Posted on 07/13/09 at 11:54 AM
On the morning of July 5, Mayor Richard Daley, police superintendent Jody Weis, Alderman Patrick O’Connor, Alderman Joe Moore along with the police commander for the region and assorted local officials stood by the corner of Pratt and Ashland behind our apartment building and talked about reducing violence in our neighborhoods. One by one, they stood in front of us and said that the answer to violence is answer is an active and involved community. Perhaps I should have been excited and inspired, but I was cynical.
Perhaps a little background is in order. Two weeks ago, while I was away in the Boundary Waters, there were two shootings on our corner. In the first one, no one was injured, but in the second one, a nine year old boy was shot in the hip. Charletta and other folks from Living Water were some of the first to respond and, though it was 10:30 p.m., Charletta said that 40 or 50 neighbors came out into the street to respond.
This morning, after the politicians had said their bit, about 100 of us marched along Pratt, past our apartment building and on to Bosworth. There were all the photogenic moments with kids holding banner and the mayor standing between the two alderman with the crowd trailing off behind.
But there was something missing. The kids from the neighborhood who are most affected by the violence weren’t there. The youth who hang out on the corner and come to Living Water potluck on Wednesday nights weren’t invited or didn’t show up. Aside from a few African-American community leaders, the crowd was mostly white people, probably mostly property owners. As we walked we chanted slogans about not being afraid, about being willing to call the police and about not tolerating drug use. One chant said, “We know where you live.” and another told them to stop their watching, stop their peeking and get out on the street. I didn’t notice anyone obeying.
While I respect the need to reclaim space after a violent shooting, it felt at some points like we were shouting threats to those who weren’t in on our march.. Between, the mayor, the police superintendent, the area commander, the two aldermen and the three police cars leading the parade, it was clear whose side the power was on.
The one antidote to my cyncism was the presence and involvement of CeaseFire, a critical anti-shooting organization made up of people with experience on the streets and a serious commitment to engagement with young people involved in shootings. They are very active and involved in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, their funding is about to be cut by our state yet again.
After the march, we were walking back to our apartment building when we passed Angel, Brandon, Rashawn and Lloyd, all neighborhood kids I have gotten to know at potluck and meals at our apartment. The youngest of them is probably 8, the oldest 12. We waved and said hi. Brandon looked over at us and asked, “Is it over yet?” We said, “Yes, it’s over.”
You can see the rest of my photos from the Rogers Park Anti-violence March and Rally here.