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300 N. Mason Block Party

mason-block-party

Safe & Peaceful grantee The 300 N. Mason Street Block Club celebrated its 41st annual back-to-school party. Community activists and elders provided school supplies and more than 150 backpacks for children, and the day was complete with food, games, and live entertainment courtesy of the Jesse White Tumblers.  

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Pullman Playground Built Amid a Newfound Peace

Sherman Scullark, a member of the Risky Road gang faction, reached out Detective Vivian Williams to let her know how tired he was of the violence marring Pullman, according to a recent Tribune story. Kids didn't play outside and they knew not to go to the basketball courts, a hotspot for rival gang shootings. He sought her help to call a truce. A year later, the Risky Road gang faction and the Manic Fours faction were building a playground alongside volunteers and community residents.

Scullark's next request of Detective Williams was an introduction to former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who now serves as managing director of Chicago CRED, an anti-gun violence organization focused on reducing the city's number of homicides and shootings. Duncan told the Tribune the solution to Chicago's gun violence doesn't start with the police, but with the likely perpetrators of violence.

"No one's winning now. The police aren't winning. Guys in the street aren't winning," Duncan said of the city's shootings. 

By supplying them with a job, pay, opportunities to earn their GED and emotional support, the organization aims to curb violence. Founded in 2016, the program serves about 100 men in the Roseland, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park and Englewood neighborhoods.

"We can't just arrest our way out of it. We can't incarcerate our way out of it. We have to give guys a pathway," Duncan said. 

Like Bryant King, a Pullman native who's been involved with Chicago CRED since May. Taking a break from lifting bags of concrete, King described how the program has helped him realize his passion for landscaping. Now he's working with the group to start his own business. 

"You can change," King said. "The violence can stop. And we're an example right now."

This is a post related to the Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. 

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Mission to Heal

Source: New York City, Office of the Mayor

Mental health professionals often challenge conventional understandings of violence, reframing the conversation using frameworks that account for PTSD, the impact of environmental racism and lack of access as factors that may cause, and perpetuate, harmful behaviors.

After helping to find Sisters Thrive, New York First Lady Chirlane McCray recently announced Brothers Thrive; both initiatives are aimed to promote mental health literacy in the black community. Mental Health First Aid is providing the training for these programs.

McCray's mental health wellness, support and outreach efforts are noteworthy, widely recognized as a first for major city.

This is a story about the Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. 

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READI Chicago Program in the New York Times

In the New York Times, Tina Rosenberg writes about the READI Chicago Program to help young men caught up in criminal activity find legal work. It's run by Heartland Alliance and is one of the four core strategies to reduce gun violence funded by the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

Rosenberg, who founded Solutions Journalism Network, which reports on responses to social problems, writes:

The conventional wisdom is that a young man who is part of the gang life in a violent community, standing on a corner, perhaps selling drugs, does so out of choice. On the corner he makes money. He's respected and feared. A minimum-wage job picking up trash in the park? That's for chumps and losers.

That conventional wisdom might be wrong. The reasons the young man stays on the corner might be completely different from what we imagine. He might, after all, want that park job, and want to get off the corner, but not know how.

Baten Phillips's job is to show him how.

Rosenberg also wrote an earlier piece in the Times about Cure Violence, an ongoing effort to "interrupt" street violence. It's currently in 21 cities across America, including Chicago.

Read more.

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace and Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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From Exception to Norm

Chasing23's Darius Ballinger writes about how he's channeling pain to elevate potential

I went through a lot growing up, had real pain: When I was five, my father died from a seizure; I'm the oldest of two, raised by a single mother. I spent most of my adolescent years in West Pullman. I didn't see black men do anything other than be entertainers, athletes or criminals. There were men who worked regular jobs and did for their families, but you didn't see them often. My view of life as a black boy in Chicago was sports, music and crime— my male family members were engaged in criminal behavior, and I looked up to them as a my father figures; as a young boy, I couldn't understand and didn't experience trap or drill music as separate from my reality because it reflected my reality. And life got real, real challenging…I was a high school dropout, expelled from two CPS high schools; I became a teenage father; I lost three friends to street violence; and I was a convicted felon, on the verge of giving up on life.

