Increase the Peace returns with youth-led summer campouts to curb gun-violence and bring resources to South and West Side communities. Credit: Increase The Peace/ Facebook

BACK OF THE YARDS — Fighting against gun violence and disinvestment, youth from Back of the Yards will host a 12-hour campout this weekend near the scene of a 14-year-old girl’s murder to call for peace and resources in the South Side neighborhood.

Increase the Peace will bring back the summer kickback campout from 4 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday at 4800 S. Paulina St. La Casa Norte and the Peace and Education Coalition also are involved.

“The mission of Increase the Peace is to help tackle the issue of violence by helping give young people the tools to change their communities and change themselves in the process,” said Berto Aguayo, founder and director of Increase the Peace.

“It helps give young people the opportunity to be the change they want to see in their neighborhood while engaging residents in peace-making efforts and build relationships with one another,” Aguayo said.

The summer peace events are meant to serve as a “catalyst for young people to put organizers’ tools to action, create safe spaces and more importantly create a platform for relationship building in the community,” Aguayo said.

Berto Aguayo, executive director of Increase the Peace, holds a balloon as community members gather in Little Village on April 5, 2021, to mourn 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Increase the Peace was born following the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl in Back of the Yards in 2016. The shooting prompted a community discussion where one of the young people in the room suggested camping out all night to create safe spaces. 

Now, almost five years later, the group continues its mission.

The summer kickback series, put together by Increase the Peace youth ambassadors, is focused on creating safes space where there has been violence. The summer kickback will be hosted a block away from where 14-year-old Savanah Quintero was shot and killed on June 2.

RELATED: Girl, 14, Dies Days After Being Shot In Back Of The Yards: ‘We Are Losing Our Children’

“We are intentional in choosing locations and time to break the cycle in locations where gun violence happens,” Aguayo said.

Increase the Peace returns with youth-led summer campouts to curb gun violence and bring resources to South and West Side communities. Credit: Increase the Peace/Facebook

As part of the event, they want to saturate the area with resources and social services, too. 

The 12-hour campout will feature food, music, piñatas, a $300 art competition and an art gallery. The groups also will help people navigate rental assistance applications,  distribute vaccine registration information and help kids apply for summer job programs, Aguayo said.

He sees the summer campout as a way of bringing much-needed resources to combat gun violence and disinvestment in the community.

“When we talk about violence prevention, we know that we need a holistic approach,” Aguayo said. 

“If the root cause is systemic disinvestment and poverty that we see in our communities and the lack of resources, these events allow us to tackle some of those root causes,” he said. 

Since the youth-planned campouts emerged, Aguayo said the unofficial slogan has become “for the hood, by the hood.”

“Our evolution is a testament to that,” Aguayo said. “If you look at what our hood needed [back in 2016], we were more focused on specifically activating young people and residents to reclaim the streets and really promote peace through that organization and activation.”

“Now, five years later, what the hood demands is addressing the root causes of the lack of social services in the community, help fill the void and meet people where there at on a corner, in their block, at night,” he said.

Related: How These Young Back Of The Yards ‘Avengers’ Helped More Than 1,000 Neighbors Get Vaccine Appointments

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Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop Twitter @MauricioPena