Asiaha Butler, who is the Co-Founder and President of a widely known neighborhood association, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) recently had two murders steps away from her home. The murders occurred in less than 48 hours on the 6600 block of Union. Although she is shaken up by these incidents she is still standing for peace in the community. “I have heard gun shots before, but never witnessed a person dying before my eyes. It was devastating to see,” Butler says.
For four years in a row, Butler’s association R.A.G.E. has successfully hosted peace in the park events, known as the “So Fresh Saturday” Tour, to reclaim these spaces in the community. On July 16, So Fresh Saturdays’ third stop will be at Hermitage Park (5839 South Wood) from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. and the association will continue to promote peace, community building, culture, arts, and activism.
The days are full of celebration and community connection. This resident-driven, family-oriented Englewood park festival is the only one of its kind in the neighborhood. The tours are meant to encourage residents to utilize the parks, and to reclaim these spaces in the name of peace.
On Saturday, June 25 after returning from So Fresh Saturday at Moran Park located at 57th & Racine, Butler entered what she describes as a crime scene on her block. Several individuals were shot and she later learned that one of the individuals died due to the gunshot wound. “After spending the whole day in the park standing for peace, I was very discouraged to learn about the shooting when I returned and wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep the tour going,” Butler states.
Less than 48 hours later on Monday evening, Butler and a friend were sitting on the porch and heard gunshots from a drive by shooting. This time she actually witnessed the two individuals fighting for their lives. “We were just sitting here and then shots rang out. Shortly after, the loud cries of the families set us into a panic,” says Cherice Price, R.A.G.E. member.
R.A.G.E. has made it their mission to take over Englewood parks in the spirit of peace and will continue the tour despite the recent violence in the neighborhood. “It’s a war happening in the streets right now and we will not discontinue our efforts to bring peace, this is what is needed in our community,” says Antoine Butler, Co-Founder of R.A.G.E.
So far, the 2016 tour has featured entertainment such as activist, Jaymal Green and the Green Street Band, Legends of Chicago Hip Hop, the P.O.E.T. Movement, Windy City Tumblers, along with many more. The tour has been extended until October 1, 2016 and will end at Lindblom Park this year. “It’s been a tough week but I am hopeful that my efforts are making an impact in Englewood. If we saved one life because they were enjoying our So Fresh Saturday event at the park, then I know my work is not in vain,” says Butler.
So Fresh Saturday is presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series, supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Arts programming in neighborhoods across the city advances the goals of the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Cultural Plan.
Now in its fourth year, the 2016 Night Out in the Parks series will host over 1,000 cultural events and programs at more than 250 neighborhood parks throughout the city, making community parks a safe haven and hubs of activity. Projects will vary from traditional performances and concerts, to movies, peace rallies, community workshops, nature based programs, dance pieces, festivals, and more. The Chicago Park District has partnered with more than 120 arts and community organizations to expand and produce this successful initiative.
Anyone interested in supporting the So Fresh Saturdays initiative by getting involved, providing event resources, or for more information contact R.A.G.E. at joinrage@-gmail.com, or visit us at ragenglewood.org.
The Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) is a resident-driven organization whose mission is to mobilize residents of the community, utilizing asset-based development and innovative organizing techniques.