Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and local leaders gathered West Side men for a community meeting to encourage stronger male participation in the area.
“When Men Stand Up” addressed issues that face West Side communities such as the challenges of unemployment and low volunteerism in schools and non-profits.
“It’s on me as a representative of the community to provide resources for the problems we’re facing today,” said Ervin.
The April 6 panel-styled meeting was moderated by Kendall Moore of WVON 1690 AM.
Various West Side community leaders and elected officials served as panelists, including Rep. Danny Davis (D-7) and First Deputy Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Al Wysinger, among others.
“There are men in this room who have been in prison, on probation, on parole,” said Moore. “There are men in this room who want to do better in their community. Now is the time.”
Panelists addressed the lack of participation from men, stating more male involvement is needed in order to serve as better role models and representatives for the community .
Moore explained that when attending an event, organization or church, many women would be present but getting men to attend is like “pulling teeth.”
Panelist Reginald Berry Sr., founder of Saving Our Sons Ministries, particularly addressed concern over the employment of ex-felons among the community, citing himself as an instance.
“I’m an example of redemption,” said Berry. “I am an example of what can happen when given a second chance.”
Berry explained that in order for ex-convicts to receive a second chance for employment, they must become politically acclimated. Davis, who has pushed legislation regarding jobs for ex-offenders, including the Second Chance Bill, echoed the sentiment.
Al Wysinger agreed.
“You have to vote, even as an ex-felon,” he said. “That’s how we change things.”
Toward the end of the meeting, the panelists addressed the necessary next steps that need to be taken in the coming months. Many cite communication and participation as keys to making change.
Both Wysinger and Shawn Jackson, principal of Spencer Technology Academy, said engaging in dialogue is a crucial step toward creating change. Jackson encouraged audience members to simply ask young men about their day.
“We’re not looking for your money, we’re looking for you to be a role model,” said Jackson. “Stop waiting for a magic solution and pick yourselves up by the bootstrap.”
Ervin ended the meeting by stating that this was one of many events to come in the future. He explained that conducting one meeting was not going to solve everything, and more meetings will be organized in an ongoing effort to create change. He also said there are plans to create subcommittees based on the concerns addressed during the event.
“This is the beginning, not the end, of what we’re doing in our community,” said Ervin. “Let’s stay active. Let’s stay together. And men, let’s stand up.”