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School students from across Chicago’s south side attended an event on June 3rd to celebrate education and promote peace in communities that have been plagued by gun violence for decades. Students enjoyed music, played games, received a free meal, and were introduced to a myriad of resources available to them.
The Far South Community Advisory Council partnered with Chicago Public Schools, Power 92.3 radio station, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Vax-Chi-Nation, City Colleges of Chicago, Phalanx Family Services, and many other organizations in order to make the event possible. Hundreds of students were bussed to Gately Stadium located at 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in the Roseland community to attend.
The annual peace rally followed a gruesome May, which saw multiple mass shootings across the city and high-profile incidents involving young people in the downtown area. High ranking Chicago Police Department officers including Commissioner David Brown were in attendance to show the South Side youth their support. Brown also asked them to work together to keep each other safe. Far South Side’s 5th district commander spoke to the crowd of young people and told them they should not have to live in fear of gun violence.
Dr. Joyce Chapman, head of the Far South Community Advisory Council, introduced J. Caleb Slawinski and Jabar Wheatley of the Council’s Youth Ambassadors program. He took the stage to encourage the youth in attendance to choose to avoid violence and think of the bigger picture; “Together we can make a change in the near future and take leadership positions in our city in the next 10-15 years.” He is a 19-year-old college student from the far south side who had graduated from high school recently. His message resonated with youth who were walking a similar path he had a couple of years ago.
Students played at inflatable game stations and ran across Gately’s football field enjoying a safe recreational environment. Nearby, Olive-Harvey College of the City Colleges of Chicago system set up an interactive robotics course for students to tinker with and learn about other technology-related programs offered.
High profile activist Aleta Clark, known as “Englewood Barbie,” was in attendance accompanied by South Side violence prevention workers. Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Pedro Martinez made an appearance along with other staff from the Mayor’s Office. Chicago Public Schools presented graduating high school senior, Caval Spearman Jr., with a $3,220 scholarship for his continued studies for the following year.
The students of the South Side played into the afternoon, temporarily escaping the firm grasp that gun violence holds on many of their communities. The event served as a crucial reminder to students that departments and organizations across the city support them and face the challenges the summer months are poised to bring. Historically, Chicago’s summers tend to be the most violent months of the year due to the heat bringing more people outside, and the city’s youth having more unstructured free time with no school in session. Chicago’s Far South Advisory Council and its partners hope that through the expected spike in violence, the city’s young people will keep peace in their minds and reach out when they need help.
Written by Justin Connor
Edited by Marrissa Kay
Peace Rally: 6/3/2022
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Images Courtesy of Justin Connor