Mayor seeks solutions, Pfleger offers $5,000 to nab gunrunners
By Chinta Strausberg
Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, scores of community groups and mothers of murdered children, Father Michael L. Pfleger late Monday made a clarion call for the violence in Chicago to end but also later held a private forum with the mayor to discuss solutions to the shootings that are becoming a national nightmare.
The press conference, held at The Ark of Saint Sabina, 7800 South Racine, was conducted after a bloody weekend where
45 people shot including 5 children and 8 died and just hours after the U.S. Attorneyâ€™s office announced effective April 1, 2014, they have already initiated a special unit to deal with Chicagoâ€™s gun violence. The move to bring in the feds is a game changer in ending gun violence.
And, to add yet another layer of incentives to end the Code of Silence and the â€œsenselessâ€ shootings, Father Pfleger announced â€œAnybody that knows somebody who is out here selling guns on the street, give me the information. We catch them. I will give you $5,000 just to turn in a gun runner on the streets because I want the gunrunners off the streets.â€
Some of those present were: Jocelyn Jones, executive director of The ARK of Saint Sabina along with her Brave Youth Leaders, several mothers of murdered children like Tom and Pamela Bosley, Violence Prevention manager for The ARK of Saint Sabina and the mother of Terrell Bosley, 18, Annette Nance-Holt, a member of Purpose Over Pain and mother of slain Blair Holt, 16, killed on May 10, 2007, Tymeka Woods, mother of slain Michael Flournoy, 16, Anthanette Marshbanks, the mother of Archie Lee Chambers, Jr., 20, killed on April 21, 2012, in Calumet City, members of the Peace League, activist Andrew Holmes and many others.
As mayor, Emanuel said it is very hard to put his arms around parents who have lost a child to â€œmeaningless violenceâ€¦and am always in awe of the powerâ€ each of the grieving parent has in dealing with the deaths and â€œpersonal painâ€ they are enduring.
â€œEvery child in the city of Chicago deserves a childhoodâ€¦deserves to hear laughterâ€¦and any child where that laughter has been replaced by the familiarity of gun violence has had their childhood taken from them and we as adults have not done our job.
â€œIâ€™m done making these phone calls. I have no words to say anymore,â€ the mayor said. â€œThere is nothing out there thatâ€™s more powerful than what is in here. We are stronger than that senseless violence, and we have to decideâ€¦as a city are we doneâ€¦. You have a disagreement on Facebook and thatâ€™s a homicide? A husband comes home to a wife and that is another statisticâ€¦.â€? â€œAre we missing something? These are our children. They are full of hope, optimism.â€
Mayor Emanuel shutters at the idea of parents not being sure if their children can play outdoors opposed to falling off their bike or getting their knees scraped. â€œKids are immune now to the sound of gun fire. This is their home. These streets donâ€™t belong to the gangbangers. They are streets for our children. These are our schoolsâ€¦. There is nobody in this room that is not accountableâ€¦,â€ he said.
â€œWhen we say enough is enoughâ€¦, watch the children,â€ Emanuel said warning them not to wait until their child is killed. The mayor said the children are all of our children. â€œIf we have the violence that is worse than any other city, we will not be the city we can be.â€
While the central business is one of the fastest growing in the nation, the mayor said, â€œThe measure of our success will be whether a child in Auburn Gresham when they look downtown they see their energyâ€¦their power. Do they think that is part of their future or whatâ€™s in front of them is the only future they haveâ€¦? There canâ€™t be a gap of opportunity.â€
Referring to the upcoming warm weather, Mayor Emanuel said, â€œâ€¦Values are not about seasons. They donâ€™t come only in the summer.â€ Values, he said, â€œare timelessâ€¦. They donâ€™t come to you in winter months. They serve as your compass, your guide.â€ â€œI want everyone to feel a love of their city, a love for our children and a love for each other and stand shoulder-to-shoulder and do not wait for another weekendâ€¦. Together we are stronger that what people are trying to do.â€
Speaking to a bevy of reporters, Father Pfleger said, â€œItâ€™s up to us what happens tonight, tomorrow and up to the next weekend. We can stop it, if we want to.â€ Â Â â€œSo itâ€™s not just about what happened. Itâ€™s about prevention. Itâ€™s up to us to make sure we donâ€™t have to gather here because of another weekendâ€ of gun violence.
â€œWeâ€™re on the door step of another summer, and we cannot allow our summer to be a kind of fear and intimidation for our community especially for our children,â€ said Father Pfleger. â€œWarm weather cannot turn into bloody streets. Yesterday was Easter Sunday a day to celebrate our faith and our families not a day for our children, our babies to be shot. This is not and will not be accepted.
