members of the Saint Sabina Basketball Peacemakers team who were playing in the championship game, Pfleger told reporters he has 1,000 jobs to offer youth. “We’ve been trying to do (that) here since last September 15thwith the Peace League.

“We started out with the Peace Tournament (held on September 21, 2012) then went to a Peace League with 2-12 week sessions.” Monday night was the championship game where the Blue team defeated the Orange Team in a score of 31-21.

“We’ve been trying to pull brothers and sisters together, meet each other on the court and on the street, build relationships with each other and then see how we can offer jobs and internships in different businesses as well as to get them back in school,” said Pfleger.

“Our job at Saint Sabina is to try to bring brothers together, brush the dust off their dreams and help their future. That is what we’ve committed to. We believe that until we do that everything else out here will be a band-aid,” Father Pfleger said.

One of the street leaders called on gangs to put their guns down and to stop shooting. Brandon, one of several former gang leaders who now works with Pfleger to keep peace in the Auburn Gresham community, said they are working towards the path of peace. Curtis, one of the street peace organizers blame some of the violenceon the actions of Chicago “hitters” youth they feel have lost all hope and only live to kill human beings. That is their glory.

Curtis, 35, a former gang leader in the Auburn Gresham community and a father of four, painted a bleak picture of gang life in Chicago but credits his success to Father Pfleger. “Father Mike came and got me. I was actually one of the gangleaders here in this community.

“The big thing you can do now in Chicago right now is to be a hitter. A hitter is a

person who goes out and shoots people. That is their aspiration. They don’t have an aspiration to be a doctor, a lawyer, a school teacher or anything because they feel those things are unattainable,” Curtis told reporters. “What can be attained for popularity reasons is that I can be a hitter. I can be known as somebody who goes out and kill people. That is what they are striving to be, and it’s terrible.”

Father Pfleger said it’s time to stop calling youth gangbangers. “We’ve got to stop calling our brothers gangbangers…gang members because if we keep calling themthat, that is what they become. These are ballplayers here and they have names.”

Asked about the city’s claim that crime is down, Pfleger said the statistics “may be getting great but it doesn’t feel like that out here in the neighborhood. People are still afraid out here. Lives are still in danger out here. None of these brothers want to go out here shooting. Everybody here wants two things,education and a job and a future…the same thing I want and everybody out here in the street want.” Pfleger said 95 percent of the brothers want jobs and aneducation.

“This summer Saint Sabina is going to hire over 1,000 people from the community to give them jobs because we believe money in your pocket that we offer you is a whole lot better than trying to make money out on the street because there isno money to be made out on the street.

“We’vegot to make a difference. We got to let these brothers know we care about them;so we open up our gym, get them jobs and an education,” said Pfleger. Jobs, he said, is what they want.

Referring to Senator Mark Kirk who announced he wanted to lock up 18,000 gang members because of the violence, Pfleger said, “Instead of spending all of that money and put them in prison and make prisons rich, give them jobs. Give them an education. Give them a possibility, a future. That is all we want.”

Pfleger said the shooting in the Auburn Gresham community is down. “It’s not happening here because we are committed to make peace on our streets here.”

Asked by this writer if the Saint Sabina formula of peace could work citywide, Curtis, a former gang leader, said, “Education and economics is the way to peace.” “None of these young men or women have been to any gun ranges to be trained to shoot, but the big question is where are they getting these, weapons of mass destruction from to come into our community. If there is a lack of finance, then how are the finances being distributed in order to buy these high caliberweapons? That is what we need to look into,” said Curtis.

After a very aggressive game between the orange and the blue teams, which had embossed on their shirts, “The Beloved Community” and “Peacemakers,” the Blue team won31-21.

A member of the orange team, Bernard Hillard, 23, who works for the city of Chicago called the game “thrilling. We came up short, but it was still fun. I enjoyed myself playing.”

After the championship game, Father Pfleger held a “Peacemakers Awards” dinner hosted by The Beloved Community at the Saint Sabina Academy, 7801 South Throop St., where all the teams and their families ate a hearty meal and the coaches of the teams received trophies and certificates of  achievement. Also three players won an essay contest on how the peace league affected their lives.

There, Father Pfleger thanked The Beloved Community for their participation. Pfleger announced that he has justreceived funding for additional games and promised the games would continue throughout the year.

Pfleger said it is possible that a football team will be sponsoring the 2-12 week and the 6-week leagues after September, but he won’t know for sure until Thursday.This writer is withholding the name of that team until it is official.

While the mission of the Peacemakers is getting to know each other, build relationships on the court “but also who needs a job, who needs to get back in school, get their GED. Basketball is the purpose…but we want to help you, to serve you, how we can help you fulfill your dreams and achieve what you want to achieve. That is what we’re about here.”

Saying he been in the community for 38-years, Pfleger said, “My main concern is to build up this community. We’ve got to have peace. We’ve got to stop the shooting out here…. We’ve had some real opportunities. We brought in BJ’s. We brought in Walgreens. We brought in the skating rink. We had another company ready to come in and build…Garrett Popcorn…. They pulled back because of the statistics of violence.

“We can’t bring our business in bringing  jobs and development as long as there are statistics they feel are too dangerous to build businesses,” Pfleger explained.“We have made a big difference in this community. You have made a difference,”he said especially Pat, Kurt, Juan and Brandon who are former gang leaders nowworking with Pfleger’s PeaceMakers.

Pfleger said there are other organizations reaching out to be a part of his peacemaker’s movement. “We want to make the community safe…. We don’t want you to stay in the house. We want you to feel safe walking down the street.”

Thanking the Nation of Islam for providing security for the games, Pfleger said, “We’ve done this with no police. We told the police we didn’t want them. We wanted to run this ourselves…peace in the gym.”

Pfleger announced on Saturday, August 3rd there will be a Nike Clinic. He also going to have football game in October and the street leaders are putting together a softball tournament in August.

On Friday, September 20th, Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noahwill conduct a gun turn-in at Saint Sabina with Rose giving out a free pair of Adidas shoes to everyone who turns in a gun. “The more resources we can bring in the more we can bring to you,” Pfleger told the ballplayers and their families.

On Saturday, September 21st, Pfleger said he will be holding a big tournament where Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose, Thomas Nixon, Joakim Noah, Isiah Thomas, a retired basketball icon have signed on to this event which will be sponsored by Adidas shoes who will also buy the uniforms.

During the awards ceremony at the Saint Sabina Academy, the coaches who received awards were: Harlan Hamilton, the Maroon Team, Kevin Smith, the Navy Team, Larry Stokes, the Green Team, John Berry, Orange team, Harold Green, RoyalTeam, Fitzgerald Craan, the black team, Gary London, the Red Team and PierreAdams, the coach of the Yellow Team.

Organization leaders are: Brandon, Pat, Curtis and Charles who are the official peacekeepers of the Auburn Gresham community thanks to the efforts of Father Pfleger who on September 15, 2012, struck a peace accord with four rival gangs. Peacecontinues in this community because of the peacekeepers who work with Saint Sabina.

Father Pfleger also held an essay contest where the players were asked to write their feelings on how the peace league affected their lives. Duan Hill won the firstprize of $150.00. “The Peace League and it got me a job. It keeps me off thestreet,” said Hill clutching his envelope containing the money. Terrence Webbwon the second prize of $100 and Leroy Davis won third prize of $75.00.

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.

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