Brighton Park, A Community of Action
On Sunday, May 7th, our community experienced an unspeakable tragedy when masked gunmen used automatic rifles to mercilessly gun down 10 people who were gathered at a makeshift altar on the corner of W. 46th St. and S. Rockwell St. The altar was erected in memory of a 26-year-old community member, Daniel Cordova, who was murdered just hours earlier. This mass shooting comes only five months after assault rifles were used in multiple shootings nearly three blocks north that resulted in eight victims. As a community, we grieve for the victims and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their friends and family.
These shocking events have garnered significant attention; once again they bring the issue of gang violence to the forefront of minds in Chicago and around the country. Unfortunately, when we as a city face gang violence, it is far too easy to dehumanize its victims, and demand quick solutions that are ineffective at best and destructive at worst. We forget that the victims are children and parents with a family that loves and needs them. We ignore that the perpetrators of this violence are also beloved mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. If we refuse to acknowledge them as being part of our community, we cannot begin to understand the factors that lead them to these unspeakable actions.
Too often, those who seek to diagnose the problem of gang violence and have the influence or power to address it have never set foot in Brighton Park. Outsiders and commentators look at our community and see hapless victims. But they are not on our streets every morning with our Safe Passage workers, moms and dads who keep watch over our children during entry and dismissal. They are not on the street corners with our volunteer parent patrollers who organize daily walking school buses. Nor are they with our parent volunteers, who just a few weeks ago cleaned the litter off the streets outside our schools that Aramark has neglected.
This disconnect has created a lack of empathy that allows our society to ignore the root causes of these problems. This detachment enables our elected officials to heartlessly gut our schools, eliminate violence prevention programs without regard for the consequences, and excuse their decisions as “tough choices".
These shootings have left our community shaken. Shaken but not deterred. We know that the 300% rise in shootings in Brighton Park in the past three years is the result of systematic disinvestment in our schools and the near total elimination of state funded violence prevention programs. It is also the kind of repeated violence that occurs when a community loses faith in the police’s ability and will to serve justice.
Brighton Park is a community of action, an organized community, and one that is working towards real solutions. Since the shootings on Sunday, we have had over seven community meetings with stakeholders to develop a strategy for peace in our communities. Those solutions include a demand for resources from the city and state to fully fund our schools, increase jobs for our young people, and dramatically increase programs and services for those impacted by violence. Now is the time for our elected officials to finally listen to the community and follow our lead in working towards a more peaceful Chicago.