Though Pastor Ira Acree from the Greater St. John Bible Church understands his community is faced with high unemployment, school closures, fragile families and excessive gun violence, he and his supporters Wednesday night rejected the label of Austin being the deadliest Chicago neighborhood.
They were upset over a Chicago Tribune Redeye report labeling Austin as leading in the city homicides as of Aug, 1st with 24 murders.
“That is unacceptable, and actions need to be taken to help our community,” said Pastor Robbie Wilkerson from The New Birth Church.
They also rejected a report from the Chicago Magazine claiming Austin is Chicago’s deadliest neighborhood.
Saying the residents of Austin are hurting given the myriad of social barriers they encounter every day, Acree, who is the co-chairman of the Leaders Network and the host of the new CAN-TV show “All Hands On Deck,” was joined by about 100 members and community residents, who took to the streets praying for peace to prevail.
“Our goal for the Wednesday night prayer vigil in August was merely to offer prayers on behalf of the community, but tonight it was far more than that. We touched and talked with many residents. It was the first time I ever witnessed such a warm welcome from every one that we encountered. It was as if our presence was giving an array of hope,” Acree said.
Chanting “put down your guns,” the coalition offered four prayers: one in front of Acree’s church at 1256 N. Waller St., and the other three were in designated hot spots – either high=drug traffic areas or places where someone had been murdered.
“It has been my contention that most of the violence in the area and throughout the city has its origin in economic deprivation and desperation,” Acree said. “We all know it’s not right, but some people unfortunately allow their desperation to cause them to resort to desperate measures. As foolish and as irrational as that may be, it’s the truth.
“So our fight is on a few fronts,” said Acree as he quoted Rev. Jesse Jackson: “We never lost a battle we fought and never won a battle unless we fought.”
“We are constantly advocating for our fair share of resources for a community that is reeling from economic deprivation,” Acree said.
“However, we also are simultaneously challenging the struggling residents of the community not to resort to violence as a remedy to solving an economic problem. Let’s not turn on each other, lets turn to each other but above all, we turn to our faith.”
“We have already lost many of our best and brightest,” he said. “The madness must stop, we’ve lost young Shamiya Adams, 11, one week and Samuel Walker Jr., 13, the next week. May their innocent blood challenge us all to take back our community.”
“But let’s be clear. While we need dollars, we also need divine intervention,” Pastor Acree said as he quoted one songwriter: “When every thing else fails, I can go the rock.”