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Young people march against gun violence on South Side: ‘Allow us to live’

Hundreds took part in a march organized by Pastor John F. Hannah and New Life Covenant Church to demonstrate and pray for safer neighborhoods in Chicago and stricter gun control policy on Saturday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

When Hermenia Holloway-Kirkwood’s son Tyrone Brooks Jr. was killed 10 years ago, she couldn’t understand the series of events leading up to it.

Reminded of her son Saturday morning, Holloway-Kirkwood watched young people line 79th Street, and she cried both for her son and for the violence she sees in the city.

“He didn’t have a gun, he wasn’t in a gang. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Holloway-Kirkwood said of the robbery-gone-wrong that ended with her son being shot in the chest.

“It broke my heart to see this [march] because I didn’t know this was going to happen today, but I think it’s great to talk about this and to do it in this way.”

Chicagoans gathered at 79th and Greenwood for the annual “Prayer on the 9” initiative, inspired by the “March for Our Lives” demonstrations staged by students nationwide earlier this year in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Pastor John F. Hannah and Father Michael Pfleger speak out about gun violence in Chicago, at a march and demonstration organized

Saturday’s march was organized by Pastor John Hannah and the New Life Covenant Church Southeast, concentrating on the everyday shootings — like the one that took Holloway-Kirkwood’s son — that plague many Chicago neighborhoods.

Hannah also partnered with two youth-based organizations — Champs Mentoring on the South Side, and Dream On Education on the West Side — offering them $5,000 apiece to help with violence prevention and awareness in the Grand Crossing area.

“We wanted to make sure that we could hear our young people scream, as loud as they can, ‘Allow us to live,’ ” Hannah said. “That is what today is about. They march, we pray, but the whole point is the world hears Chicago saying, ‘We want to live.’ ”

Trevon Bosley, a B.R.A.V.E. youth leader at St. Sabina Church, said that without action at the city, state and national levels to address gun violence, “nothing will change.” That means federal legislation to create tighter gun laws in neighboring states and voting for officials “who actually care,” he said.

Trevon Bosley takes part in Saturday’s demonstration for safer neighborhoods in Chicago and stricter gun control policy. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times
Trevon Bosley takes part in Saturday’s demonstration for safer neighborhoods in Chicago and stricter gun control policy. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

“These people had dreams and hopes they’ll never be able to live and see out due to senseless gun violence,” Bosley said. “Only we have the power to truly change our circumstances. We are the change we want to see in the community.”

After speeches from the Rev. Michael Pfleger, Bosley and Glen Brooks among others, marchers took to the streets.

As they made their way to the Dan Ryan Expressway, led by marching bands from Marie Curie High School and Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, they chanted “We want to live” and “Put down the guns.” Some carried signs bearing the names of those killed, while others held signs that read “Enough is enough.”

For Holloway-Kirkwood, stemming city violence would mean fewer people in situations like hers.

“On every anniversary of his death I think of the birthdays we’ve missed and the fact that his case is still unsolved,” she said. “We need to stop this violence. We need to get people to put the guns down.”

Hermenia Holloway-Kirkwood, whose son was murdered. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times
Hermenia Holloway-Kirkwood, whose son was murdered. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times