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Black clergy to offer jobs, mentoring to idle teens

Photo caption: AFTER MARCHING FROM Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive on Saturday, April 22, ministers from all participating churches have agreed to offer mentoring and/or jobs to young people. Idle teens recently created havoc in the Loop, some dancing atop cars and two being shot. (Photos by Myron Hicks) 

Answering a clarion call to action, Black ministers gathered in the hundreds on April 22, marching through the Loop, revisiting the chaotic scene created by teenagers just a week before. All of the participating churches will offer mentoring for the troubled and idle teens.

Braving the cold, the clergy marched from Roosevelt and Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive, some ministers carrying signs that read, “You matter to God. You matter to us too,” and “Hope has a name.”

Each of the sponsoring churches and several of the represented community organizations, either through direct programming or parishioners, will offer jobs to young people, according to Pastor Charlie Dates, who heads both Progressive and Salem Baptist churches.

Salem Baptist Church of Chicago has unveiled plans for its Black Boy Literacy program, which aims to help 1,000 boys between first and third grade in the Chicagoland area reach the third-grade reading level by Christmas of 2023.

“We believe that literacy is essential for personal growth and spiritual development, and we’re excited to launch this campaign to support the education and development of young boys in our community,” said Dates.

After the unruly teens gained nationwide headlines, jumping on and twerking atop cars, fighting, including attacking an interracial couple, and with two young people getting shot, it was Pastor Dates who went to Dr. Horace E. Smith, pastor of the Apostolic Baptist Church Chicago and asked what should they do to change the negative narrative about the teens’ misplaced behavior.

They called on Dr. Frank Thomas, professor of Homiletics at the Christian Theological Seminary, asking what can be done to change the narrative about the teens.

After all, Pastor Dates said, “These are our children.” That is when he and the clergy agreed to march Saturday, April 22, from Roosevelt Road to Wacker Drive, asking the city for jobs and resources for the children as an alternative to stem their negative behavior.

The men were asked to wear red symbolizing the “blood shed by Christ,” said Dr. Smith.

Pastor Dates took the video from the chaotic scenes in the Loop and showed it to members in both of his churches. “You should have heard the gasps,” he told reporters. “We’re holding ourselves accountable. These kids essentially belong to us,” said Dates.

“We are asking for jobs and resources,” said Dates, believing in the old saying, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.” He and other ministers say while they don’t condone the behavior of teens last Saturday, fighting and breaking the law, they believe giving them jobs will be a better alternative and will deter acts of violence as seen last Saturday, April 15.

Asked how he felt about the teenage gathering last Saturday in the Loop, Representative Danny Davis, who attended the march, said, “Violence, disruption and lawlessness are not the most effective approach to getting things done, and it is not the most appropriate approach.” Davis said this march is a positive step to gain the attention of city leaders.

In making the Walk of Faith, Dr. Smith said the message is, “We love you, and we want to be your true fathers and caretakers of your soul, and we will provide resources ongoing to make sure you have other options than the ones we saw….”

Dr. Thomas, who also sent out the call for the Walk of Faith, said, “We need to take a stand. We ought not let the folks put this narrative out. We believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, but we believe we can correct this in a positive manner. Every church in Chicago should be in this Walk of Faith.”

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