My homie — Wayne "Chase" Marion Drummer — always inspired me to think beyond my present struggles. Like all kids, I wanted to be somebody, do something; I believed that I could be an entrepreneur, be prosperous, be happy…and as I got older that dream was fading away. But he affirmed my dream, let me dream even when my mistakes and struggles made me doubt myself.

Then Wayne was fatally stabbed at the age of 23. He was gone.

I founded Chasing23 in the wake of his tragic loss. I may be uniquely positioned to do the work of bringing peace to communities because I was once part of the destruction of communities, but this work will take more than just me. I think it's funny when people attribute the word "activist" to me; no doubt that activism is necessary, and in my mind, those are the folks who demand that institutions, that society, fix the wrongs of our communities, while I'm more concerned with building communal infrastructure that protects, promotes and creates positivity. Then, when we have that communal infrastructure, we can protest together, and when society says "no" we, together, can say, "YES!" Every resident of these communities plagued with gun violence, poverty and deficit, they are the solution, they can bring peace — I'm just one individual who's overcoming insurmountable odds, with the No. 1 goal of inspiring and believing that others can to do the same. Peace will take all of us, and I hope the possibility for change can start with me.

Change is not an easy thing, especially when our culture suffers from generational trauma. It's a constant struggle to make your voice heard when people — conservative, wealthy, educated, religious, whatever — have ignored or degraded you for so long. And then you must constantly humble yourself when helping other brothers and sisters overcome the challenges we face. When Chasing23 youth managers make follow-up calls, home visits and school visits, we have to remember how fragile things are, how volatile things can become. Leading in the midst of this requires a great sense of humility and responsibility, we must bring that to the work we do daily.

That's part of why I started Chasing23 as a nonprofit; I definitely didn't have tons of money I could dump in to it, but it also isn't about having it survive only on philanthropic dollars, either. I just knew that I wasn't going to make a for-profit venture off the passing of my friend, and I had to keep the spirit of what inspired me.

That means Chasing23 is for the world to embrace, and that can be hard. All my life I wanted to start something (that's what I would talk to Wayne about), but I didn't know that I wouldn't "own" the first thing I built, and worst case scenario, that I can be voted out by the board! But the mission is bigger than profits, and if any at time I act in a manner that doesn't benefit the organization, then I deserve to go: It's about saving lives and developing the next generation of men, families, and communities.

I recently hosted my second Chicago Community Trust On The Table event, focused on improving life outcomes for black boys and helping them live to their full potential despite their circumstances. It was inspiring to see people come out, to know that I wasn't the only person who truly cares: I'm only one man, but there are thousands of black boys who need help. Just before On The Table I'd attended the BME Genius Conference in Washington D.C., a gathering of black males from across America; it was an inspiring and affirming event, and one major insight I took away from the meeting was that philanthropies and organizations must use an asset framework when providing direct services and reaching out to communities. Put another way, people should be defined by their aspirations, not solely by their circumstances, and given my story,that really resonated with me.

And meeting President Obama in 2017 also was a great experience, something I'll be able to tell my sons about when they get older.

On the Table is about listening. I heard from these young men that they love one another. They love their families. This emotional connection is forming a shield that is, at the moment, protecting them from a hostile world. There is an enormous amount of emotional pressure on these (if not all) young men; for example, the young men who participated in the Chasing23 On The Table talked about the pressure to NOT be a "goofy,” someone who's bullied or intimidated. They talked about being disrespected by teachers to the point that they want to lash out; specifically, one young man wanted to punch his physics teacher, but he didn’t…again, this is a black male teenager taking PHYSICS, and a teacher is provoking a reaction from him. And if he had hit the teacher, everyone would focus on the young person’s reaction instead of thinking about what the teacher may have done to make HIM feel bullied, put down, unsafe. Thankfully, the young man had the opportunity to decompress with Darius and the group about how he felt in that moment — we need to support Darius and these young men, but we also need to create a world that sees them as young men who love, who think, who dream. Darius is a clearly the type of "rocket" we need in our community; his own personal journey propelled him to be at the center of a group of boys and young men who need the ear of someone who's been where they are. The discussion is not possible without Darius.

