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Outdoor exhibit offers a walk through Chicago’s ‘most dangerous street’

A group of people walk through an alley at North Elston Avenue filled with lasers representing 38 victims of Chicago gun violence March 17-22. The exhibit, titled The Most Dangerous Street, included audio and visual projections with identifications for victims such as "March 17 1:20 p.m. Male, 21" and "March 22 2:40 p.m. Female, 34." | Savannah Eadens/Sun-Times

What would it look like if all of Chicago’s gun violence was on one street?

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, along with creative marketing agency FCB, created a walk-through, outdoor exhibition at 2000 N. Elston on Thursday that put participants in the virtual path of victims of Chicago’s gun violence.

In a luminous industrial alley, 38 lasers — representing the number of victims in Chicago from March 17-22 — beamed down onto The Most Dangerous Street exhibition.  Projections onto two nearby buildings showed the identification of that week’s victims with descriptions: “March 17 at 1:20 p.m., Male, 21” or “March 22 at 2:40 p.m., Female, 34.”

Chicagoans are too often numb to the lives behind the numbers when it comes to gun violence in the city, said Dion McGill, a spokesperson with Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. But you can’t ignore the lives lost if you physically experience it in one space, McGill said.

The exhibit is a part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to advocate for the SAFE Act petition, which recognizes violence as a public health crisis.

Delphine Cherry, second from left, is joined by her family to walk through The Most Dangerous Street — an exhibit created by the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence on Thursday March 28. Cherry lost two of her children to Chicago gun violence and has since become an advocate against it. | Savannah Eadens/Sun-Times

Participants listened to digital audio devices with narratives from families, teachers and physicians affected by gun violence. The Most Dangerous Street  featured lasers because they are often used by forensic scientists in courtrooms to retrace the path of bullets at crime scenes. The one-night-only media event was also filmed and will be made into a video for the Most Dangerous Street project, which will be ongoing.

“As we talk about gun violence that most impacts communities, this is not one of the communities that is most affected by it,” McGill said, noting the event’s Bucktown location. “It’s interesting to have it here, where oftentimes the conversation about gun violence is theoretical and not necessarily affecting the people.”

Gun violence is an unfortunate reality for Delphine Cherry, a former probation officer turned advocate who attended the event Thursday. In 1992, Cherry lost her daughter, Tyesa, when she was struck by stray bullet from a gang-related incident. Twenty years later, Cherry’s youngest son, Tyler, was murdered in the south suburban Hazelcrest in 2012.

Her family’s story — and her voice — were featured in the exhibition.

Following her son’s death, which has never been solved, Cherry became an advocate because she wanted to track down the gun and the person who killed her son.

“I had to get involved I think or else I would’ve died. I would’ve just laid there,” Cherry said with tears in her eyes. “I don’t have to find a reason anymore to get up and fight; there are so many reasons.”