North Side vigil calls on entire city to stand against gun violence
The Sunday evening vigil at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church honored youth who have been killed in Chicago’s gun violence and encouraged more North Siders to actively work against violence in areas around the city.
About 13,000 pieces of orange fabric lined the fence outside Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, representing every child killed by gun violence in the U.S. since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Inside, during the church’s fourth-annual anti-violence vigil Sunday evening, people read the names of young Chicago victims in the last year. With each name, they tore another piece of orange fabric to be added to the fencing.
“We’re here tonight because kids keep dying by gun violence in Chicago,” said the Rev. Beth Brown, pastor at the church.
At the vigil two years ago, 102 youths killed by Chicago’s gun violence were being remembered. This year, almost 58 were being honored.
“We’re trying to get to zero. Fifty-eight is way too many. Not one youth should die by gun violence in Chicago,” Brown said as hundreds in the audience applauded.
The crowd included activists and families affected by gun violence, interfaith community leaders and primarily North Side residents, whom Brown encouraged to “come to terms with and change what’s happening in our city.”
“Gun violence is not something that only needs to be addressed by the neighborhoods experiencing it,” she said. “It’s related to the systemic racism, segregation, disinvestment, government-led poverty [and] lack of access to jobs, health care and food that plagues our city.”
Youth from Kuumba Lynx, an urban arts youth development organization on the South Side, then performed “Black B4 Green,” a piece mixing dance, music and spoken words to discuss the causes of violence in Chicago.
The performance explored how racism, a lack of resources and policing could perpetuate violence in their communities. They referenced the youth-led #NoCopAcademy movement protesting a proposed $85 million police and fire training facility in the Garfield Park neighborhood and objected to city funding that would place more police officers in Chicago Public Schools.
The vigil featured three speakers, which included Xavier Ramey, CEO of the social impact consulting firm Justice Informed, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of the South Side’s St. Sabina church and hometown rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was scheduled to speak but had to cancel because she’s sick, Brown said.
Ramey encouraged people to start at home by examining how their own lives and actions contribute to perpetuating violence in the city.
“The reality is that gun violence does not start with a bullet. Boys don’t pick up guns because they’re missing their dads and that’s it,” Ramey said. “Let’s stop talking about guns and start talking about the way we live our lives that created [violence].”
Pfleger called on North Side residents to play a more active role in fighting the city’s problem.
“I think people are disconnected. Not because of lack of concern, but because of lack of urgency because [violence] is not a part of the North Side’s everyday life,” Pfleger said.
Pfleger spoke about the disparities he sees when traveling from North to South Side communities. He said people need to invest more in communities most affected by gun violence.
“If we found money for the South Loop, West Loop or Lincoln Yards, then we damn well better find money for the South Side,” Pfleger said.
Rhymefest spoke directly to people in the audience who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
“Your children will rise again. They were victimized, but they are not victims,” Rhymefest said. “You live in our hearts as we move forward to be better because of your children’s existence. They are guiding us, holding you and pushing you forward.”