By Ashley Banks
Violence has plagued Chicago for years. Chicago residents and visitors are fed up with children and adults being shot and killed. Enough is enough. Joseph Williams, Chicago resident, community activist, and creator of a non-for-profit organization called Mr. Dad’s Fathers Club, stepped up in the community on Saturday, July 4. Within a short period of time, Williams created Taste on 63rd Street, and the event was a success.
Williams, along with other Chicago organizations, collaborated to give Englewood residents a day to unite, eat, shop and enjoy music. PPE materials were also provided to keep attendees safe. Williams told the Crusader that the motivation was to bring families, the community and men together. Mr. Dad’s Fathers Club’s goal is to bring about a male presence in each community.
“There’s a lot of good brothers out here serving our community. The reason we chose the corner of 6300 S. Ashland Avenue is because everyone can’t afford to travel downtown to the Taste of Chicago. We bring it to Englewood, and we give them that taste,” said Joseph Williams.” When asked about the violence Jasmine Williams, wife of Joseph Williams, commented, “I think it’s sad. We have five children we’re raising in these neighborhoods. It’s sad.”
Joseph Williams ended the interview by speaking about plans to help decrease the violence “My plan is to help men get back involved. It starts at home. The youth are missing a male presence in their households.”
Chicago area police 7th district showed their support for the event. More than 20 officers were present, and Commander Larry Smith gave his opinions about what factors create violence. “Social problems, economics, lack of access to resources. The youth must aspire to something. If resources can be brought to the communities, I think that would reduce violence. The police can only be successful if the community works with the police. It has to be a team effort.”
Chicago police also held a press conference during the event, led by Superintendent David Brown. Supt. Brown, former chief of the Dallas Police Department, was appointed to his position in April by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “We’re here to support, help feed the community, and provide PPE materials to help the community stay safe during COVID-19.” Supt. Brown further said: “Chicago police have confiscated 17 guns. Officers have provided foot patrol. They’ve targeted mid-level and upper-level criminal gang and drug networks. We’re partnering with the community, but we cannot do it alone.”
He talked a bit about witness protection and its availability to everyone who needs it. The program, in Illinois, is handled by the U.S. Marshals in conjunction with area police departments. The police are asking that any witnesses come forward and help catch those who have committed the recent murders and senseless acts. And sadly, it has been reported that one of the victims who lost his life in Englewood over the July 4 weekend was the son of a Chicago police sergeant.
The Taste on 63rd Street is just one of many events that have taken place after the reopening of Chicago. Organizations have been working together with residents in the communities to combat violence. Black business owners are stepping up as well. Lula B’s Pizzeria located at 1158 W. 63rd St. has donated food to different events, including a “Stop the Violence” march and Juneteenth Jubilee.
Jimmie Bobo is the owner of the pizzeria and a longtime Englewood resident. In an interview with the Crusader, he said: “Violence is at an all-time high. It’s a shame and saddens me to see. I’m willing to give jobs to people in need, because I want to get these kids off drugs. I’m willing to open my basement for activities to help the youth. I’m one man, and I encourage others to help. I can’t do it by myself.”
Residents of Chicago refuse to give up. They are fighting back with community patrols and working with each other to change the narrative. Shawn Murphy, a resident and supporter of the movement, says, “Black people need to unite. While my block isn’t bad, we need to come together. More education is needed, and [we should] invest in the youth while they are young.”