How Residents are Countering Violence in Chicago Lawn
“Violence is as American as apple pie,” stated Southwest Organizing Project’s Street Outreach/Ceasefire Director and IMAN board member, Rafi Peterson, at an Anti-Violence forum held on Wednesday, June 22nd. The meeting was held at IMAN and was attended by a mixture of community leaders, residents affected by violence and representatives of different organizations and religious traditions. Young people are being struck by gunfire at an alarming rate in this neighborhood of Chicago. Many times a prayer vigil/march is held to show collective support for the family, but follow up and proactive response has been consistently lacking. The emphasis for this particular forum was youth violence. Young people in our society experience injustice on so many levels, among those are lack of positive role models and effective means of self-expression and communication. Hip-hop artist Wacka Flocka Flame has become the favorite for many in this new generation, known for his rowdy style, which gets adrenaline pumping. Wacka Flocka Flame recently released a video for his popular track “Bustin at Em.” The video is packed with imagery of guns cocking and bullets flying in a very matter of fact and light-hearted manner. The youth in attendance at the forum were very engaged and their input weighed heavily on the audience. Only a few months back a senior at Gage Park High School and IMAN Community Ambassador was shot in his back and now barely feels safe as he walks through his own neighborhood. The forum was the first of its kind aiming at creating a realistic, holistic and sustainable response to the youth violence that ravages Chicago Lawn. The desperate need for this type of engagement is painfully evident; while we, met 6 people were shot in the surrounding blocks, one of whom was a pregnant fifteen year old girl. Something must be done! The gathering was quite productive and many practical components of a solution were fleshed out. Everyone was left with two thoughts. The first a question: What can you honestly commit to and be consistent at? And the second a command: Find someone else who cares about this most pressing issue and bring him or her to the next meeting, which was to be held at IMAN on Wednesday, June 29th, at 6 pm.