This week, Chicago students are waging war against gun violence.
A series of events spearheaded by the youth council of Safety Net Works of Auburn Gresham starts Tuesday evening with a rally at the Thompson Center in the Loop. The council is a group of about 15 students from CPS and parochial schools.
Other programs this week include a protest on Wednesday at a suburban Riverdale gun shop and a student-led debate on gun laws, slated for Friday at St. Sabina’s Bethune Hall.
The program will end on Saturday at Perspectives Calumet High School with “The Take Back Part 2”, including workshops, an employment fair, a panel discussion and a concert. The event will also recruit members for “Do You Care?,” an ongoing student-led anti-violence campaign.
Ronnie Mosley, a senior at Simeon High and an organizer for the events, says the council has given him a way to deal with his personal discouragement over the violence he has witnessed. His classmate, Gregory Robinson, was among the CPS students killed this year.
“There was really nowhere I could go to deal with it all,” Mosley says. “But instead of just standing back and watching other people try and deal with it, I felt like I should just take it upon myself. Instead of just speaking out about things, I want to start doing things.”
The youth council has made presentations at high schools, he adds, and schools should continue to play a role by hosting student-led initiatives. “A lot of people my age can’t relate to older people, but I think maybe it’ll have a different impression if they’re getting help from somebody who looks like them and who they can listen to,” Mosley says.
Mosley spoke about youth violence and the need for tougher gun control on the latest edition of City Voices, the public affairs radio show produced by Catalyst.
Besides Perspectives, the youth council is also working with Simeon, St. Leo and St. Sabina Academy to reach out to as many community residents, churches and groups as possible.
Awareness of gun violence involving young people has escalated this year following the murders of more than two dozen CPS students and a report that over 500 Chicago children have been injured in gun violence over the last 16 months.
“These problems have always existed, but because they never got dealt with. It continued to get worse,” says Jocelyn Jones, the adult liaison to the youth council for Safety Net Works. “Now it’s to the point that it’s so in your face that everyone’s like, ‘Where did this come from?’ It’s gotten so bad that we don’t have a choice about dealing with it.”
Ray Thompson, the director of community relations at Perspectives Calumet, stressed the importance of promoting student safety. Calumet recently implemented a “safe school zone” with St. Sabina and Paul Cuffe Elementary that employs military veterans to patrol during school hours. Last year, the school also started Students for a Safe Community, a group geared towards violence prevention. The group disbanded after only a year, however, because the school did not have the funding to pay for a staffer to help organize and oversee the effort.
In the wake of that set-back, Calumet was eager to offer the school as the location for “The Take Back Part 2,” says Thompson. Since the majority of Calumet’s students are residents of Auburn Gresham, Thompson says supporting Safety Net Works is a plus for both the school and the broader community as a whole.
“Schools are parts of communities, and once the school begins to realize that, they begin enhancing the community’s quality of life,” Thompson says. “If we do anything in the way of preventing student violence, it affects the community positively.”
“The Take Back Part 2” will be held on April 25 beginning at 11 a.m. For more information, contact Jocelyn Jones at (773) 483-4333.