Dozens of reporters met with youth, local organizations and other individuals working to curb youth violence in Chicago June 28 in an effort to start a dialogue on how the media are – and are not – covering the epidemic.
The purpose of the meeting, held at Columbia College Chicago and sponsored by the Community Media Workshop, was to help Chicago’s media outlets, ranging from the Chicago Tribune to AustinTalks, tell the whole story about youth violence and to know where and how to get the information from those closest to what’s happening.
Reporters had the opportunity to hear from multiple speakers including WBEZ reporter and South Side bureau chief Natalie Moore, who also moderated the event, Rob Castaneda, founder of Beyond the Ball, which provides a safe space for youth to play sports in the Little Village community and Dr. Von Nebbitt, former inmate turned University of Illinois at Chicago professor.
Castaneda told the crowd about the importance of safe spaces in high-violence neighborhoods. He said youth and their families in Little Village are afraid to play at one of the neighborhood’s schools located at 31st Street and Lawndale Avenue, because it’s between two gang turfs. For the past 30 years, the school building was covered in gang graffiti and not welcoming, he said.
He and his wife wanted to help the community reclaim the space, so they held a picnic there. More than 1,000 people showed up, he said.
“To see a thousand community residents in that space, and the way that transformed that space, we knew we had to do something with that,” he said.
That’s when his wife came up with Project Play, a program that invites parents and their kids to come and play in the space in the summer on Tuesday and Thursday nights. He said each week, more than 600 people come out to the park to play soccer, badminton, and basketball, among other activities.
He said there’s so much “potential” in Chicago’s crime-ridden areas.
“There’s a lot of amazing stories in our neighborhoods, and I would challenge everybody here to start getting them today,” he said.
Guest speaker Nebbitt, who researches violence at UIC’s Jane Addams School of Social Work, grew up in a “pretty awful” place in St. Louis where violence and hostility was commonplace, he told the crowd.
Before the age of 29 he had been shot twice, arrested for six felonies and served three years in prison.
“I was using drugs, alcohol, I was doing anything that numbed it and allowed me to participate in this kind of insane reality,” he said. “It was a vicious cycle because the more victimization I experience and the more substance abuse I experience, the more I perpetrated this kind of violence.”
He said youth violence is a cycle, and preventing it is not as simple as saying, “stop shooting each other.”
He said the problem can be addressed, and he’s living proof.
After being in and out of the system, Nebbit met with a public defender, who helped him receive alternative sentencing. The defender gave him hope and passion, and he got his life on track.
“I’m evidence that we can take people who have been victims of violence and perpretrators of violence…and a concerned and caring community, we can make a drastic difference in people’s lives,” he said.
Austin Weekly News reporter La Risa Lynch profiled the professor for the Community Media Workshop’s “We Are Not Alone/No Estamos Solos” anti-violence project.
After hearing from the guest speakers, youth and professional reporters made their way to different tables with representatives from facilities and organizations including the anti-domestic violence group Between Friends, Albany Park Safety Net Works Youth Leadership Council, BUILD, Inc., Brady PAC-IL and CROSSWalk, among others.
Reporters were able to network and build sources, while the representatives told them about underreported youth-violence stories they wish the media would cover.
I wish there was a complete list of organizations attending this media network to discuss youth violence. City of Chicago throws millions of our tax-imposed dollars to organizations/churches that are defunct. Most of them only get funding because of their political sponsors like Danny Davis, Walter Burnett, etc. The violence in Chicago could be immediately curbed if they gave the money to organizations that have a history of measurable outcomes. Organizations need to be addressing issues and programs that will strengthen youth, coupled with stipends. After all, much of the violence suppposedly preached by our politicians results from idle time – nothing to do, economics and drug abuse. Also, where’s the media when youth and young adults are doing well, receiving scholarships, volunteering to help the elderly, etc. Why are they only around when there’s something negative to report. Too much attention is given to problematic situations. Here’s a thought, how about channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 32, 26, facebook and other networks and social media fund programs to eradicate crime in impoverished communities.
