Vows to find answers to violence
By Chinta Strausberg
As the daily body bag count continues to rise in Chicago, a multicultural/interfaith coalition of women, elected officials and Tio Hardiman, creator of the CeaseFire Violence Interrupters, Sunday declared a â€œState of Emergencyâ€ and launched a city/suburban faith-based womenâ€™s campaign designed to transform violence into peace.
Before the press conference held at the Lowden Homes, 200 West 95th Street, the â€œFierce Women of Faithâ€ (FWF) who partnered with the â€œLeading Ladies of Lowdenâ€ gathered at Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 West 95th St., and walked to a park by the Lowden Homes where they announced their city/suburban anti-violence movement they hope will stem the violence that is taking so many lives.
With blue police tape surrounding scores of children and five white body bags visible, Marcenia J. Richards, pastor of The Life Center Church and executive director of FWF, announced each Tuesday at 10 a.m. when the emergency sirens ring, women across the Chicagoland area will stop and pray for peace. Armed with one agenda, the women will also advocate for an end to gun violence and fight for resources children and youth need to improve the quality of their lives.
â€œIt is the voices of women and our presence that will transform this moment of violence into a peaceful environment where children and adults can feel safe,â€ said Richards. â€œWe believe we can make a difference. It takes a village to raise a childâ€ noting that the women are â€œstepping up to the plateâ€ to protect the children.
A resident of Englewood, Richards said last Saturday she awakened to the sound of bullets. â€œOften times I have found myself,â€ praying that bullets would not penetrate her home. Standing by Richards was Jillian Carew whose nightmare began on July 6, 1999 with the stabbing death of her brother, John Douglas Carew, 19, and a list of other deaths including her childhood boyfriend, Â Dangelo Jackson, 28, who was killed Aug. 10, 2010. As a result, Carew, 28, has committed her life to mentoring and inspiring youth to â€œto make positive life changes and decisions.â€
Richards also announced the airing of the film â€œPray the Devil Back to Hell at Trinity United Church of Christ which will also be viewed at many churches in Chicago and the suburbs. On September 7th, Richards said all are welcome to attend an event featuring keynote speaker Angela Davis on September 7th at Saint James Cathedral, 65 East Huron St.
Young people were represented at the rally. Saying today there is no peace locally, nationally or internationally, Avery Bolden, 12, a member of Saint Sabina, said, â€œChicago is becoming to be Chiraqâ€¦.â€ Bolden said the youth must â€œfind our voice and fight for changeâ€ and to do that she said electing people who can effectuate change is the answer.Â
Admitting it will take time especially for those not yet old enough to vote, Bolden said it will be worth the wait especially if â€œwe end up with a representative who wonâ€™t close 51 schools at once the most in history and wonâ€™t fire 1,000 CPS employees and will reinvest in Chicago communities which means investing in our future; so be it,â€ Bolden said. Peace, she said, â€œis a journey of learning, discovering, listening, cooperation, tolerance and passion.â€
Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) said, â€œWe as a nation are not only suffering from gun violence but social and economic violence.â€ Pointing to the mass incarcerations of black males with women sprinting in numbers, Collins said, â€œWe have an unjust criminal justice system. We also have the highest unemployment on the West and South Sides of Chicago. We have the highest infant mortality. We have the most killed from gun violence. We have the most lacking funding for public education. Weâ€™re closing 51 of our schools. Weâ€™re all suffering.â€
Collins said what will make the difference is â€œthat we stand up and say enough is enough.â€ Referring to Dr. Kingâ€™s speech 50-years ago, Collins said, â€œMany of those things he mentioned in that speech we are encountering today. We still have a promissory note that still has been marked â€˜insufficient funds.â€
Referring to Sojourner Truth, Collins said, â€œShe said I would have freed more if they had known they were slaves. We are enslaved not by the physical chains but mental chains of believing of what we cannot do. It only takes one and Christ only had 12 and he changed the world; so letâ€™s get busy.â€
Dr. Kimberly Lymore, associate minister at Saint Sabina, said FWF would be partnering with other women across the city. â€œWeâ€™re asking communities to take possession of your blocksâ€¦and to declare them as peace zones. We can make a difference if we just not shut our eyes and shut our mouthsâ€¦to be a snitchâ€¦. People know who are committing those crimes. â€œ
Lymore is asking that people to partner with other blocks and to engage in conflict/resolution. â€œWeâ€™re asking for faith communities to declare your places of worship as peace zones and to display no guns allowed in your buildings and signs throughout your campuses.â€ Lymore said despite the recent passage of the concealed carry law, â€œWe have possession and the right over our buildings to say no guns are allowed in places of worship.â€
â€œThere is a church on every block in this city. You donâ€™t have to do it alone,â€ Lymore said urging churches to partner with each other. â€œWe are asking corporate America to partner with the communities and faith communities to offer job internships and mentoring for our young people.â€ Sheâ€™s also asking the business community to donate funds to credible anti-violence organizations needed to â€œengage our young people in positive activities and assist in promoting peace in our communities.â€ She also asked elected officials to pass common sense gun laws.