—Daniel Ash, Chief Marketing Officer, The Chicago Community Trust

My platform isn't about me. It's about writing a new narrative for black boys in America. My story of redemption is one that I hope inspires other young brothers who face adversity and gives them confidence that they can overcome what we're dealing with here in Chicago — our challenges are rooted in a history of segregation and corruption, I think that feeds the violence; local residents like myself are doing work to heal and build communities, but we're fighting against large systemic forces that overshadow the good work that happens on the ground, AND we're fighting in our communities. But Chicago is a global city, and what happens here can have an impact on the country and globe at-large: We're making progress daily, and that's what we need to hear about more.

For now, I may be an exception: In the future, I hope to be the norm.

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace and Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Chicagoans Crowding Out Violence at Block Level

Chicagoans like Natalie Perkins spent last summer building community cohesion and promoting safety and peace on Chicago's South Side. As education coordinator for South Merrill Community Garden, she helped run an entire summer of Saturday activities for neighborhood kids called Planting and Playing Summer Garden Arts. The effort was one of 120 projects funded by the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, which offers rapid-response grant opportunities to support community-based actions and activities that make neighborhoods safer.

Curbed Chicago's Patrick Sisson reports how community gardens and block associations are helping stem Chicago's gun violence.

Community gardens, and other neighborhood-level organizations like block clubs and arts groups, aren't typically viewed as direct solutions to violence. Decades of "broken window" policing persuaded many cities to adopt top-down crime-prevention plans focused on punishing small offenses (recent research, however, indicates that this strategy had the opposite effect).

Instead, a growing body of evidence suggests that community groups have actually played an outsized, and under-recognized, role in the significant decline in urban crime across the United States and that programs that benefit local, bottom-up urban organizing may be the solution.

According to a recent study by New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey, these groups were "fundamental" to the massive nationwide drops in crime over the last 25 years (the national homicide rate, for example, shrunk by 50 percent between 1990 and 2015). His work even determined a formula for their impact: Every 10 additional organizations in a city with more than 100,000 residents creates a 6 percent drop in violent crime, and a 9 percent drop in homicides.

In line with the growing consensus, the [Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities'] work is swift and strategic; it's community action at the street level. Over the last two years, a coalition of 30 charities and foundations pledged more than $1 million to underwrite small, community-oriented grants between $1,000 and $10,000, part of a $30 million investment in strategies to reduce gun violence.

The grants will support temporary programming and events to increase neighborhood unity and safety in under-resourced Chicago neighborhoods, like Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Austin, located on the city's majority-black South and West sides. The funds also empower local actors already working in their communities, doing away with long vetting processes required by some nonprofits and one-size-fits-all solutions.

Read the full article.

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace and Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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As shootings and homicides drop in Englewood, a new optimism grows

Chicagoans are stepping up to meet the challenge of our city's gun violence crisis. They are hosting block parties, engaging in police reform, conducting street outreach, and more. The Chicago Tribune reports that optimism is growing in Englewood. A variety of urgent responses is helping transform the neighborhood, which has long been synonymous with violence and is now leading the city in declines in shootings and homicides.

The Tribune's Annie Sweeney explores this transformation and what led to it in an article, "As shootings and homicides drop in Englewood, a new optimism grows."

You can see the change in Englewood in the raw numbers. You can hear about it from the Chicago police commander here, a neighborhood gas station owner or a community leader.

But if you want to feel the difference, stand in the neatly trimmed grass at 66th and Union with longtime resident Asiaha Butler, who will show you how Englewood is already a safer place for her to live.

"It's absolutely quieter," said Butler, who this summer converted a vacant lot on her block to a community space. "I never walked around in a fearful state, thinking I was going to be shot, but it's a really great energy now. A great mix of active people. That is what I feel when I am in the community."

Violence in the Englewood police district has dropped dramatically in 2017, with shootings falling 44 percent and homicides down 45 percent over 2016.

It's only one year, experts, cops and even residents caution.

But it's happening here in Englewood, a neighborhood whose name has long been synonymous with violence, gang warfare, poverty and despair.

Read the full article.

