The words stamped in blue ink on the front of some 2,000 T-shirts — “I am for Peace” — explained the cause.
So did the messages scrawled by hand on the backs of many of those same T-shirts: “R.I.P. Daddy,” “My Cousin Keeper — Gone too soon,” “R.I.P. Lil’ Bo.”
Hoping to succeed where legions before have made little impact, some 2,000 high school students from Perspectives Charter Schools, with campuses on the South Side and in the South Loop, took to the streets Thursday to push for an end to the city’s gun violence.
Diamond Jenkins, 16, was among the marchers making her way from 23rd and State down to 36th and Wabash. Jenkins lost an older brother to gun violence last year.
Like many of the youth Thursday, she hopes that kids can get through to their gun-toting peers in a way that adults haven’t.
“It has to start with us,” Jenkins said. “Because peers listen to their friends and we can influence them to be better. Tuning out isn’t going to work anymore because when you’re scared to get up and go outside in the summer and you can’t go to the store — that’s not the type of life I want to live.”
A festive atmosphere infected the crowd, with students breaking into spontaneous “peace dances,” even as they held aloft signs that read: “Put the guns down” and “World Peace.”
Razia Hutchins, 17, one of the organizers, beamed as the crowd — which also included business and religious leaders as well as the general public — began to swell.
“This is not my peace march, it’s our peace march,” Hutchins said. “We are trying to take back our community. All I did was speak up, and look how many others I got to speak up.”