Enlace Chicago – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Organizing against violence http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/organizing-against-violence/ Sat, 21 Sep 2013 23:00:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7705 As Chicago reeled under a new spate of street violence, community organizers including scores of teens working to prevent violence met Saturday in Little Village — and participants said the problem will require a far more comprehensive approach than just locking up “bad guys.”

“The ‘harsh on crime’ approach simply hasn’t worked,”  said Luis Carrizales, coordinator of the Violence Prevention Collaborative, a collective of community organizations run out of Enlace Chicago.

“We’ve had that attitude for 15 years, and we’ve created a prison population larger than ever in history.  And we have more young people who are disconnected, either not in school or out of work, and we’re surprised that they turn to violence.”

The collaborative works on the principle that the problem of violence is complex and there is no single approach to dealing with it, Carrizales said.  For example, a panel at Saturday’s gathering addressed the links between street violence and domestic violence — young people who have witnessed or been direct victims of abuse and haven’t gotten treatment.

Peace circles

The event marked the UN’s Day of Peace and focused on nonviolence education.  Peace circle training was offered for teachers and school counselors, part of an effort to promote restorative justice in Chicago schools, Carrizales said.

It’s one of several key proactive strategies to reduce violence that political leaders and school officials should take more seriously, he said.

The “school-to-prison pipeline” — with school disciplinary policies that criminalize misbehavior that would have been dealt with within school in earlier days — has certainly contributed to the culture of violence, he said.

“You’re convicting and labelling people as violent and unredeemable at age 14, 15, 16, and saying lock them up and get rid of them,” he said.  “The problem is they’re going to be coming back to our neighborhoods, and they’ll come back bitter and more angry and with even less options.”

“Teachers know that just kicking a kid out of class and suspending him doesn’t work, and they’ll just end up on the street,” he said.  “But the people working in schools don’t have any options, and unfortunately CPS isn’t providing them with options.”

For years community organizations working with youth have been pushing CPS to institute restorative justice on a district-wide basis.  (More here.)

Politicians

“The politicians are contributing to the problem,” keynote speaker Luis Rodriguez told Newstips.  “All they want to do is repress and supress, they want to bring in more police, and the fact of the matter is the violence has gotten worse with more prisons.  It doesn’t work.”

Rodriguez, a one-time gang member and now acclaimed author, poet and activist, worked with gang-involved and non-gang youth in Chicago from 1985 to 2000, founding the organization Youth Struggling for Survival.  He’s now based in Los Angeles and travels widely, speaking in jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities, among other locations.  He was the vice-presidential candidate of the Justice Party in 2012 and is now running for the Green Party nomination for governor of California.

His program is to turn young people on to creative expression and to healing through native spiritual traditions.

“What are the alternatives?  That’s where people have got to think about imagination, cultural spaces in every neighborhood for expression, healing — if it’s educational, if it’s spiritual, if all the churches would open up, if all the schools would open up, you would stop a lot of this violence.  And it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as it’s costing us to put people away….

“We do need an economy that can take care of everybody, but I think if we’re waiting for that first, we’re going to be waiting a long time.  There’s things that can be done — how can everybody be productive?  I don’t mean productive like, I’m going to work at McDonalds, I mean somebody who’s productive, creative, and autonomous.  We need to really develop independent, interdependent human beings.”

His work in Chicago was difficult — three youth leaders were killed and several participants ended up in prison, including his son — “but the majority of those kids are doing well today.  So it’s worth it.”

I asked Carrizales what he thought the city should be doing.

“The city is so focused on reacting, and we really need to be thinking proactively,” he said.  There always seems to be some “big lofty initiative” but “never any long-term strategic vision” involving “empowering neighborhoods to strategically address the issues they’re facing.”

“What the city really needs to do is invest in the neighborhoods and build them up,” he said.

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What about the neighborhoods? http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/what-about-the-neighborhoods/ Wed, 16 May 2012 20:38:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6201 The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.

Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m.  Information is at thegrassrootscollaborative.org.

Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.

(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million.  Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)

Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.

Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.

On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”

Party fund

Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust.  In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.

“Spending $14 million on food and wine and music just seems evil and sinful when you have kids in this neighborhood who have no place to play, when you have parents keeping their children inside after school because they’re afraid of gun violence,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Church in Little Village, a leader in Enlace Chicago.

To visiting journalists he says, “I would ask them to ask somebody if it’s fair to spend $14 million on parties when organizations are looking for $600 to buy new equipment so that 120 kids can stay off the streets for a year.”

Emanuel has “cut the head tax for the corporations and then the corporations turn back around in a deal and donate to support NATO coming here,” says Charles Brown, a 43-year resident of Englewood and a leader with Action Now.  “Well the people that are going to profit from NATO coming here…it’s going to be the corporations.

“Will you treat us the way that you’re treating NATO, spend $14 million on us and put forth a program to help the people that are struggling and suffering?  So that we won’t tear down any more homes, so that we’ll start preserving them, so that the banks will start paying their fair share and giving back to the 99 percent that made all of this possible?”

“Our elected officials time and time again take the podium and pound their fists and say it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids,” said Rodriguez.  “I think that about 10 percent of that $14 million would do so much good here in our community.”

 

 
Pastor Victor Rodriguez, Enlace Chicago, Little Village:

Charles Brown, Action Now, Englewood:

Sonovia Petty, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Austin:

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