By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Glancing over the hundreds of people walking down the Magnificent Mile carrying wooden crosses bearing the names of 2016 Chicago homicide victims, Father Michael L. Pfleger last Saturday bellowed, “These are not statistics. These are not numbers. These are human beings.”
And he wanted people on that side of town-Chicago’s downtown, wealthy Gold Coast-to understand that Chicago’s current gun violence is neither a South Side nor a West Side problem. “It’s a Chicago problem,” Pfleger yelled through his bullhorn.
Demonstrators on Saturday carried crosses made by Greg Zanis, 65, of Aurora. Zanis had previously made a wooden cross for Pfleger in April, 1998, when his son, Jarvis Franklin, was killed. Recently Pfleger asked Zanis to make similar crosses for all of the 2016 gun victims and he agreed.
As the march progressed, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., joined Pfleger at the Tribune Tower, 435 North Michigan. Jackson also held a memorial wooden cross, and ticked off the latest homicide numbers. The latest figure is 788 Chicago homicides in 2016.
Rev. Jackson said the number of homicides keeps rising. He called for a White House conference on violence and a plan for reconstruction. “Guns coming in, drugs in, jobs out. This is an international market for a drug war. No one seems to care enough to fight back….”
Jackson said last Saturday was also the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862. “Two hundred-forty-three years of slavery on this day we were watching and praying all day and all night” in anticipation of President Lincoln’s promise to sign the Emancipation Proclamation the next day.” The next day of course was New Year’s Day. Jackson said the cycle of violence has not been broken.
Following Jackson’s comments, the silent march continued North on Michigan Avenue. Periodically, a voice reading the names of the homicide victims could be heard. Many of those holding the wooden crosses, and some held two, also clutched pictures of their loved ones.
Father Pfleger told the crowd, “Rev. Jackson made a very important comment to me. He said these crosses are heavy but not as heavy as a casket.” Pfleger added, “There is an even heavier weight in the hearts of these family members who have lost their loved ones….”
Stopping at Michigan and Chicago Avenues, Rev. Jackson, thanked Father Pfleger for organizing the march, and offered prayer saying, “the people here, Black and white, find some common ground beyond race and gender and religion. They wanted to do something just because it’s right….”
Referring to “Freedom’s Eve day,” which is New Year’s Eve, Rev. Jackson spoke of the horrors of the slave trade and how Blacks were considered to be three-fifths of a human being, the Civil War, and 5,000 lynchings between 1880-1940 “without one indictment, and then the walls separating our children in schools. Now, radical disregard of violence in our cities. It’s all linked together,” said Jackson.
Referring to the more than 4,000 people shot in 2016, Jackson said, “We need help in stopping the violence. We pray as the political order changes that we will have someone to have the courage to break the silence of this atrocity….“We don’t need law and order,” Jackson said. “We need, justice, education and jobs. We need the same thing on all sides of town….”
At Michigan and Chicago avenues, the marchers turned and proceeded south down Michigan Avenue.
Pam Bosley, mother of slain 18-year-old Terrell Bosley, was at the march in support of other parents who had lost their children to gun violence in 2016. Bosley’s son was shot on April 4, 2006 while he loaded his band equipment in his car by his South Side church.
Bosley called the march “powerful” but quickly described it also as “heartbreaking.” She added, “I pray that this demonstration moves Chicago people from being desensitized, into action.”
Father Pfleger thanked the crowd for attending the march, saying had they not come he would have come by himself. In looking at his supporters, Pfleger said they are “Black, white and brown. It’s a rainbow…. This is what is going to solve this…every single one of us.”
Asking the crowd to respond, “I’m in,” to his questions, Pfleger asked if they would work every day for peace in this city? Would they fight in their homes, blocks and neighborhoods? Would you pressure legislators, governors, aldermen and preachers to do what they’re supposed to do? Will you work every day? Will you pray every day? Will you fight every day? Are we in?,” bellowed Pfleger.
Rev. Jackson gave his famous “I Am Somebody” chant. “I am somebody. Red and yellow, brown, Black and white. We’re all precious in God’s sight. Everybody is somebody. Stop the violence. Save the children…. We choose life. We choose hope. We choose healing. Life, hope, healing….”