Here’s a list of participants:
1. Albany Park Safety Net Works YouthLeadership Council
The Albany Park Safety Net Works Youth Leadership Council is workingtogether to reduce the causes of violence in our community by meeting weekly tolearn more about youth violence, produce a video on the major violenceprevention resources in our neighborhood, and call for civic leaders to addressyouth violence more effectively.
Danny Siguenza, Safety Net Youth Organizer
2. Community-Linked Mental Health ServicesProgram, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
The Community Linked Mental Health Services Program (CLMHSP) of Ann &Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago works in conjunction withschools and other community partners in the Chicago area to develop andimplement a public health approach to address the impact of violence and traumaon youth and to improve access to evidence-based mental health services foryouth in underserved communities. Amongother projects and initiatives, the work of the CLMHSP includes consultation tothe Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), a program launched in the fall of2010 to build the capacity of communities to prevent violence and provideeconomic, social and emotional support to young people and parents to buildsafer communities. CLMHSP staff also participate in several advocacy and policygroups relevant to children’s mental health, including the Illinois Children’sMental Health Partnership and the Illinois Child Trauma Coalition.
Tali Raviv, Clinical Psychologist MashanaSmith, Clinical Psychologist
3. Between Friends
Between Friends works to eradicate domestic violence throughout Chicagoland byproviding resources to help individuals rebuild their lives and by offeringeducation to youth and the community on ways to prevent domestic violence. We provide a crisis hotline, counseling andsupport services, court advocacy, and various education programs in schools,healthcare, and other organizations in the community.
Kathleen Doherty Colleen Norton
Executive Director Prevention &Education Manager
773-274-5232 ext. 14
773-274-5232 ext. 26
4. Beyond the Ball (Little Village, North Lawndale)
Beyond the Ball is an organization that uses the power of sport to changelives, give hope, reclaim space and develop a culture of opportunities foryouth and families in Chicago. We develop youth through a number of programsthat help change the negative norms present in neighborhoods and replace themwith a positive culture. We also create opportunities for residents to buildcommunity through projects that reflect the personal and social responsibilitylearned in our programs. So while we invest in youth to grow community leadersfor the future, we are simultaneously making an impact right now.
Rob Castañeda, Executive Director
5. Brady PAC-IL
The Brady PAC-IL promotes a common sense gun legislation agenda and thecandidates and elected officials who support this agenda. We work with theBrady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in its issue education and victimoutreach efforts.
Jodi Doane, Administrator
6. BUILD, Inc. (Logan Square, West Town, Near North/Cabrini,Hermosa, Belmont-Cragin, Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, North Lawndale,Englewood and Brighton Park)
BUILD’s Prevention program promotes positive youth development byequipping youth with the life skills necessary to resist the lure of streetgangs, violence and drugs. As these youth develop a steady support system andknowledge base, they are referred to BUILDing Futures to further preparethemselves for academic and career success.
Daniel Perez, Marketing and PR manager
7. Chapin Hall, Chicago Youth Shooting Reviewproject (Harrison and South ChicagoPolice Districts)
The project, housed at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, is a based onthe Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission project, and is focused onpreventing shootings among young people in Chicago. The project comes from a public safety /public health perspective, with multi-agency shooting reviewsessions – referred to as “social autopsies” – asthe centerpiece of the project. The intended goals of project are: 1)developing and / or strengthening collaborations among parties who cancontribute to reductions in violence (schools, courts, police, public health,child and family services, etc.); 2) identifying systems changes that couldcontribute to reductions in violence; and 3) conducting research using anexpanded data set (currently not available to any one agency) in order toidentify where public or community-based resources could further contribute toviolence reduction.
