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Yes to Life, Yes to Peace

Grantee brings hometown rapper Lil Durk back to his Englewood neighborhood to participate in peace festival

The J. Minor Allen Peace Movement, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE) and Save Our Community Coalition, three Englewood-based groups, recently collaborated to produce the Say Yes to Life, Say Yes to Peace outdoor festival, aided by rapper Lil Durk.

"It was good he [Lil Durk] made it here — the children enjoyed seeing him and posing to take photos with him," said J. Minor Allen, special events coordinator and program manager for the J. Minor Allen Peace Movement, a division of the National Black Wall Street Chicago.

"The goal of this festival was to bring people together from Englewood, Auburn Gresham and surrounding communities for a safe and peaceful gathering, and we did just that," Allen added.

Part of RAGE's annual "So Fresh Saturdays," the August 25 event at Hamilton Park (513 W. 72nd Street) was said to attract more than 300 people. According to RAGE co-founder Asiaha Butler, Lil Durk donated book bags for the school supply portion of the festival, allowing event organizers to give away "nearly 500 book bags" that were filled with school supplies, she said. Kids could also get free haircuts at the festival, and there was a mobile video game van on-site for their enjoyment.

Englewood resident Princess Wallace attended with her four children. "This is my first time coming here. I came this year because I received a flyer from someone," she said. "I like what I see here — there are a lot of games for the kids, good music for adults and plenty of resources for the community."

Other attendees like Englewood resident Melvin Taylor said he's been attending So Fresh Saturdays since its inception. "I'm an outdoor kind of guy, and I like to stay in my neighborhood to party; I have always enjoyed myself when I come here, that's why I keep coming back," he said.

Imagine Englewood If was among a dozen resource vendors at the event. "I like to describe 'So Fresh' as a community barbecue, where kids have a safe space to play, where a platform is available for local talent to perform and get exposure, and a place where residents can hear directly from elected officials," said executive director Michelle Rashad.

J. Minor Allen added that one way to combat crime is developing partnerships among local organizations, stakeholders and residents, with a common goal of ridding their communities of violence. The Chicago Park District, Hamilton Park Advisory Council, Teamwork Englewood and the Neighborhood Heroes organizations were among the Say Yes to Life, Say Yes to Peace sponsors.

"To see so many police officers out here with nothing to do but stand around and look bored is a good thing. That means no one is misbehaving," said Mark Allen, chairman of National Black Wall Street Chicago. "I am glad we are one of the partners for this event."

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

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