By Patrick Forrest
Youth activists are taking credit for forcing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to remove two statues honoring Christopher Columbus. The move came after several weeks of peaceful protests and widely publicized clashes between police and protesters at the statue in Grant Park.
The high number of protests against police and general violence on the South and West sides of the city are pieces that activists hope will change the conversation in the city.
The Original Men In Black (OMIB) community group took to the streets of South Shore in an effort to create a culture of peace among its residents, and GoodKids MadCity marched through Woodlawn and Washington Park.
“Far too many innocent children and babies are being murdered in Chicago,” Pastor Victoria C. Brady, President/CEO of Annie B. Jones Community Services, Inc., who assisted OMIB in the march effort, said. “Bullets do not belong in the bodies of people and most certainly not babies. These senseless deaths are utterly shameful, and something must be done now.”
For its part, the (OMIB) is working together to expand Annie B. Jones Community Services’ Public Safety and Peace-building initiatives by launching the OMIB Hospitality Street Patrol.
“We are not police officers. We are men standing up to return our community to one of strength and productivity,” Minister Rahim Aton, Founder of the Temple of Mercy Association, said. “We will patrol part of South Shore as a hospitable service to the community. We will help create safe zones through this endeavor.”
In a separate endeavor, GoodKids MadCity took to the streets of Woodlawn gathering in a march up Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in conjunction with Love Train. The pair came together demanding the city cut 2 percent of the Chicago Police budget and allow greater support for violence interrupters who keep the community safe with direct action to stop gang actions.
“We will incentivize street factions and gangs to go through a restorative justice process, so they can be accountable and heal from their trauma,” 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd said. “They will also come to terms, and agree to peace treaties, and end the cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of women and children.”
The group focuses its time forming restorative justice and healing spaces for those impacted by the trauma that gun violence causes and did not stop in calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to join and support those efforts. “We’re the people of the community. I don’t see you [Mayor Lightfoot] out here organizing people,” Boyd said. “We are the ones in our community that have to deal with the trauma.”
With their continued calls for those in positions of power to join, some recently have been joined by State Senator Robert Peters and Ald. Jeanette Taylor. “This is a shining example of [how to talk about gun violence prevention],” Peters said. “Not only are they talking about violence prevention, but they’re talking about it at a root-cause level.”
At a separate GoodKids MadCity peace march in the Austin neighborhood, youth activists pushed for more peaceful interaction both with each other and police.
“We can’t approach things with violence — police,” Boyd said Saturday. “We come to protests and we show up with banners and songs and dances and prayers, and police show up with batons and tear gas and mace. That ain’t right.”
The group continues its movement attempting to force the city to strip funding from the police department and reallocate it into community organizations.
“Give it to the grassroots organizers, give it to community members who are actually out here every single day doing this on the ground,” 19-year-old activist Jalen Kobayashi said.
Following the march in Austin, members of the group Love Train passed out food, baby formula and diapers to those in need in Garfield Park. Love Train is run by Nita Tennyson, who has lost many friends to gun violence.