CHICAGO – On April 7, following a string of murders that claimed seven blacks lives in the South Shore community of Chicago’s south side, neighbors and activists gathered at 71st & Oglesby for a vigil to remember two of the victims.
Even though they lived in South Shore many were meeting each other for the first time and, significantly, cops and activists who regularly protest against police actions found that they don’t disagree on everything.
The prayer vigil was across the street from the Alderman Leslie Hairston’s office and not far from where the actual shooting took place.
The neighborhood is no stranger to violent crime. Just last year there were 124 shootings and South Shore is 14th out of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods for the most violent crimes. South Shore is also one of the most densely populated and poor communities in Chicago. According to Chicago Tribune’s Crime in Chicagoland, 31.5 percent of households in the community are below poverty level.
As the diverse crowd gathered in a circle to pray, William Calloway, a police reform activist told People’s World, “We need to put down these guns down and fight for more resources to come into this community… We can’t just put accountability on our community without putting accountability on our elected officials. Our elected officials are the gatekeepers to the resources that get to our community.”
Calloway has been active in the police reform movement since 2012 and was one of the people responsible for the build up of public pressure that resulted in the release of the dashboard video showing the police killing Laquan McDonald.
After the vigil, community members made the short walk to 75th and Coles where they rallied in the intersection. Police cars blocked off the four-way intersection and volunteers from the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (C.A.P.S) program set up tables to recruit volunteers to block clubs and neighborhood watch groups.
Standing in the middle of a semi-circle of community members and activists, with police standing at attention to his left, Glen Brooks, CPD area co-coordinator, said, “This particular Operation, Wake Up, is a sea change. I promise you there are many people that are standing amongst you, that have been opposed to the police.
“Don’t worry,” Brooks said, “they still don’t like us, but what they do like and they do love is this community… that’s what we agree on.”
His statement revealed the complex relationship between police and marginalized communities that is routinely ignored by right-wing narratives.
Calloway spoke shortly after, saying “I can’t in good conscience call myself a peace activist and hold the police accountable and not hold my own people accountable. We have to spread more love out here.”
Demetrius Nash, the Founder of Replace Guns with Hammers, an organization which seeks to place at risk youth in building trades union apprenticeships, said “If we hold police accountable, we have hold each other accountable… [we need] resources coming down from city hall, the state levels, and even Washington D.C. into these communities and getting vocational skills for these young men, youth centers, and the things we used to have.”
Dante Wilson, C.E.O of the non-profit Notarized Inc. and 48-year resident of South Shore sees himself as having grown and change alongside the neighborhood. Wilson told People’s World that “at one time, I was part of the problem and right now I’m part of the solution to it.”
Notarized Inc. has hosted nearly 60 events in and outside of the South Shore community, including back to school supply drives. Wilson agreed with Nash that it is essential for the long-term health of the neighborhood to hold police accountable and fight for more resources.
Note: All photos by Earchiel Johnson/PW