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Rev. Jackson, others sign on to ‘Endangered Communities Tour’

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other community leaders held a news conference Thursday near the scene where 16-year-old Elijah Sims was fatally shot Monday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

In the wake of the deadliest month Chicago has seen in 20 years, the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday said he would join other black leaders in an “Endangered Communities Tour” that will hold town hall meetings in nine of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

The tour will kick off Sept. 13 in West Garfield Park and continue every Tuesday. It aims to draw attention and resources to the underserved, impoverished and predominantly black neighborhoods.

That first meeting starts at 6 p.m. at New Mt. Pilgrim Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd.

The next two meetings, both at 6 p.m., are Sept. 20 at Greater St. John’s Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., and Sept. 27 at Hope Church, 1354 W. 61st St. The remaining locations will be announced later, according to Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who also was at the news conference.

“We’ve identified at least nine communities that we consider endangered communities,” Boykin said. “If you live in these communities, the likelihood is you will die earlier or faster than anybody else, you will likely be a victim of gun violence or some form of violence. You will likely suffer from health disparities and food deserts and high unemployment and poverty.”

He added: “We brought together key individuals who will stand with us in this effort who will make sure that we call on our federal government, our state government, our local government to prioritize these communities for resources.”

Boykin spoke alongside Jackson, Chicago Urban League President Shari Runner, several aldermen and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis at a West Side news conference held steps from the spot where 16-year-old Elijah Sims was fatally shot Monday.

Elijah was a student at Oak Park River Forest High School and wanted to become a nurse, his mother, Sharita Galloway, said at the news conference.

“It says a lot about us as a city when you have 28 kids 16 and under who’ve been killed this year alone, more than all of last year,” Boykin said. “And then the sad reality of it is that 23 of those 28 were African-Americans and five of them were Latinos. There were no white kids 16 and under killed this year.”

Sharita Galloway, with Rev. Jesse Jackson, said her slain son, Elijah Sims, wanted to be a nurse. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
Sharita Galloway, with Rev. Jesse Jackson, said her slain son, Elijah Sims, wanted to be a nurse. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Jackson called for the White House to host a conference on violence, racial and gender disparities, poverty and a plan for urban reconstruction.

The city, Jackson said, needs national attention similar to that which resulted from mass shootings in Orlando or at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

There were 90 homicide victims in August in Chicago, a massive jump compared to 54 killed in August 2015, city records show.

The last time there were 90 murders in a single month in Chicago was 20 years ago, according to police.

The accompanying numbers from last months carnage are equally grim: 384 shootings and 472 shooting victims.

Last August there were 217 people wounded in nonfatal shootings.

Though August, Chicago Police had reported 467 homicides, putting the city on pace to reach 700 by year’s end. Chicago has not seen more than 600 homicides in a year since 2003 and not more than 700 homicides since 1998, records show.

Police said murder arrests have increased by 18 percent and gun arrests have increased by 5 percent compared to August 2015.

“In a war zone, you don’t have to be guilty to be crucified,” Jackson said Thursday, emphasizing the innocents that get caught in the crossfire.

More than 200 people, mostly documented gang members, were arrested last month in enforcement missions targeting individuals “who contribute to the cycle of violence in some neighborhoods,” according to police.

“The historical cycle of violence we have seen in some communities must come to an end,” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “Repeat gun offenders who drive the violence on our streets should not be there in the first place and it is time to changes the laws to ensure these violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes.”

Last weekend, 11 people were killed and 56 were wounded in shootings across the city.

Among those killed was Nykea Aldridge, cousin of Bulls star and area native Dwyane Wade.

Nykea Aldridge | Facebook photo
Nykea Aldridge | Facebook photo

Aldridge was shot in the head as she pushed one of her four children in a stroller in the 6300 block of South Calumet in the Parkway Gardens neighborhood, a particularly violent area colloquially known as “O Block.” Two men were charged in her death.

“This is racism at its best,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said at Thursday’s news conference. “Why are our kids constantly shooting each other? You know why, because they’re angry. They’ve been locked up. They haven’t had any jobs and no resources and they want to make a dollar. They haven’t had parents who been able to teach them. The system failed from many, many years ago,” she said.

Mitts said that dealing with shootings takes up time she should be spending on trying to obtain resources for her West Side ward.

“We need to be able to sit down and try to figure out what in the world can we do,” she added, and she already knows one place to start.

“Well, first of all, put some resources in the black community where all the shooting is happening and stop allowing it to go other places. Then we can have something to hang our hats on.”