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.
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.