Rachel Johnston, Director
8. Chicago Youth Boxing Club
Chicago Youth Boxing Club is a nonprofit youth development organization locatedin Little Village. We offer kids a safe and healthy alternative to gangviolence, while also offering work-readiness training and health/nutritioninformation. Our program serves youth ages 8 and older.
Karen May, President CarlosJavier Ortiz
9. Chicago Youth Programs
Currently we service kids in 3 of Chicago’s underserved communities, WashingtonPark, Uptown and Near North Cabrini Green. We host violence preventionworkshops led by students and staff support to advocate positivity and lifeskills to help the kids make better decisions when faced with peer pressure,gang involvement and conflict resolution.
Monique J Cook-Bey, Chief Program Officer
773-924-0220 ext 123
10. Child Health Data Lab
CHDL performs epidemiological research to identify risks to healthy youthdevelopment and program evaluation to strengthen youth-serving organizations. Wecollaborate with state and city agencies and youth-serving organizations todefine public policy solutions that support healthy development for childrenand youth in Chicago and Illinois, with a broader goal of improving child andadolescent well-being. At Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital ofChicago, we work closely with the Injury Prevention and Research Center and theOffice of Child Advocacy. CHDL houses the Illinois Violent Death ReportingSystem, which is based on the National Violent Death Reporting System overseenby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It brings together data from vital records,police reports, crime labs and medical examiner/coroner files to tell thefullest possible picture of the circumstances surrounding violent deaths. These data can then be used to develophomicide and suicide prevention policies and activities.
Suzanne McLone, Epidemiologist
11. Claretian Associates
Claretian Associates is an affordable housing developer that operates twosafety initiatives through the New Communities Program. The programs, CeaseFire and CPS, CommunityWatcher, Safe Passage programs are the results of community organizing afterseveral shooting in the South Chicago area.
Jacqueline Samuel, New Communities Program Director
773-734-9181 ext. 13
12. Juliana Stratton, Executive Director of theCook County Judicial Advisory Council
I help to advance County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s public safetyagenda. This includes co-chairing the City-County Violence Reduction& Community Stabilization effort and other efforts relating to criminal andjuvenile justice reform.
13. Cook County Sheriff’s Office
The Cook County Sheriff Youth Services Department provides a variety ofprevention programs to youth, parents, and youth serving professionalsthroughout Cook County. Our focus is violence prevention. The majority of ourprograms are delivered to students in classroom settings. We provide summer daycamp experiences for at-risk youth with an emphasis on violence prevention. Wehave other special projects that recognize youth for their involvement inservice.
Joanne Bieschke, Director, Youth Services Department
CROSSwalk (an initiative which came from All Saints’ Episcopal Church) was a4-mile Holy Week procession across the city that brought together over 50ecumenical and secular partners to remember murdered youth and connectparticipants with opportunities to take action. Building on the momentum ofCROSSwalk, we are working to organize faith communities across Chicagoland todevelop a sustained faith-based effort to end violence in our communities.
Jacqueline Clark, Coordinator
15. Elizabeth Dozier, Principal, Fenger HighSchool
Fenger High School has made radical progress since the Fall of 2009,including a reduction in drop-out rate from 19% to 4%, a 10+% increase instudent attendance, and over 70% decrease in misconducts. Through a series of efforts, includingrestorative justice, Fenger has transformed itself.
16. Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention
The Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention (ILAACP) is a statewide,membership-based charitable organization that strengthens prevention systems,policies, and programs in underserved communities through culturally-relevantresearch, training, and advocacy. ILAACP youth initiatives utilize a positiveyouth development framework to provide young people with the skills necessaryto address the issues in their lives with the support of parents, mentors, andother caring adults. Our current initiatives focus on preventing childhoodobesity and taking a youth-led approach to prevent bullying, teen datingviolence, and other related forms of violence.