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace and Street Outreach and Violence Interruption strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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The Metropolitan Peace Academy: Professionalizing Street Outreach in Chicago

By Vaughn Bryant

In Chicago, 764 people were murdered in 2016, a 58 percent increase over 2015. That number would have been even greater without the invaluable work of street outreach workers. In cities such as Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, street outreach workers have been indispensable in diffusing violent situations, helping to prevent such situations from escalating, and also quelling demands for retaliation.

Their skill set is a special one. Seasoned workers are consummate mediators, able to build trusted personal and group relationships with perpetrators and victims of violence, as well as their family members, friends and the broader community. Simultaneously they must cultivate the trust of law enforcement, respecting their authority and not overstepping bounds.

Street outreach work has not always been valued. Misunderstandings about its role and how it should function have sometimes caused friction with police and worked against the full effectiveness of outreach. To help improve that dynamic, Chicago's Communities Partnering 4 Peace initiative has launched the Metropolitan Peace Academy.

Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), convened by Metropolitan Family Services, is a framework that provides a comprehensive, long-term approach to reducing violence and gang activity among the individuals and communities it serves. Its work is rooted in nonviolence, trauma-informed care, hyper-local collaboration and restorative justice practices.

CP4P has gathered eight of Chicago's most respected community-based organizations working in street outreach to work in nine of the city's most at-risk communities in order to 1) help reduce shootings and homicides, 2) create and reclaim safe community spaces, and 3) professionalize the field of community outreach.

As the focus of goal #3 Metropolitan Family Services is collaborating with its CP4P and other experts to develop and implement the Metropolitan Peace Academy (MPA). The goal of MPA is to professionalize and strengthen the fields of street outreach and community violence prevention. This will be accomplished by:

  • Establishing core competencies, knowledge and skills required of outreach workers and violence prevention practitioners;
  • Ensuring consistent standards in how outreach workers deliver services;
  • Offering ongoing professional development of outreach workers to promote best practices; and
  • Establishing a citywide network of outreach workers to ensure the highest probability of success in creating safer communities.

MPA will welcome its first cohort of 25 professionals on January 30, 2018.

The pilot curriculum, featuring 144 hours of study resulting in certification, will be launched in partnership with Northeastern University, and will include the topics below:

Professionalism

  • Professionalism has a unique meaning and purpose in the field of street outreach. MPA will address the characteristics of professionalism, how to demonstrate it on the street and in the office.

Role Clarity

  • Street Outreach is important work that requires strengthening vulnerable communities. Role clarity is important for outreach workers to understand the scope of their work, boundaries with their clients, collaboration with case managers and professional understanding with law enforcement.

Self-Care

  • Self-care creates a space for participants to explore their own trauma and establish their own routines for coping with past and present trauma.

Communication

  • Communications will address techniques such as motivational interviewing, active listening, public speaking, managing media and precise messaging. It will also address protocols for communicating with families, community members and law enforcement.

Gathering Information

  • Gathering information addresses issues of confidentiality, conflict resolution and crisis response.

Crisis Protocols

  • Crisis protocols addresses how to operate in situations such as crime scenes, how to manage rumor control, and how to work with other organizations effectively.

Daily Operational Protocols

  • Daily operational protocols addresses time management, accountability practices with supervisors, as well as routine operations like scheduling meetings, school dismissal time procedures etc.

Interactions with Law Enforcement

  • Interaction with law enforcement addresses boundaries with outreach workers, coordinating responsibilities and legal liability issues.

Client Advocacy

  • Client advocacy addresses the various types of clients street outreach workers may serve and how to advocate for them effectively.

A Day in the Life of an Outreach Worker

  • A day in the life of an outreach worker addresses how to structure their workday, how to recruit clients, strategically canvassing the community and practical application of the knowledge gained in the training.

Faculty

  • MPA will work with a team of experienced street outreach professionals to design and deliver its curriculum. All professionals who facilitate classes will receive additional compensation for prep time and delivery.

To measure the Academy's impact, several measures will be implemented. They include tracking the number of staff and amount of training provided, as well as conducting skills transfer and training satisfaction surveys with trainees to assess the training's effectiveness and help identify improvements. In addition, a training observation tool will focus on fidelity to training content for coaching and training improvement over time. Lastly, trainers also will receive support to enhance methods for delivering content for maximum impact of staff knowledge and skills in practice.

