‘Fierce Women of Faith’ Declares ‘State of Emergency’


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 “State of Emergency” and launched a city/suburban faith-based women’s campaign designed to transform violence into peace.

Before the press conference held at the Lowden Homes, 200 West 95th Street, the “Fierce Women of Faith” (FWF) who partnered with the “Leading Ladies of Lowden” 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.

“It 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,” said Richards. “We believe we can make a difference. It takes a village to raise a child” noting that the women are “stepping up to the plate” to protect the children.

A resident of Englewood, Richards said last Saturday she awakened to the sound of bullets. “Often times I have found myself,” 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,  Dangelo Jackson, 28, who was killed Aug. 10, 2010. As a result, Carew, 28, has committed her life to mentoring and inspiring youth to “to make positive life changes and decisions.”

Richards also announced the airing of the film “Pray 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, “Chicago is becoming to be Chiraq….” Bolden said the youth must “find our voice and fight for change” and to do that she said electing people who can effectuate change is the answer. 

Admitting it will take time especially for those not yet old enough to vote, Bolden said it will be worth the wait especially if “we end up with a representative who won’t close 51 schools at once the most in history and won’t fire 1,000 CPS employees and will reinvest in Chicago communities which means investing in our future; so be it,” Bolden said. Peace, she said, “is a journey of learning, discovering, listening, cooperation, tolerance and passion.”

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) said, “We as a nation are not only suffering from gun violence but social and economic violence.” Pointing to the mass incarcerations of black males with women sprinting in numbers, Collins said, “We 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. We’re closing 51 of our schools. We’re all suffering.”

Collins said what will make the difference is “that we stand up and say enough is enough.” Referring to Dr. King’s speech 50-years ago, Collins said, “Many of those things he mentioned in that speech we are encountering today. We still have a promissory note that still has been marked ‘insufficient funds.”

Referring to Sojourner Truth, Collins said, “She 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 let’s get busy.”

Dr. Kimberly Lymore, associate minister at Saint Sabina, said FWF would be partnering with other women across the city. “We’re asking communities to take possession of your blocks…and to declare them as peace zones. We can make a difference if we just not shut our eyes and shut our mouths…to be a snitch…. People know who are committing those crimes. “

Lymore is asking that people to partner with other blocks and to engage in conflict/resolution. “We’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.” Lymore said despite the recent passage of the concealed carry law, “We have possession and the right over our buildings to say no guns are allowed in places of worship.”

“There is a church on every block in this city. You don’t have to do it alone,” Lymore said urging churches to partner with each other. “We are asking corporate America to partner with the communities and faith communities to offer job internships and mentoring for our young people.” She’s also asking the business community to donate funds to credible anti-violence organizations needed to “engage our young people in positive activities and assist in promoting peace in our communities.” 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, “We have to develop a moral conscious for our mothers.” She said these mothers could come to a church including Saint Sabina for help.  “Fear and finances,” 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.

“Drugs have not only divided the family, but have also torn-down the family structure,” said Bailey who was not at the press conference. He said all too often drug money “has 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.

“The household take-over is generated by fear,” said Bailey who has counseled many mothers in this situation. Too often, some mothers simply surrender to their drug-selling sons since they are “unable to combat them physically…. They simply hand over their powers of authority to their sons.”

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. “We as people of faith have to remain steadfast….

“Do 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,” Muhammad said.

Rev. Victoria Curtiss, from the Fourth Presbyterian Church, said in declaring a state of emergency the coalition intends to “assist those who are traumatized. We’re going to meet basic needs. We’re going to direct resources to support people whose futures seem bleak.”

“We 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,” Curtiss stated. “We are losing a whole generation of our young people, and we want it to stop.”

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 “intends to implement these ideas, to get resources to those who are concerned and who need them the most.”

Curtiss also challenged the youth saying, “We’re also asking our young people to have forgiveness of one another and break a cycle of retaliation and revenge.” Admitting that is one cycle that is difficult to break, Curtiss said it must be done and that they must be taught conflict/resolution. “We must help our young people and ourselves to forgive each other to stop the cycle that only ends up with more people being killed,” she said vowing to “take back our city.”

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. “I think it is significant,” said Susana Sandoval, a member of Fierce Women of Faith who is also founder of  Musicsavesoneonone.org. “Even though the rebozo is of one culture, many other cultures like in Africa” wear this as well.

To the backdrop of the song, “What About the Children,” a blue police tape representing the symbol of peace that said, ‘Stop the shooting,’ 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.