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Notes for Peace and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago helps those who have lost loved ones to gun violence by creating original songs celebrating their lives. The initiative, which originated in March 2017, includes professionals like a guest teaching artist, Irene Taylor Trust from the U.K., other vocalists, and parents, who compose, perform live, and record songs presented with lyrics and photos of the deceased. The initiative’s Facebook explains:
We write songs to remember our loved ones and share our stories because music communicates directly to the soul.
Lawanda Sterling, the mother of Jeremiah Sterling, a 16-year-old rapper and dancer, shot and killed, July 15, 2010, near her home at 115th and May, in the West Pullman area, spoke of how ironic it was for her to comment on the songs created by Notes For Peace, with the anniversary of her son’s death a little more than a week away.
Sterling, a member of the parent support group, Purpose Over Pain, says her son fought to live after her uterus ruptured when she was in labor. He grew up always moving and doing things others did not expect from a young boy. He wanted to perform rap songs and was a member of the Crucial Conflict dance group and the Jesse White Tumblers. Whatever he touched turned to gold. He was only 16, working with men more than 3 or 4 years older than him, who say they could not tell he was younger.
Jon Weber, Director of School and Family Programs for the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, oversees “Notes For Peace.” He credits professional cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Creative Consultant, as a catalyst who challenged those in the program to find a meaningful way to impact families affected by the loss of a loved one to gun violence and have a personal connection capture and preserve their memories. Yo-Yo Ma is known for fostering connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce humanity.
Gun Violence Continues to Plague Chicago’s Neighborhoods
As songs are created and sang for victims of gun violence, shootings in Chicago have not stopped. Two people were killed, while three others were wounded, Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
At 8:45 p.m. CDT, an unidentified 59-year-old man was shot in the chest in the 1300 block of South Lawndale Avenue. Police and fire officials stated that he was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, where he was later pronounced dead.
Tyrone Tousant was also shot and killed in the 1300 block on South Lawndale Avenue, where he lived, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
A 46-year-old woman was shot in the foot in the same attack, and taken to Stroger Hospital, where she was in critical condition, said Walter Schroeder, a district chief with the Fire Department.
In separate incidents on the West Side of Chicago, more fatal and non-fatal shootings occurred:
- Three people were shot in the 3500 block of West Lake Street in Garfield Park.
- A 26-year-old man was fatally shot in the abdomen and knee in the 4800 Block of West Van Buren.
Police reported at least five other shootings Wednesday evening, in which victims were in good condition or had their conditions stabilized.
No arrests have been made in any of the cases.
Notes for Peace Song Writing Process Personalizes Victims’ Tributes
Sterling stated that “writing or being a part of the song-writing process gives the family a chance to add to something that will always be there to remind you of your loved one.” She would like people to know that losing a loved one to gun violence does not just affect them or their families — it touches everyone involved. She says:
Gun violence is breaking up communities. Kids are suffering from PTSD, wearing T-shirts with “RIP” and talking about ‘fallen homies’ which has become normal for them.
She wants others to know that joining Notes for Peace has been bittersweet. Healing begins by taking deep feelings and transferring them into a beautiful song that will keep the memories of loved ones alive. When she was asked what kind of song she would like, she replied, “a love song.” It reminded her of the great love Jeremiah brought her and that he is still part of her.
Weber says being part of this program has been “incredibly humbling.” He stated that he entered into this work with a spirit of love and humility. It was very gratifying to see how musical skills and creating songs could be such tremendous support to the families involved.
Because of the pandemic, songwriting sessions for Notes for Peace have been conducted on Zoom since June 2020, and studio recordings of songs are produced by the Chicago Recording Company. Fifty-four families have written songs in honor of lives lost to gun violence. He is looking forward to doing some of this work in person again and bringing the participants and their families back together to resume singing songs “live,” giving hugs, and showing love.
Written by Brenda Robinson
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
WBEZ CHICAGO: ‘Notes For Peace’ Brings Healing To Chicago Families Who’ve Lost Loved Ones To Gun Violence; by Stephanie Kim and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas
Notes for Peace: Notes For Peace Partners
ABC7-Chicago: Visiting Teen Shot, Killed In Chicago Alley
Chicago Tribune: 2 dead, 3 Seriously Injured In Wednesday Night Shootings In Chicago; by Stephanie Casanova
Featured Image Courtesy of Ben Rogers’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Hafiz Issadeen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License