MPA's short-term goals include finalizing its design and establishing infrastructure to operationalize by April 2018, offering one to two classes yearly that collectively will graduate up to 100 students yearly; and adding classes in non-violence, trauma-informed care, restorative justice practices and interaction with law enforcement.

Longer-term goals include offering courses to a wider variety of community organizations, expanding the curriculum to include youth programs, and providing non-violence training to professionals seeking continued development and City College students.

Ultimately, by helping to professionalize street outreach, the Metropolitan Peace Academy hopes to strengthen the impact of this much-needed work, and in the process help further safer communities throughout Chicago. 

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CNN: Chicago gang members seek new lives through writing, reading memoirs

Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny) teaches former gang members and at-risk men in their 20s who are trying to escape gang life job skills, provides intensive life and trauma coaching, and tutoring toward their high school diploma or GED. About a dozen men also are part of CRED's voluntary rehabilitation program that helps them write and read their own memoirs, as featured in this CNN story.

Dressed in a black suit, crisp shirt and neatly fitting tie, Lonnie Williams read from his memoirs, "New Steps and New Moves," which described what it was like being raised by an aunt.

"Until this day I can't decide what made me lose respect for my aunt. But between watching her snort coke and being locked in the basement the majority of my childhood, who could blame me? So I left."

Williams later moved in with his sister and struggled to get by. In his memoir, which he read to an audience that included family and friends, as well as strangers, he said, "My brother was selling crack, so I chose that as a means to survive."

After watching his uncle get sentenced to a long prison term, and having a son of his own, Williams is now part of the CRED program in hopes of finding an "honest life."

"I think about the 35 years my uncle just got," he read, pausing occasionally to look up at the audience. "Or that my son asks me, 'Dad, why you keep leaving me?' or 'Why don't you love me?' I would be speechless. Although my moves are to protect his future, I also have to remember that I'm a big part of his present. He is getting older and so am I. And to be part of the solution, I have to stop being part of the problem."

This is a post related to the Street Outreach and Violence Interruption strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Pilsen Peace March

 Safe and Peaceful Communities grantee, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, hosted a peace march in Pilsen in response to the recent shootings in their community. Over 100 participants joined the march to show their solidarity for peace. They marched from Mujeres Latinas office on 2124 W 21st Pl to the Boys and Girls Club on 2157 W 19th St. Along the way they stopped at parks and community organizations that support peace and gave speeches about their experience.

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One Corner at a Time

Tamar Manasseh and a group of volunteers put on hot-pink T-shirts, got their lawn chairs, some hots dogs, went to the corner of 75th Street and South Stewart Avenue and cooked dinner. That is how Manasseh, the founder and president of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), reclaimed one of the most violent corners in Chicago. After three summers on the block, violent crime and gun-related incidents in that census tract have declined dramatically, Manasseh writes in compelling op-ed.


"Every single day in the summer, especially on weekends, we sit in lawn chairs on the corner of 75th Street and South Stewart Avenue in Englewood, one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods. Each day, volunteers cook dinner for 75 or so neighborhood kids, who range from infants to teenagers.

I give them chalk so that they can create their masterpieces on the sidewalks, scold them when they fight over the blue and orange foam football, and take great pains to make sure that the child with the racing strip down the center of his head doesn't sneak a morsel from the treats the other kids patiently line up to get, because he can't eat sugar.

These children are now my children, too. For the past three years, the volunteers in an organization I founded, Mothers Against Senseless Killings, have made it our mission to give them their childhoods back — the kind of carefree childhoods so many people in our generation had but too many children in poor neighborhoods are denied.

What we do is simple. We sit on the corners and watch over the children in the neighborhood. My two children always behaved better when an adult had eyes on them. So I thought this would work for the other kids here, too.

This is not exactly an avant-garde idea. I learned it from my mom, who learned it from hers, and so on, back until what I would imagine was the dawn of time. This has always been the role of the black mother in the community. We watch the kids. All of them. This is that "village" that we hear so much about but that has somehow been forgotten. All I've done is try to revive its spirit."

