In the spirit of Easter, a diverse group of religious and community activists had the goal of helping resurrect peace and their communities as they held an anti-violence march and outdoor ecumenical service Saturday on the South Side.
The event came on the heels of nearly three dozen shootings around the city last weekend — so far the bloodiest weekend of the year — and as murders and shootings mounted this weekend.
“Symbolically, we utilize the dying on the cross of Jesus and the resurrection of Christ as a symbol of what can happen in this south Chicago community,” said Steve Jones, pastor of Praise Tabernacle Deliverance Center. “We can be resurrected.
“This community has been economically severed ….and along with that come all the symptoms … violence and gang warfare. We utilize this time to bring the community together to say we can come together to save the community.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe and New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church were among the churches and organizations that participated in the 15th annual event, presented by Claretian Associates in partnership with CeaseFire Illinois and others. The event took place amid worries violence will climb as temperatures rise.
It was about more than marching, said the Rev. Corwin Lasenby, pastor of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. The gathering also was held to let the community know about resources available to help them, he said.
“All of our churches are trying to do something to offset a violent summer,” Lasenby said.
The first Friday of very month, from May through August, he said his church will host “a night of music and food, to give another alternative to a negative summer. We don’t know what the summer will be, but we are really trying to do our very best to ensure that our community is safe.”
Jones’ church has launched a teen development and mentorship program called Save a Youth.
“We give them a forum to be able to express and talk about the issues that they deal with, to initiate some understanding of how to deal with conflict resolution from a biblical perspective and an interpersonal perspective as well as take them on trips to expand their horizon of their possibilities,” he said.
Amid chants of “Don’t shoot. Let the kids grow up,” the group marched several blocks, from 91st and Commercial to South Chicago Peoples’ Park for the outdoor service.
“I want to stop the violence,” 10-year-old Gisel Munoz said when asked why she came out Saturday.
Hearts were heavy for some in attendance who a year earlier had listened to an impassioned speech by then-CeaseFire volunteer Bearling Robinson Jr. A few months later, he was killed when he tried to mediate a dispute. His wife spoke tearfully of him during a memorial presentation Saturday and later said her husband’s efforts to help his community made him a role model.
“We need to show some love to one another instead of all this hatred,” said Bearling Robinson Sr., the slain man’s father. “We’ve got to look after each other like a family. And once we do that, we should be all right.”
Ulysses Floyd, an outreach worker supervisor with CeaseFire, said two of his sons were victims of gun violence. He said the message he hoped to send Saturday was, “Violence is just not a CeaseFire problem or Chicago police problem, it’s a community problem. Everybody needs to be involved, to come together to help stop this violence — churches, the community, stakeholders, the businesses, everybody.”