2016 was a virtual bloodbath in Chicago. When you consider the city’s dismal homicide rate, it is unfathomable that 784 people were killed and that the city was never declared a state of emergency.
In fact, nearly 100 of those homicides came from the Austin community, the neighborhood where I have pastored for over 25 years. While Chicago may be America’s epicenter of violence, Austin is it’s ground zero.
The homicide problem in Chicago is very complex, and there certainly is not one silver bullet that can be used to magically turn around this unprecedented epidemic.
Many of us who live in these marginalized communities know the violence is intrinsically tied to poverty, poor education, segregation and hopelessness. The devastating social despair is the root cause of the heightened epidemic of violence that our city experienced in 2016 and now 2017.
Hiring more police, stopping the proliferation of guns and stiffer penalties for those illegally carrying guns will never drastically reduce violence in Chicago. That only addresses the symptoms of violence, with minimal impact.
What good is it to pour a cup of water in an ocean, when the the levee is broken?
Our community deserves substantive resolution and transformation. That’s not transformation that’s aggravation. I live and pastor in the most dangerous neighborhood in America, and it’s time that everyone knows that in Chicago the levy is broken, and the ocean is overflowing with the blood of our sons.
While we ask our city, county and state leaders to invest economically in creating jobs and in building the urban infrastructure of Chicago, I also call upon our 45th president, Mr. Donald J Trump, to come to Chicago and come directly to Austin.
Walk with me, other activists and some of the mothers victimized by gun violence in Austin, the ground zero of Chicago’s violence.
I did not vote for this president; in fact, with 60,000 votes from the 7th Congressional District, I was elected as a Hillary R. Clinton delegate. Nevertheless my candidate didn’t win, but in spite of our differences, we are one country.
So I unashamedly call on all the residents of these endangered communities of our city to demand President Trump’s help. Let’s not sugar coat it, these neighborhoods are dangerous. I beg to differ with those local politicians and bureaucrats who get offended when people compare Chicago to Afghanistan and other war zones.
Chicago is a world-class city, but many residents live in terror in what’s a virtual war zone. Public safety actually depends on which neighborhood you live in.
If you live in North Park, you’re safe. But in North Lawndale, you’re not. Lincoln Park is safe, but Garfield Park is dangerous. The residents of Edgewater live in comfort, while those in Englewood are in a crisis.
It would be reckless and irresponsible for community leaders to sit back and do nothing significantly different to address the social despair and expect to avoid an imminent blood bath in the remainder of 2017.
Doing all we can to address this crisis. mandates reaching out to leader of the free world for resources and support. Our request is simple: President Trump, our commander in chief and the leader of our nation, please come and help us in Chicago.
Rev. Ira Acree is senior pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church.