This is a post related to the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. 

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A March for Peace in Pilsen

On Saturday, September 23rd, over 100 people gathered at the headquarters of Mujeres Latinas En Acción (MLA) for the Pilsen Peace March. Men, women, and youth marched in solidarity to promote peace and nonviolence for teens. Upon arrival, individuals gathered in the basement where they greeted their fellow participants and continued to prep for the day's events. The march began at MLA's headquarters and ended at the Union League Boys and Girls Club, making a few stops along the way. At each stop, a representative from a local community organization showed their support with words of encouragement. For Martiza Rocha, Director of Youth Services at Mujeres Latinas, letting the youth know that they have support in and around their community was very important, "I want to make sure that these kids are aware that they have allies and they have a support system behind them."

Walking through the community, some residents came out to see who the voices were ringing for peace outside their doors. Others joined in, chanting along with calls for nonviolence. Reaching the community and becoming more visible was another goal for the march. Gabriella Fuentes, a Youth Program Advocate, said there was a desire to let the people know that there are "community members who are actively trying to raise awareness and doing the work behind it. We had a lot of residents come out of their houses today to observe the march and ask us about it." This support continued throughout, as drivers waved and honked their horns as we passed. On several occasions people joined in the march, walking alongside us until we reached our final destination.

The planning of the event took input from adults and youth. With a Youth Committee in place, preparation for the march included more than just meetings; there were also in-depth conversations and training involved. They wanted youth to have healthy and informed discussions about violence, more specifically where and how it starts:

"Having them understand, why gun violence happens. So that they know there's some content to it. It's not just our community. There's so much more to it. It's about access; it's about resources. It's about, oppression, it's about so much more than we see in the news. I want students to see how multifaceted gun violence is."--Gabriella Fuentes.

Each week, the committee would meet and engage in a variety of learning activities. To prepare, they read articles, watched short films, conducted research and shared their findings. Through this work, the youth took time to learn from one another as well. Giselle Rico, a High School sophomore and Youth Committee member, said that plans and conversations are starting about the next peace march. She, along with her other cohorts, hope that the march will open the doors for more youth to participate and join their movement, "We might have another march. We could bring more kids, more youth so that they have the option to go to a program instead of into violence because the youth are the future. And if youth are invited, the violence won't go on. They can come to our program and help stop the violence."

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Live in the Spirit - Drum Circle for Peace

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The rhythmic beat of African drums reverberated throughout Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72 ndStreet on Saturday, August 26th; and local youth were in the spotlight at a pulse-pounding "Drum Circle for Peace" program presented as part of this summer's Safest Summer 2017 Initiative "Praise in the Park."

The musical extravaganza was part of a Back-to-School program that encouraged youth to "look to the future and stay positive in your focus as you return to classes this fall."

Coordinating the "drums for peace" festivities was noted drummer Ernest Dawkins, Executive Director of the Safest Summer Initiative. Dawkins explained that this is the second year of the Drum Circle, which encourages local residents, particularly youth, to join his fellow drummers "and is designed to help negative influences facing our young people and show them a positive direction through music."

In complete agreement with Mr. Dawkins is Perry Gunn, Executive Director of Teamwork Englewood, who explains that the summer musical fests are held at several community parks throughout the summer, and that this August 26th event was held in conjunction with Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), under the leadership of executive director Asiaha Butler, as part of her "So Fresh Saturday Tour" in local parks.Ms. Butler points out that "These park events are very positive and much-needed for our youth. Our parks should be used for family-fun events like this...this is what summer is all about!"

In addition to the drumbeats, youngsters enjoyed free food and school supplies, the popular Jumoping Jack, and were entertained by rap music by local performers, offering inspirational messages of "Stay in School" and "Don't let anyone turn you away from your positive goals."Megan Hougard, Chicago Public School chief of Schools Networks, echoed the "stay in school" message offered to the youngsters.

Information booths from community organizations including Imagine Englewood If..., Chicago Children's Choir, and LaTanya Johnson and Youth of Englewood, among others.

Debra Thompson, President ofSouthwest Federation Block Clubs of Greater Englewood had an informational literature table, and was quick to note that youngsters were "very happy with all this entertainment, Back-to-School Suppplies and food, and at the same time receiving messages for a safe, peaceful community here in Englewood."

