Amid the African drums that pound in the wind, I see signs. I see the living and the dead. I see a little black boy with a homemade placard hoisted above his handsome head:
“Peace Makers Are My Superheroes.”
“I made it so peace can live on forever and violence can go away,” says 7-year-old David Woodward, holding his sign bordered on each side by wooden school rulers. “Gun violence is bad and I just think it has to stop.”
Signs, I see. Signs.
A glaring one in bold yellow letters proclaims: “OUR LIVES BEGIN TO END THE DAY WE BECOME SILENT ABOUT THINGS THAT MATTER.”
“Stop the Senseless Violence,” reads another.
“THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US”
“I am a gun violence SURVIVOR, …but I should not be…”
Young people lead the way, carrying a banner that pleads: “Summer of Peace.”
Glaring amid these times, I see signs as they march this Saturday morning beneath a sun-kissed, blue summer sky. This despite the swirling lies and percolating disdain over the protestors’ vow to shut down this highway artery in order to bring attention to their cause to make streets on the West and South Sides breathe again.
Breathe again. With economic life. Without gunfire and violence that suffocate and violate.
Breathe again with harmonious order and brotherhood that resonate like the cacophony of marching feet and excited voices — of assorted races and creeds — for peace.
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes blares from speakers, their message settling over the throngs as they trek along the Dan Ryan Expressway: “Wake up everybody, no more sleepin in bed, no more backward thinkin, time for thinkin ahead…”
I see police. I see stone-faced state cops, gloved and bearing conspicuous backpacks, standing before buses emblazoned with “Department of Corrections.” I see no affection for the cause of these law-abiding citizens. Perhaps only disaffection in their charge to keep the marchers from entering the highway.
And yet, they march — peacefully, decently and in order — the right way.
They march — unified in purpose and pain. The living and also the dead whose blood cries from premature graves. In wheelchairs they march. On canes. The young and old — their soul’s song drifting to the sky, lifting their cries with eyes toward peace and possibility.
Mothers carry portraits of murdered sons. The chants of broken hearts and the clarion call for change reverberate as one.
Alan Scott clutches a picture of his daughter — Kaylyn Pryor, of Evanston. She was an innocent bystander killed at a bus stop on Nov. 2, 2015, while visiting her grandparents in Englewood. She would have turned 23 on Feb. 19, her father says, his face flush with anguish, fighting tears.
The pain never goes away. “It’s like being told you’ve got terminal cancer,” he says. “You learn to live with it. I don’t want anybody else going through this.
“You can sit back and just do nothing or you can get out and do something,” Scott tells me. “One thing this does is bring awareness to the problem. We’re all in this together. That’s how I look at it.”
Delores Bailey, whose son Demario Bailey, 15, was murdered on Dec. 13, 2014, sees plenty of work for the powers-that-be but also calls for parental responsibility.
“You gotta get back to the homes,” she says, holding a portrait of Demario, her words rinsed with passion. “The city can’t stop everything.
“Thirteen- and 14-year-olds don’t pay their own rent. Them guns in ‘your’ house. Flip them mattresses, take your house back…”
So they march. And I see signs.
I see a people near desperation and yet still standing on the harmonious chord called love, peace and hope that will always resound more loudly than violence and hate.
I see signs.
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