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Youth Build Paths Away from Violence

Youth discussed local causes of violence, including ignorance, immaturity, a lack of positive role models and poverty.

Norma Sanders

Reducing violence in Chicago neighborhoods will require multiple strategies, but at least one element was strengthened this year in Auburn Gresham and other neighborhoods that provided expanded programming for youth.

Get In Chicago, an outgrowth of the City of Chicago’s Public Safety Action Committee, engaged thousands of youth across the city, including eight neighborhoods that partner with LISC Chicago on safety programs. On an August Saturday near the corner of 79th and Racine, the auditorium at St. Sabina Academy was filled with the chatter and laughter of more than 100 teenagers, children and adults. They were attending the first-ever Take Back, a violence prevention youth summit put together by a group called B.R.A.V.E., for Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere.

“The summit was powerful, inspiring, and educational all at the same time,” said Jazmine Lewis, a sophomore at Thornwood High School. “I was inspired to go out and spread the word.”

Operating in a community that has experienced 120 homicides since 2007, according to RedEye, B.R.A.V.E. engages youth in community service projects, social activities, leadership and professional development, and recruitment of other youth.

The Take Back event included entertainment by Disney Channel actress Drew Sidora and a panel of youth who discussed local causes of violence, including ignorance, immaturity, a lack of positive role models and poverty.  

“You can’t charge [criminals] for their ignorance because some really don’t know better,” said one panelist. “Their violence is a way of lashing out because that’s the only way they know.”

Senior citizens and parents joined the discussion, noting that some youth suffer from a sense of entitlement, fail to appreciate the opportunities available to them, and have destructive peer relationships. Still, several emphasized that youth are loved and watched over by a caring network of neighborhood adults.

“I’m not just responsible for my own children,” said one parent. “I’m responsible for every child in the room. If I see a child from another family in my community fail, then I must be failing at something, too.”

Get In Chicago provided financial support for a summer-long series of activities, some of which were administered by LISC Chicago and organized by neighborhood partners in Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale and South Chicago.

The extra funding allowed B.R.A.V.E. to engage 25 youth in a six-week program that met four times a week, twice as often as before, said Pamela Bosley, violence prevention manager for The ARK of St. Sabina.

The students attended classes in advocacy and public speaking, attended a City Council meeting, toured City Hall and the mayor’s office, and met local leaders including State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago 16th) and Alderwoman Latasha Thomas (17th). Since many youth don’t venture far from their communities, they toured the lakefront, visited Chicago State University, and saw the movie The Butler at the Muvico theater in Rosemont. They also partnered with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence to gather signatures against the right to carry firearms in churches.

“Our youth need to know who is in charge and how to stand for themselves in order to make a change,” said Bosley. “They really enjoyed it and learned a lot.” Next summer, Bosley hopes to expand programming and increase attendance at the Take Back summit. “We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish activities of this magnitude without the Get In Chicago grant,” she added.

“We can never have too many members,” said youth participant Jazmine Lewis, who hopes to start a blog dedicated to uplifting her peers and community. “B.R.A.V.E. is a wonderful program that I would recommend to any child in Chicagoland.”

Posted in Safety, Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale, South Chicago

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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