Even local artists were encouraging the young people to remain positive about themselves and their futures.

The talented sketch artist "Justflow" stated that he had been part of the Drum Circle for the past two years, "and I think it's a great thing for the kids to experience." 

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Young People and Police Start Talking at Elijah’s House

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Elijah's House kicked-off their anti-violence activities in August with an event to mend the walls of communication between Chicago's youth and the Chicago Police Department. Venita Williams, Executive Director and planner of this event, said the idea was born from conversations staff members often had with teens about their daily concerns. They found that many teens had questions about the state of their communities and wanted to know the roles these officers played:

"…it was something that youth were always asking about… 'why did this happen,' 'why am I perceived a certain way,' 'why are there drugs in my school,' or 'why am I targeted when I dress a certain way?"

The idea to host a round table conversation where Chicago police officers and young people from the community could sit down and discuss the issues face to face was born from these questions.

Elijah's House staff understood that youth involvement in the process would be essential to achieving a successful event and their desired outcomes. With this in mind, they identified several avenues for young people to influence the event profoundly. First, students from the culinary program were recruited to cater the event. They spoke with their peers and planned a menu that both the police officers and the students would enjoy. Next, students from the journalism and broadcasting program conducted field research on youth violence, focusing their efforts in Humboldt Park. They wrote short articles on their findings and published them in Urban Teen Magazine which is produced by Elijah's House. Their findings led to several follow up questions that later became core questions in the round table conversation.

On the day of the Round Table, students stood outside peeking through the crack between the closed doors. Once open, they rushed through to the registration tables, where they found personal name tags and their seating arrangements. As students grabbed food and took their seats, officers from the 11th and 15th districts arrived dressed in plain clothes and began mingling with the teens. Each table was composed of 8 to 9 youth and one officer; there was no facilitator or another adult present. The youth had full control over the dialogue and eagerly dove into their questions.

As staff walked the room, there was a sense of calm as the intimacy and openness of the conversation allowed for an amplified safe space for honesty and the ability to converse with ease. Venita Williams, Executive Director of Elijah's House, observed, "...you have these kids perceiving authority one way, but then they're reconnecting in a different way." Williams says even the shyest kids had something to say. As the event went on, the topics of their conversation broadened to include favorite school subjects and auto parts, as the youth and officers began getting to know one another on a more human level.

The feedback on the Round Table was unanimous amongst students and officers; both identified that there is a need for these conversations to continue. The goal of this event was to improve the interactions between officers and teens. However, Elijah's House recognizes that this is only the beginning. To truly make an impact, conversations such as this must continue, as it is important these relationships are maintained. For Williams these connections can and will truly make the difference:

"…If I say hi to you every day, you begin to know me. And I begin to build that familiarity; then I do begin to feel safe within my community. I do know that if something happens, I have a direct link to an individual who can make an impact, who can help me turn a situation around."

Elijah's House hopes that similar Round Tables will spring up in other communities to further the conversation and engagement amongst the youth and the Chicago Police Department. For more information on their event, including a video check out the Elijah's House website in the coming weeks at https://www.elijahshousenfp.org/

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Introduction to the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities

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Chicago's gun violence crisis requires all of us to make community safety a priority. Last year, following a decade of progress in reducing violence, Chicago suffered 4,368 shootings and 764 homicides, a level of violence unheard of since the 1990s. The trend continues in 2017. It must stop, and all of us have a role to play.

There is so much to do, but it is heartening that so many are stepping up to meet the challenge. Families, community and religious leaders, church groups, local organizations and others are working to make blocks and neighborhoods safer throughout the city. Organizations are reaching out to individuals at risk of violence with jobs and services. Reforms are underway at the Police Department. Adding to these urgent responses is the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of more than 30 Chicago funders and foundations committed to aligning their funding to support proven and promising approaches to reducing violence.

Starting in 2016, informed by longstanding work by many organizations—large and small—to address root causes of gun violence, several foundations supported the operations of the Police Accountability Task Force and made direct investments in more than 120 neighborhood organizations in communities most affected by violence. As the Partnership has grown, members have invested in additional strategies.

