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How Chicago communities are trying to stop gun violence

Sixty-six people were shot over the weekend in Chicago, and behind those numbers are stories of the victims and their families. Nick Schifrin talks with Lance Williams of Northeastern Illinois University and Tamar Manasseh of Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Chicago, starting at 6:00 p.m. on Friday until Sunday night, 66 people were shot. Twelve died. Over one three-hour window, one person was shot, on average, every six minutes.

    Violence in Chicago is not new, but behind those numbers are stories of the victims and their families.

    An aunt kisses the photo of he niece, 17-year-old Jahnae Patterson, killed by a gunshot on Sunday. A bicycle that 17-year-old Kenny Ivory was riding when he was shot in the abdomen. And the scene on Sunday outside Stroger Hospital. The youngest victim this weekend was 11, the oldest victim 62.

    For more on all this, we turn to two Chicago residents, Tamar Manasseh, a community activist and founder of Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings, and Lance Williams, associate professor of urban affairs, Northeastern Illinois University.

    Thanks very much to you both.

    Lance Williams, let me start with you.

    A lot of this violence was centered around the West Side of Chicago, the South Side of Chicago. Why are we seeing this violence today focused in those neighborhoods?

  • Lance Williams:

    Well, you're seeing the violence on the West Side and the South Sides of Chicago because, about 20 years ago, in the early 2000s, the city of Chicago implemented some very, very bad public policy.

    The most damaging of those policies was the policy of Renaissance 2010, when Chicago basically privatized, through charter schools, neighborhood public elementary and high schools. It became a serious problem, because many of the high schools and communities that had long traditions of street organizations caused young African-American males to be afraid to leave out of their communities, going to new schools throughout the city of Chicago.

    So, basically, from the early 2000s, too many young African-American males haven't been going to school, meaning that they don't have life prospects. They can't get jobs. They're self-medicated to deal with the stress in their community. And it's driving a lot of the violence.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Tamar Manasseh, I want to show what you do. I want to show a photo of you working.

    Every day, you sit on the corner of 75th Street and South Stewart Avenue cooking dinner for neighborhood kids. What are you trying to do?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    I'm trying to keep them alive. That's what I'm trying to do.

    And for the past four years, I have been successful with hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken and hugs and love, and consistency. That's what I have been doing.

    Nobody gets shot there. And it's not just about the kids. It's about the wellness of the entire community. So we not only feed children there. We feed adults as well. So we're feeding upwards of 150 people every night.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lance Williams, food, providing something kind of community feeling, is that some of the solutions?

  • Lance Williams:

    Oh, absolutely.

    And I think, you know, what Tamar doing is an incredible job. It would be great if she was given more resources to expand and ramp up the kind of environment — see, this is the stress that is going on in the community that she's addressing directly. She is creating an environment where it's — you know, the food and the love and the hugs and the kisses and the mothers out on the block actually reduce the stress for the young men in the community, which makes them less inclined to engage in violence.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Tamar Manasseh, I want to ask about what the police chief and the mayor said this weekend. They mentioned that gangs were behind a lot of this violence.

    And they also said — the police chief said that they need the community's help to catch the perpetrators. Does that sound like the right solution?

  • Tamar Manasseh:

    Not at all. Not to me, it doesn't.

    April 10, Eddie Johnson gave a press conference where he touted technology as what had helped bring down the numbers of violent crime in Chicago. It was the shooting spotter, and it was all of this new technology that they employed, and that's what did it.

    I'm not just — you know, I'm not the only organization that's out in the neighborhood. (INAUDIBLE) make a difference on the ground every day. It's not just me. There are 100 other organizations just like me who are out here every day in their own way making a contribution to making communities better.

    He not once mentioned them. He said it was the technology and it was extra policing and it was actual over-policing that made the difference. But now you need the community's help when you have so many of the resources that could be given to the community.

    Englewood will not have any public schools in the fall. And these kids that Professor Williams spoke of, they will have no options of a public high school in Englewood. But yet the police have all the resources. But you're looking to the community to help you, when you just said that the community wasn't a part of that, when it was technology that did it.

    And it's kind of like, the day after he made that statement, CPD got another $10 million donation, when, I mean, organizations like mine are struggling every day that have been shown to actually have results just to make sure people get fed, just to make sure that we can actually — actually provide a safe place every day for the community to come and be a community, for neighbors to come and intermingle with neighbors and people to come and meet people and to become a community again.

    We have to actually, you know, beg and borrow to make that happen, when the police department, they have all of these resources. It's clearly not going to public schools. For every school you close, for every teacher that loses a job, that's one more of these thugs or gangbangers that are created.

    So, no, you can't lay this at the feet of the community right now. You have to lay this at the feet of the city and the CPD. When you remove resources, what do you expect? This is what you will get. CPD needs to tell us what happened. They need to tell us why this happened. They owe us answers.

    This isn't for the community to take care of. It's for the city to tell us why this is happening.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Tamar Manasseh, Lance Williams, thank you very much to you both.

  • Lance Williams:

    Thank you.

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