By Allison Schatz
A crowd of close to 100 community activists and residents marched down Ashland near 67th Street, while cars honked in support, during GoodKids MadCity’s “Love March.”
Held on October 17, organizers say the march was meant to share a message of hope and to push back against the narrative that so often frames Englewood as a community of violence.
“Today’s march is about spreading peace and love throughout this community, so that we can do a better job keeping our streets safe without police,” GKMC youth member Miracle Boyd said. “Hundreds of children have died this year due to stray bullets.”
More than 3,400 people have been shot in Chicago this year alone, according to the Chicago Police Department. That’s nearly 40% more shootings than last year, with almost 65 days left in the year.
September 2020 was the deadliest on record since 1993.
“This has been an unprecedented year in policing, as coronavirus, civil unrest and violence have all converged in Chicago and in cities throughout the country,” Police Superintendent David Brown shared in a recent statement.
But despite the trauma, residents of communities such as Englewood say they are tired of being the sole focus of stories about violence, not change. During the march, they expressed they are tired of feeling forgotten by politicians who promise change but never seem to deliver. Among the issues that are of concern, lack of access to mental health services, fresh food, safe schools, affordable housing and medical care, and job access.
As a proposed solution, GKMC created the “Peace Book Ordinance,” a directive to reallocate 2% of Chicago Police Department funding to support community sponsored programming aimed at reducing gun violence through a comprehensive model that includes restorative justice solutions, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, fair housing and fresh food access.
Nita Tennyson is among those tired of both the shootings and the public narrative around gun violence being the defining feature of communities like Englewood.
“I have lost 34 friends and family members to gun violence in Chicago, in just four years,” she said. “And I am here because I want to show that just because I’m hurt doesn’t mean that I can’t show love, and love is gonna change Chicago and is gonna make Chicago better.”
In response to the loss she has experienced and the devastation she sees within her community, Tennyson turned her pain into action and founded Nita’s Love Train, an organization that donates food, clothing and supplies to those most in need.
“For far too long, Englewood has been a community plagued by violence, plagued by a lack of resources, and left suffering from systematic oppression and racism placed on this community,” GKMC cofounder Carlile Pitman said. “And so, we are here marching, peacefully, with love and unity, for the resources that we need in our community.”
As the march moved east towards Ogden Park, protesters circled up and blocked an intersection. One GKMC member moved to the center and addressed the crowd through a bullhorn.
“If you’ve lost somebody to gun violence, raise your hand,” she said. “If you love somebody who’s lost somebody to gun violence, raise your hand. Now if you know somebody who knows somebody who’s lost someone to gun violence raise your hand, she continued.
Almost all of the hands were up. She said, “That’s too many hands, y’all.”
Allison Schatz is an investigative reporter who covers mental health and social justice at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @ AllisonSchatz8