Our hope is that by coming together to support work across Chicago, especially in communities at greatest risk, we will help strengthen programs and lay the foundation for a meaningful reduction in gun violence over the next two to three years. Members of the Partnership are working together to coordinate their individual investments in four key strategies:

  • Intervening with likely victims and perpetrators through street outreach, constructive policing interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy and jobs.
  • Increasing legitimacy for and effectiveness of the Chicago Police Department through improved training, better police-community relations, greater community voice in the design and operations of police accountability structures, and other reforms.
  • Strengthening gun laws to reduce the availability of illegal firearms.
  • Supporting 120 grassroots community-based organizations for events and projects in 2017 across 17 Chicago community areas to foster stronger community bonds, crowd out violence and promote constructive engagement with law enforcement.

To date, members have committed more than $30 million to support and coordinate work on these strategies. Along with commitments from many other groups, and ongoing investments from city, county, state and federal government agencies, the greater Chicago community is responding to the crisis of gun violence, and we can all help. Still, the magnitude and urgency of the challenge demand much more.

We know you are someone who cares deeply about Chicago's future. If you are an employer, you can hire young people at risk. If you are a community leader, you can help improve police-community relations. If you are a health care provider, you can support trauma-informed care to gun violence victims. If you are a funder, you can support any one of these efforts. Whatever you do, your voice matters when you speak up in support of policies that can make our neighborhoods safer.

In the months ahead, we will keep you informed about ongoing Partnership activities and Chicago's progress in reducing gun violence. We are working on a website that can serve as an information hub, and will let you know when it is live. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Youth Outreach Services Is Bringing Positive Vibes To Austin With End of Summer Bash

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With the many news headlines about the ongoing violence plaguing the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, Vanessa Sanchez worries that the youth growing up in the community are unable to think positively about their futures.

"[Austin] is so often featured in the media as a dangerous area," says Sanchez, the prevention program manager at Youth Outreach Services, a nonprofit based in Austin. "We want to give the neighborhood a different light."

So Sanchez came up with the idea to host an afternoon block party, called the Austin End of Summer Bash, to help kids and families in Austin dream of a brighter, peaceful and safer future.

"We wanted to cultivate a positive outlook for the youth in the area and let them know that Youth Outreach Services is here as a resource for them" Sanchez continues.

Blocking off a portion of Mayfield Avenue at Division Street, just outside the YOS' Austin office, the End of Summer Bash will have free food, music and games for residents of all ages from 3-7 PM. For the kids specifically, YOS is giving away school supplies and providing fun activities such as rock climbing, a dunk tank and an appearance by Power 92 radio personality, HotRod.

The goal is to create an environment where Austin youth can let their guards down and enjoy being a kid while feeling safe to do so, Sanchez says. Simultaneously, Sanchez wants families to learn more about the programs YOS has to offer - including drug and pregnancy prevention, juvenile justice, child welfare and counseling.

Additionally, a portion of the End of Summer Bash will take place in YOS' community garden. Dubbed the Austin Garden, Sanchez said YOS turned an empty lot into a beautiful space for the community to grow herbs and vegetables to cook. So far, the garden is home to watermelon, collard greens, tomatoes, eggplants, green beans, strawberries, basil, mint and more.

"The hope is to have the garden be something that the community can take care of and pick from," Sanchez says. "It's growing and we're hoping to keep it growing for years to come."

The garden isn't the only thing Sanchez wants to keep growing. After the End of Summer Bash, she hopes more people will look to YOS as a resource so the organization can help more people in the community.

"We hope to see a lot of unity," Sanchez adds. "We want the community to know that we're here." 

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

Tiffany Walden is Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief of the Triibe.  This story originally appeared on The Triibe.

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Everyone who cares deeply about Chicago’s future can play a role.

If you are an employer, you can hire young people at risk. If you are a community leader, you can help improve police-community relations. If you are a health care provider, you can support trauma-informed care to gun violence victims. If you are a funder, you can support any one of these efforts. Whatever you do, your voice matters when you speak up in support of policies that can make our neighborhoods safer. Reach out to learn more.

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