â€œI will personally will try to help any brother out here who needs help, trying to find a job, trying to get in school, trying to get food for your family. I will try to help anybody, but I want to make it clear we will not tolerate shooting,â€ Pfleger said. â€œYou cannot shoot our children and go back in your house, eat McDonaldâ€™s and watch TV like everything is alright.â€
Calling on communities, churches and parents, Pfleger challenged them to â€œcome out of your house. Stand on your block, put your arms around our children. We need to take ownership for our blocks and we need to take ownership for our children. Being sad or being overwhelmed is not good enough. Weâ€™ve got to be outraged, angry, active and engagedâ€
Speaking to young men, Pfleger said, â€œVideos and Facebook and social media cannot be the vehicle to talk trash then ends up causing shots to be fired on the streets. Youâ€™re sitting in a house making some video and weâ€™re seeing the residue of it out in the streets while you are hiding in the house.â€
â€œWe will not tolerate the videos, the Facebook and the social media that is talking all kind of trash that is creating gang warfare in the streets,â€ said Pfleger. â€œGuns and shooting cannot be the way we handle our problems, cannot be the way we handle our anger. Guns and shootings cannot be what gives us street respect or makes us be a powerful or valued. The only outcome of being a shooter is either ending up in jail, being paralyzed as a victim or being buried in a cemetery.â€
â€œYou have too much potentials, too many possibilities, too many dreams to be wasted and aborted; so Chicago I beg you make a decision today. We canâ€¦we mustâ€¦we will do this. This is our time,â€ Pfleger told reporters.
Still grieving over the lost of her son, Michael Flournoy, on April 5, 2014, Woods said, on that day she and her son â€œbecame a statistic. On April 5th, my son became a sacrifice for this city that has become heartlessâ€¦. My child was taken away from me senselesslyâ€¦â€ said Woods who has three other sons.
â€œWhen are we going to stand up and say enough is enough? When are we going to teach our children to speak up for the things that are going on? When are we going to stand behind them so they wonâ€™t be fearful to turn in the onesâ€ who are shooting the children, Woods said admitting she is â€œbroken.â€ As a child, she said there were pictures of children on milk cartons but today â€œthere are children on T-shirts for gun violenceâ€¦. Our children are moving targetsâ€ a state that keeps them prisoners in their own homes.
Jaylene White, 15, one of the Brave New Leaders, held up a sign that said, â€œKeep calm and stop the violence.â€ She has friends who were victims of gun violence.
Kurt, a member of Saint Sabinaâ€™s Peace League, said, â€œWe canâ€™t let the rise of temperature predict the forecast of violence on the streets of Chicago.â€ Referring to the label â€œBig Homie,â€ Kurt said, â€œFrom one Big Homie to the rest of the Big Homies, we canâ€™t allow our little Homies to keep dyingâ€¦,â€ he said urging them to join The Ark of Saint Sabina, which has numerous youth programs and educational opportunities. â€œWe got to get this right,â€ Kurt said.
Sculfield said the violence â€œpainsâ€ him. Referring to the unprecedented winter weather Chicago just experienced, he said children want to play outdoors. â€œFamilies want to sit on the porch. They want to have a good time. We cannot give another summer to the violence in this cityâ€¦.â€
â€œWe canâ€™t attract businesses to the community to give you jobs in a hale of gun fire. We cannot attract programs to the community when weâ€™ve got babies lying on the sidewalk in a pool of bloodâ€¦. We need your cooperationâ€¦make a decisionâ€¦put the guns downâ€¦. The whole world is looking at Chicago, and they are looking at us in a bad lightâ€¦.â€
Referring to a youth about 9-years old, Sculfield said he wore a T-shirt that said, â€œSnitches Get Stitches.â€ â€œI will bet if something happened to that kid, got shot that day, that family would want everybody to come forth with information but you allowed him to disseminate that kind of message out in the streetâ€¦.â€
The mayor and Father Pfleger met with Tom and Pam Bosley, whose son, Terrell, 18, was killed, Tymeka Woods, the mother of slain Michael Flournoy, III, 16, V-103â€™s Tony Sculfield, WGCIâ€™s Leon Rogers, Farley Keith better known as Grandmaster Funk, Cleo Pendleton, whose daughter, Hadiya, was killed, Jocelyn Jones, executive director of The ARK of Saint Sabina, Rev. Ira Acree, co-chair of the Leaders Network, Annette Nance-Holt, mother of slain Blair Holt, Brandon and Kurt two of Saint Sabinaâ€™s Peacemakerâ€™s, Parents of Murdered Children and others met afterwards with Mayor Emanuel who took copious notes on their suggestions.
Farley Keith, better known as Jackmaster Funk, called for more resources and jobs. One mother, who recently lost her daughter to gun violence, called for the laws to be changed to protect those who break the Code of Silence. She said in court the lawyers reveal their names putting their families in danger.
Pastor Acree said, â€œThese people are hurting. They lost their children to this senseless epidemic of violence. I just listened and said â€˜amenâ€™ to some of the solutions that were given.
Nance-Holt, who attended the private meeting with the mayor, said, â€œWhen you look at communities like Roseland and Englewood, all they see are vacant buildings, unemployment and hopelessness. We as community stakeholders have to change that.Â As a child, I know what those communities used to look like, but today they look like a war zone. There are a lot of good people living there but a few bad apples are ruining these communities, and we have to take back our community,â€ she said.
â€œWe want people to talk about ways to keep information confidential and safe. We talked about the abandoned buildings. We want our communities back,â€ said Bosley. â€œWe want the vacant buildings knocked down or fixed up.Â We want to end the Code of Silence.â€
â€œThe mayor spoke about summer jobs, but we told him we need jobs year round,â€ said Bosley. Referring to children, she said, â€œOur youth need more youth centers, and parents should be held accountable when their children are out-of-order likeâ€¦selling drugs or killing people. If they are not raising their children properly, they should be held accountable.â€ â€œThe mayor wrote down everything we said. He is looking for solutions,â€ said Bosley.
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.