By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Father Michael L. Pfleger Sunday thanked Yo-Yo Ma, the world-renowned cellist who sponsored a peace concert at Saint Sabina, raising a reported $70,000 for the church’s anti-violence and Strong Futures employment programs for at-risk youth.
Yo-Yo Ma, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and Walt Whitman’s Soul Children of Chicago performed to a standing-room-only crowd. The children’s choir received a standing ovation when they sang South African songs while performing the traditional African dance all in the name of peace.
However, the city of Chicago was far from being peaceful for there were more than 35 shootings and 8 fatalities all across the city. Yo-Yo Ma said music sends a special message in a very calming way.
At Saint Sabina, that message resonated well, but outside its doors gun violence continued to snatch the lives of youth like the two teens shot at the 31st Street beach.
More than 1500 people packed Saint Sabina, 1210 W. 78th Place, including Cardinal Blase Cupich and Minister Louis Farrakhan, to hear the legendary Yo-Yo Ma who wanted to host a concert in the name of peace.
But Yo-Yo Ma also wanted to bring diversity to Saint Sabina –a church Pfleger said was slated for closure when he took over 36-years ago.
Most whites had fled the church and the Auburn Gresham community and today Pfleger said it is the largest Black Catholic church in the nation, but he marveled at the diverse audience that came to the concert—people “from every race, religion and creed he said from 156 different zip codes.” The concert, Pfleger said, didn’t come downtown but rather on the South Side of Chicago.
Pfleger said Yo-Yo Ma had visited the church a while back and was impressed with the youth programs. Pfleger said of the 50 troubled youth he chose to mentor—many labeled “throw-a-ways,” 28 have full-time jobs and 26 in part-time jobs. Pfleger said this is what can be done when we love and respect our youth.
“How many in this church know of someone they know were killed in this city”? he asked. Pfleger talked about the gun violence including the death of his son, Jarvis Franklin who was killed in a gang crossfire on May 30, 1998. The shooter has never been caught.
Pfleger talked about the many funerals of children like that of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, who was assassinated that were held at Saint Sabina. “We will not forget our children when they are slain on the streets of Chicago…,” he said receiving a standing ovation.
Father Pfleger ended the more than hour long concert by giving Yo-Yo Ma a gift of a violin carved in wood and a peace carving to wear much like what he wears each Sunday. In turn, Yo-Yo Ma presented Pfleger with a sculpture of a praise dancer. Both were made by Chicago artist Debra Hand. The peace gift was made by Jerzy Kenar.
His voicing cracking, Father Pfleger said, “Our children deserve to live….” Father Pfleger invited everyone to join him 6 p.m., Friday, June 16, 2017, at the church for the end-of-the-year peace march held outside of Saint Sabina.