Rev. Hood Brings Together People Working for Peace.

The Rev. Robin Hood looks on as former gang member Derek Brown talks about his efforts to bring peace to the North Lawndale community (Photo courtesy of Jeff Kelly Lowenstein.)

Violence has claimed the lives of far too many young people in Chicago.

Saturday morning, the Rev. Robin Hood of Clergy Committed to Community brought together about two dozen people at Pastor John Drummond’s New Grace Emmanuel Church in the South Chicago neighborhood to figure out how to stop it.

The crowd in the pews was mostly black women. Some had children with them, and many wore green t-shirts proclaiming their membership in Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere, or MOVE.  Four Latino mothers who belong to Mothers for Peace in the Back of the Yards neighborhood sat in a pew in the second row.

The late November morning was sunny and temperate, but the content the speakers discussed was not.

Derek Brown, formerly known as “Shotgun,” spoke after Rev. Hood gave introductory comments.  The formerly high-ranking member of the Vice Lords talked about the work he has done with the youth in his native North Lawndale community to reduce the violence that has been so rampant.

“It’s easy,” said Brown, who has a shaved head, full beard and thickly muscled arms covered with tattoos.  “Give them something to do and keep them focused.”

One of the somethings Brown has done is get a boxing club started.  This past week he helped organize a talent show that hundreds of kids attended.

Brown explained that funding thus far has come partly through grace and also through his and other young men’s visits to businesses in the community.

Lisa Rivera of Mothers for Peace talked about the importance of loving children unconditionally. Her shoulder length black hair flashing as she spoke, she explained that she has come to realize that judging and condemning her son’s behavior may have pushed him to the street corner, where gang members were waiting for him with open arms.

Rivera, whose 20-year-old son has been incarcerated for two years, visits him every week in prison.  Her group has held meetings with gang members in the community, and the word is spreading.

James Thindwa spoke last.

The Zimbabwean-born former head of Jobs for Justice acknowledged the importance of taking responsibility for children’s actions. But he also talked about the necessity of holding politicians accountable and recognizing the devastating impact job loss has had on black and Latino communities.

“Let’s have both conversations,” Thindwa said, his voice rising as he spoke about Mayor Daley’s 2006 veto of the living wage ordinance that passed the City Council and the $14 billion the United States spends monthly on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many questions remain.

An elder in a black three-piece suit asked Brown how others who have less street credibility can intervene with the young people in the community, and did not appear completely satisfied with the answer Brown gave to “show no fear.”

Several speakers passionately denounced violence in the community while at the same time appearing to condone hitting children as an acceptable form of discipline.

Some of the statistics speakers mentioned were of questionable accuracy.

But a start was made.

On a clean and quiet street in one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by violence, black and brown people came together to talk, to support each other, to forge alliances and to design solutions.

They spoke from their hearts.

They listened with respect.

And they gave each other strength to continue the fight.

2 responses to “Rev. Hood Brings Together People Working for Peace.

  1. A couple points. First, it is heartening to see local churches banding together to work to change their neighborhoods, particularly when those neighborhoods are awash in violence. These are the kinds of things that churches do well, and more should be actively involved in them.

    Whenever I read criticisms of Christianity and church action on the web, it is a program like this, and organizations like this, that I think about. Who is going to step in to the gap and offer alternatives for communities suffering from official neglect? Who is going to provide space for the voiceless to speak? Only churches do that. Far too often, secular advocacy groups enter from outside and tell local communities what they should do, rather than developing local leaders and advocates from within and providing opportunities for neighborhoods to change themselves.

    Second, while there is no doubt that the kinds of things Rev. Hood and others are doing can make a difference, decades of urban policies that officially neglect minority neighborhoods – withdrawing support services, including police and fire and sanitation; offering small business tax incentives to open providing local shopping opportunities and jobs; creating an infrastructure that supports the community rather than pushes it aside – need to be addressed as well. Mayor Daley’s father was infamous as a leader in encouraging white flight, and shunting minority communities to one side. When I lived in Washington, DC in the early 1990’s, we always laughed a little ruefully at the fact that one local thru-street actually had speed bumps while some communities (especially southeast of the Anacostia River) received virtually no city support at all. While it is true that in politics, money speaks far louder than anything, organizing local communities to advocate on their own behalf, as well as push candidates for city offices to encourage changes in policies, in services, in zoning are also necessary.

    This comment is way too long . . .

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Hey, Geoff,

      Thanks for what I am rapidly learning are your typically thoughtful comments. I agree with you both about the role that churches and other religious institutions often play in ministering to the needs of communities and that looking at policy is critical. James Thindwa spoke to this explicitly at the end of the panel, and I appreciated his making that point.

      Glad to hear that you had a lot of fun with your in-laws, and thanks again for weighing in on the post. I am going to post your comment as an update to it!

      Regards to your family from ours.

      Jeff

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