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For Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings, Chicago’s violence strikes close to home

Every day, guns are used to kill roughly 100 Americans and injure hundreds more. Chicago has been a particular locus of gun violence; this past weekend, 48 people were shot there -- eight fatally. Among the dead were two young mothers supporting a community organization that strives to stop violence. John Yang talks to Tamar Manasseh of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the aftermath of high-profile shootings in Gilroy, California, and Brooklyn, New York, it's worth noting that, every day, guns are used to kill roughly 100 Americans, injure hundreds more, and, across the country, gun violence affects the lives of millions.

    John Yang focuses on the deaths of two particular woman in Chicago last weekend.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, even in Chicago, which has been plagued by gun violence for years, last weekend stands out: 48 people shot, eight of them fatally.

    Among the dead were 26-year-old Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire, who was 35. Each of the women had four children. The youngest had just turned 1-year-old.

    They were on a busy street corner in Chicago's South Side where moms and kids have gathered for the last five summers, transforming a corner with a history of violence into a safe space.

    They're part of group is called MASK, Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings.

    It's the brainchild of Tamar Manasseh. We visited her in 2016 on the very corner where Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire were killed. And Tamar joins us now from Chicago.

    Tamar, it's so good to talk to you again. I just am sorry it is under these circumstances.

    Just start by telling us about Chantel and Andrea. I know you knew Chantel better than Andrea. But tell us about them.

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    OK, first off, MASK, we are moms who occupy a corner. We don't have a membership. It's not like that.

    If you show up on that corner, you show up to dinner, you bring your kids, they show up to play, paint faces, jump rope, play hopscotch, then, yes, we are there, all momming together.

    And so as far as them being members or not, because there has been a lot of discussion about that, is neither here nor there, because Chantel was someone who would bring her kids to the corner and mom and just — she would just play with them and hang out with them, because that is what we do on that corner. And

    she was a loving and patient mom. She was a good mom.

    And Andrea, she had older children, so we didn't see her in our space as much, but we saw her around the neighborhood every day. And she was fiercely protective of the young women in the neighborhood. And there was certainly a way that she thought the young women should have been treated, that women should be respected.

  • John Yang:

    Was Chantel's children with her that night?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    No, no. Chantel was killed after our work hours. And I don't remember her being out that day.

    But the thing is, I think that we are getting hung up on that. In certain neighborhoods, it has just become expected for people to be murdered if they are out of their house at a certain time. If you are out of your home after it gets dark, and you get murdered, then it is your fault. It is not the murderer.

    It is your fault, because you shouldn't have been there in the first place, because you made a bad choice coming out, because you need to make better choices, that you were around the wrong people, because people in poor neighborhoods can't be out at a certain time, because our murders become our fault.

    I mean, that is a major problem for us. And none of us are the better for it.

  • John Yang:

    The police have not arrested anyone yet. They were saying, the police say that they believed that these two women were not the target of the shooter, that a man who was wounded was the target.

    Do you go along with that?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    No, I don't. I don't.

    That sounds like, once again, victim-blaming, because you were around — women who are poor and live in a poor neighborhood were near a poor black man who lives in the same neighborhood. Then he was the target. That is why they got shot.

    No. Shooters shoot who they want to shoot. That is what they do. They shot two mothers on a site where mothers come every day to feel safe, every day to bring their kids to, to play, to actually have a summer, to have a childhood, in a place where it is very hard to do that. They killed mothers there.

    And so I don't want to hear anything about a man. I don't want to hear anybody deflecting or anything, any of this diversionary conversation, because that is not it.

    People often look the other way when women are murdered in poor neighborhoods, because they just pass it off as, oh, they were around gangbangers.

    No. No one should be dying there. Somebody has to take responsibility for this. That is why we started a reward fund, a GoFundMe to raise reward money three days ago. We were just trying to raise $5,000. We have raised $22,000 in three days, because people are tired of being tired. And women are tired of being blamed for how we are treated or mistreated.

    It is no more — a black woman who is murdered in the ghetto, it is no more her fault for being shot because she was poor than it is for a woman being raped because of what she was wearing.

  • John Yang:

    Since this shooting, you and the other mothers have been back out on that street corner. Has there been fear and apprehension, or has what happened given you greater determination?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    It has given us greater determination, I mean, but it is fear and apprehension for other people in the community, and I don't blame them.

    And reclaim anything. We are not reclaiming anything. We never ceded our ownership of that. We are not going to let some kids with guns and behavior problems ruin what we have done, make us scared. We are not going to do that. Why should we have to leave? Why should we have to be afraid?

    We didn't kill those women. We didn't kill them. We didn't kill those mothers. We didn't do that. So why should we have to be afraid? Why should the people who work hard every day, who live good lives, why should we be afraid to live in the world that we create?

    Why? Why?

  • John Yang:

    You are soldiering on. You are working forward. You are talking about investing in the community.

    You just — it is a bittersweet week, losing these two mothers on Friday night. And then, last night, you opened up a new pizza restaurant, Peace of Pizza — P-E-A-C-E.

  • Tamar Manasseh:


  • John Yang:

    This is going to help fund your operations.

    What is that money going to allow to you do? What are you going to be able to do with that money?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    Actually, we're building a school, a high school, out of shipping containers — actually, a community resource center out of shipping containers.

    And each one of those shipping containers will be retrofitted as a classroom and as a dining haul. And last year, Chicago Public Schools closed down all of the public high schools in an impoverished area. And so it created a vacuum.

    And so we had all of these kids who didn't go to school, not dropped out, but they never actually went to high school. So we wanted to find something for them to do all day. And if we are out during the summer, but the kids don't go back to school in September because they don't have a school to go to, that means we can't go back indoors either.

    So we had to think about, what could we do to fill that gap? So we decided to create this community resource center/school, where kids could come and get an education, where they would still have educational opportunities available to them.

  • John Yang:

    Tamar Manasseh, Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings in Chicago, trying to make Chicago safe one street corner at a time, thanks so much.

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    Thank you.

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