A steady stream of visitors came and went this weekend to an alley in “La Villita”, as the neighborhood of Little Village is affectionately known by its mostly Mexican, Mexican-American residents; to the site of the final moments of Adam Toledo’s life. Makeshift memorial and mural in Little Village
Many of the mourners at the makeshift memorial were parents with their children who paid their respects by leaving candles, flowers, and messages at the very spot where the 13-year old died. They prayed at the mural, a cutout of Adam with his hands up and angel wings memorializing the instant when he was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer. Their fixed stare lost in thought over the tragedy that happened there just weeks ago, and the violence many of them know all too well. “I don’t want my son growing up here”, said Erica Sanchez as she held her 3-year old son.
COVID 19 forces changes in strategies for anti-violence groups
Like much of the country, Autry Phillips was caught off guard when a worldwide health crisis descended on Chicago last year. In addition to his long-time, ongoing efforts to reduce neighborhood violence, he now faced the challenge of conveying his organization’s message to residents who were increasingly vulnerable to a rampant virus. “When COVID hit back in March we didn’t know what to do,” says Phillips, executive director of Target Area Development Corp.. “If COVID was part of a street organization and carrying a gun, hanging out on the corner, I would have known exactly what to do. We had no idea what to do with COVID.”
Aside from sharing federal safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (“We said, ‘It’s time to put the guns down, but you gotta put a mask on now,’” recalls Phillips.), he and other peace activists have been forced to regroup and re-strategize.
Patrons waiting outside of a south suburban dispensary is becoming a common sight. Black and Latinx owners are barely a blip on the cannabis income radar. Kara Wright followed the rules and could be considered a winner, since the state awarded her and her applicant team the right to maybe get cannabis dispensary licenses in a yet to be conducted lottery. Yet after months of delays, the lottery hasn’t been conducted, and Wright, one few Black step away from legally selling cannabis in Illinois, still doesn’t have a license. “We are almost at a billion dollars [of sales] here in Illinois,” said Wright.
As cannabis becomes legal in more states, religious leaders should be truth-tellers of the racialized history and disparate impact of the war on drugs in recommending how their congregations and communities should respond.