By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Speaking at the first of nine town hall meetings searching for viable solutions to the rise in violence, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin late Tuesday night labeled the rise in gun violence “pure genocide” and said a solution won’t happen soon “because we didn’t get here over night.”
Boykin made his remarks during the first of nine town hall meetings/listening tours held at the New Mt. Pilgrim Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd., located in the West Garfield Park community. The per capita income here is $10,951, and 40.3 percent of residents are living below the poverty line with an unemployment rate of 25.2 percent.
The forum was held in conjunction with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Chicago Urban League and Mothers Against Guns.
Thanking those who attended his first town hall meeting, Boykin said, “The pain is real…deep especially those affected by gun violence.”
One speaker said, “It will take men to break the chain of violence” that has the Black community almost locked in fear. Others spoke of the lack of jobs and the code of silence that allows shooters to maim and kill again.
They discussed the suspension of Black male youth and the lack of teachers who know how to handle them, and voter accountability. Some wanted ministers on the police force.
Boykin said at the end of the nine community meetings he would produce a report and present it to the community, the governor, the mayor and to the president of the Cook County Board, as well as to the Springfield legislators.
“Will we solve it overnight? No. We didn’t get here overnight, but what I see is genocide taking place in our community. This is pure genocide and we have to stop it…. It’s self-hate promulgated by a lot of poverty and a lot of conditions that create it. This is a combustible mix that we are living in here in West Garfield Park and in many of these endangered communities,” Boykin said.
Saying he is fully committed to reducing violence in Chicago, Boykin said, “Nothing is going to stop us. We are going to get to the bottom of this business—this violence in the city of Chicago.” He said Chicago has more homicides than Los Angeles and New York combined, and both cities are larger than Chicago. “That’s unacceptable,” said Boykin.
Boykin challenged the mayor and the president of the Cook County Board to put their “hands to the plow” and help stem the violence in Chicago. “If you can secure downtown, why can’t you secure” the West and South Sides of Chicago? he asked. “We got to protect our children and our senior citizens. That is what we’re doing, what we’re doing and shame on the aldermen” who did not attend the first town hall meeting
On the panel were: J. Michael Carr, Jr., founder and executive director, Fathers for the Future; Rev. Janette Wilson, national advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and national executive director of PUSH Excel; Ray Bentley, Chief Community Officer, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership; Rashad K. Saafir, president/-CEO, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center; Arthur Bishop, vice president for Workforce Development and Client Services with the Safer Foundation; and Cherita Logan, district director for Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th).
Bentley said there are plenty of jobs available and urged people to click on www.workforceboard.org for the various sites.
Rev. Wilson said PUSH would be recommending the convening of people, police and pastors of the community “so we can have a different kind of communication between the stakeholders of the community, as well as the business owners….”
Wilson said there is a lack of police and resident accountability “flowing both ways…and those who take resources out of our community—those people who provide goods and services that we buy and pay for. We are not getting an equal reinvestment in our community in terms of jobs and contracts,” she said.
Wilson said there is a need for job creation in both the public and private sectors. “Some of the private sector jobs can be created by the people who live in the community.”
She agreed with one of the speakers who said it was time to look at the public sector contracts for people with low skills or limited training like cleaning services. Wilson wants those contracts to be restricted to allow for community employment.
Rev. Wilson spoke about the decrease in Black teachers and said they should be restored. She also made a number of recommendations that included teaching African American history and inviting business people and elected officials to the next town hall meeting.
Wilson also recommended that the county have the funds and resources for mothers whose children are arrested and charged with crimes so that they get the best representation.
Mr. Carr, a father of three who fell ill with cancer, spent nine-months in a coma and could not provide for his family, said, “What’s happening on the streets is really about self-esteem. What happens when a person wants to be a provider and can’t provide? That is what is happening on the streets. I know because I’ve lived it.”
Like Boykin, Bentley said there is a direct correlation between poverty and crime, which must be addressed. He said the Austin community is 43 percent below the poverty line and that for the City of Chicago that’s 80 percent of people making less than $20,000. For Bentley, that means mostly 49 percent of the city are “liquid acid,” which he describes as those people living paycheck to paycheck. They are people “who lack the funds if something were to happen—they would be homeless.”
Bentley said, “The biggest way to reinvest is to invest in ourselves. You need to understand what financial literacy means, be able to stop going to Pay Day lenders…the difference between paying an interest rate of 450 percent to paying 8 percent? It’s a huge difference….”
Bentley, 45, also wants more accountability from the Chicago police. According to Bentley, he has suffered abuse from Chicago cops just because he was a Black man asking why was an officer detaining his friend. The next thing he knew his face was pressed against the car. “Black lives do matter,” said Bentley.
Dr. Saafir said, “The loss of a child is the number one stressor in the Black community….”
The next scheduled town hall (listening tour) meetings will be held on Tuesday, September 20th at the Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., and on September 27th at the Hope Church, 1354 W. 61st St. both at 6 p.m.