A group of churches on Chicago's Northwest Side united on Palm Sunday to form an anti-violence network that encourages community members to step up and promote peace in the streets.
Inside the basement of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in the Logan Square neighborhood, leaders and members of several community organizations spoke to more than 50 people — including little children — about the root causes of violence, from poverty to homelessness to unemployment.
Speakers encouraged the crowd to be a "personal remedy for violence" by doing what they can to influence public policy, safely intervene in street violence and encourage city leaders to expand educational and employment opportunities.
"In the long term, addressing the issue of guns may be necessary, but it's not sufficient," said Lori Crowder, executive director of the Alliance of Local Service Organizations, one of the groups that sponsored the event. "Otherwise, if we don't do this, Chicago could look like Detroit in the next 10 years."
With long green palm leaves in their hands, Jessica Castro, 35, and her three children arrived after Palm Sunday services to hear what the organizations had to say. Castro said she wanted to pass along any information to her children's schools.
Castro said she's nervous sometimes when her children leave home because of all the violence she hears about. "I worry about them more now (going out) than when I was growing up," she said.
At the beginning of the forum, people gathered in the front of the room as they sang, chanted and held signs calling for an end to the violence. Some who attended also shared stories about losing jobs, spending time in prison and dealing with violence in schools.
Organizers told the crowd they would like crime in the community to disappear over the next 10 years.
Marianne Deacon committed to helping the panhandlers she gives food or money to after learning that StreetWise — a magazine sold by the needy — offers jobs to those who are homeless or risk losing their homes.
"We have so many resources, and we're just not using them," said Deacon, 61, who lives in Logan Square. "There are many things I can take from this and share with my neighbors and the people I love."
©2013 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services