Lymore is asking the government to declare violence as an epidemic as a public health crisis needed to secure funding to reduce the violence.
Asked her opinion about some mothers who know their sons are involved in drugs and guns but are afraid to make them behave or are the beneficiaries of the illegal funds, Lymore said, â€œWe have to develop a moral conscious for our mothers.â€ She said these mothers could come to a church including Saint Sabina for help. Â â€œFear and finances,â€ Lymore said sometimes prevent mothers from seeking help in raising their wayward children.
Agreeing was Rev. Harold E. Bailey, president of Probation Challenge and the PCC Broadcast Network who ran an anti-violence program for more than 34-years. He knows about the fear some mothers have knowing their sons are selling drugs and have guns in their homes.
â€œDrugs have not only divided the family, but have also torn-down the family structure,â€ said Bailey who was not at the press conference. He said all too often drug money â€œhas often become the ruler of the house. Some of these sons make the decisions in the house including who will sleep in the master bedroom.
â€œThe household take-over is generated by fear,â€ said Bailey who has counseled many mothers in this situation. Too often, some mothers simply surrender to their drug-selling sons since they are â€œunable to combat them physicallyâ€¦. They simply hand over their powers of authority to their sons.â€
Sister Khaleelah Muhammad, coordinator of the Ministry of Justice for the Nation of Islam, said she lost her brother on October 31, 2012. Three-weeks ago when she was in D.C., Muhammad said a comrade who also worked with youth was murdered. â€œWe as people of faith have to remain steadfastâ€¦.
â€œDo not be discouraged in this work. Do not lose your hope. Do not lose your faith because together as people of faith, working together in the community in unity, we can do this. We can transform our community, but we have to know it is God who will transform the community through us, not ourselves,â€ Muhammad said.
Rev. Victoria Curtiss, from the Fourth Presbyterian Church, said in declaring a state of emergency the coalition intends to â€œassist those who are traumatized. Weâ€™re going to meet basic needs. Weâ€™re going to direct resources to support people whose futures seem bleak.â€
â€œWe have a crisis, and we are witnessing an epidemic. Warm weather should be a reason for us to rejoice that we can go outside. It should not be named as a factor for increased violence in our city,â€ Curtiss stated. â€œWe are losing a whole generation of our young people, and we want it to stop.â€
Referring to the Congressional Black Caucus that recently held a hearing on violence at Chicago State University, Rev. Curtiss said there were some suggestions to stem the violence but the Fierce Women of Faith â€œintends to implement these ideas, to get resources to those who are concerned and who need them the most.â€
Curtiss also challenged the youth saying, â€œWeâ€™re also asking our young people to have forgiveness of one another and break a cycle of retaliation and revenge.â€ Admitting that is one cycle that is difficult to break, Curtiss said it must be done and that they must be taught conflict/resolution. â€œWe must help our young people and ourselves to forgive each other to stop the cycle that only ends up with more people being killed,â€ she said vowing to â€œtake back our city.â€
In a show of solidarity, a multicultural/interfaith coalition of women and youth wore pink rebozos around their waist, which are worn by Mexican women to carry tools, groceries, babies, weapon, protection, unity and peace. â€œI think it is significant,â€ said Susana Sandoval, a member of Fierce Women of Faith who is also founder ofÂ Musicsavesoneonone.org. â€œEven though the rebozo is of one culture, many other cultures like in Africaâ€ wear this as well.
To the backdrop of the song, â€œWhat About the Children,â€ a blue police tape representing the symbol of peace that said, â€˜Stop the shooting,â€™ was wrapped around the children as a sign of protection.
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.Â