Chris Sang, Youth Initiatives Director
312-850-4444 ext. 221
17. Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence
The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) is the oldest and largeststatewide organization in the U.S. working to prevent the devastation caused byfirearms. Founded in 1975 by four suburban Chicago women concerned about thetragic consequences of handgun proliferation and availability, ICHV works on avariety of fronts to educate, raise public awareness, and build coalitions toenact change in laws and behavior. For 37 years, ICHV has been a leader amongstate gun violence prevention groups.
Mark J. Walsh, Campaign Director
18. Kidz Express (South Austin)
Alex Kotlowitz’s recent movie “The Interrupters” showed the violence that comesfrom anger and conflict on the streets of Chicago and the impact of thecourageous individuals from Ceasefire. Unfortunately, Ceasefire is a lastresort solution to the violence plaguing Chicago. Kidz Express works as“Pre-Emptors”, working with all of our children everyday on conflict resolutionand anger management. We teach them about the consequences of their angerand actions and work to prevent behaviors that can lead to violence. Oneof our objectives is to change and prevent negative behaviors before our kidsneed the Interrupters in their lives.
Doug Low, Executive Director
19. Marie Crandall, Associate Professor ofSurgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
I am active in violence prevention in several ways, as a hospital partner ofCeaseFire, as a member of LIVID (Lowering the Incidence of Violent Injury andDeath in Chicago), and as a health services researcher in trauma.
20. Southwest Youth Collaborative
The Southwest Youth Collaborative provides settings and programs that directlyaddress violence prevention. Its mission is to inspire youth, families, andcommunity members from diverse economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds tobecome leaders in their communities. Through a self-transformation approach,youth are engaged in innovative programs and services that focus on positiveyouth development, grassroots organizing, advocacy and social changeinitiatives.
Ingrid Carrillo, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
773-476-3534 ext. 243
21. Tutor/Mentor Connection
Since 1993 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been maintaining a master databaseof non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago and hosting quarterlyevents that encourage networking, idea sharing and relationship building whilealso creating public awareness that aims to draw volunteers and donors directlyto each program. The web library at http://tinyurl.com/TMC-Library hasbeen built gradually since 1998 and contains information that can be used bynon-profits, media and resource providers to help make constantly improvingk-12 youth organizations available in high poverty areas of the Chicago region.
Daniel Bassill, President
UCAN is a social service organization which works with 12,000 children, youthand families in Illinois each year. Ourprimary clients are wards of the state child welfare system – these arechildren and youth who have been removed from their homes for reasons of abuseor neglect. We also work with thefamilies of these children. Our mission is to build strong youth and familiesthrough compassionate healing, education and empowerment. To this end, UCAN offers a full continuum ofservices including but not limited to a therapeutic youth home, a therapeuticday school, extensive community and violence prevention programs, support forpregnant or parenting teens, counseling, foster care placement, vocationaltraining, and internships for promising former wards of the state.
Norman Livingston Kerr, Vice President, CITY Project
23. University of Chicago
I have sponsored the Chicago Youth Leadership Academy (CYLA) program eachsummer on the campus of the University of Chicago, this will be the 4th year.The program provides a 3 week motivational college life experience, on-campus,for 30 at risk boys between the ages of 13 and 16, primarily from the Woodlawnand Englewood communities, For the first time, this years program willadd 15 girls. Last summer the program was honored by the Mayor and the CityCouncil at a Council hearing.
Rudy Nimocks, Director of Community Partnerships
24. Youth Service Project
Youth Service Project was started in 1975 by a concerned group of Humboldt Parkparents and community members as a response to violence. All of ourprograms—from Independent Living to Substance Abuse, Arts Program to our YouthLeadership Academy—are based on principals of non-violence and youthempowerment. Our anti-bullying programs, our ComprehensiveCommunity-Based Youth Services, and Safety NetWorks case management programsare working to reduce our youth’s exposure to violence and to provide a safe,creative, and nurturing place for the youth of the Greater Humboldt Parkcommunity area.
Katy Groves, Clinical Supervisor
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