Kids in the Pullman neighborhood enjoyed a bounce house, free food, music, games, and T-shirt giveaways Sunday at the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum. Credit: Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago

PULLMAN — Twenty-five years ago, David Peterson’s best friend was killed a block from the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

On Sunday, the museum provided a space for neighborhood residents to celebrate the Fourth of July. There was a colorful bounce house, free food, music, games and T-shirt giveaways. Peterson helped coordinate it, hoping to prevent the kind of violence that killed his friend.

“What we’re doing is occupying space and creating a safe space for the people in the neighborhood to come hang out, but also doing some violence interruption,” said Peterson, president and executive director of the museum.

The event was part of a peace initiative called Hit the Hood, which launched last year to prevent gun violence over holiday weekends. It came about through a collaboration of community organizations, including My Block, My Hood, My City; CEDEP 2020; Randolph’s Dream Community Development Corporation; Museum 44; Street Order; and the museum. 

For Peterson, the event hit home.

“There’s a reason that, you know, me being at this museum is a little more than just a job,” he said, recalling the slaying of his friend in 1996. “There’s bloodshed in this neighborhood. … I still suffer from trauma … .”

Violence has continued to plague the city. The weekend was Chicago’s most violent of 2021, with more than 100 people shot. Just southwest of the Porter Museum, a group of people cleaning up from after an annual July 4 celebration was sprayed with bullets, leaving a 6-year-old girl and her mother wounded, the Sun-Times reports.

The violence on the Far South Side has led Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) to call for the National Guard, saying they should monitor Downtown streets to free up police resources in communities like Pullman.

“We can talk about the underlying issues of poverty, lack of opportunity and the influx of guns from other states,” Beale wrote in a letter to his fellow aldermen, urging them to get on board with the plan. “None of that will help us now.”

The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum held the Hit the Hood event. Credit: Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago

Peterson said the only way to target violence is through consistent community engagement efforts and dedication. He said neighborhoods need resources and environments where residents can be productive and safe. Beale’s letter also addressed the need for violence interruptors.

“We’ve been out here doing these community engagement efforts all summer; and once again, that’s what helps. Because you can’t just pop up one day and say, ‘I’m going to give out some hand sanitizers and masks,’ and think that’s going to stop the violence,” he said. 

By working with other organizations, Peterson said Hit the Hood is able to expose people to a “heaping amount of resources” that can prevent violence.

“As a nonprofit organization, M3 knows that when groups get together the amount of work that can get done is exponential,” said Ernesto Gonzalez, marketing manager for My Block, My Hood, My City. “When we funded the 10 events this year, we set out to do two goals: create a safe space for the community and help curb the violence that is present during holiday weekends.

“This being our second year, we have learned from the past and worked with hyperlocal [organizations] that have done violence prevention in the past.” 

For volunteer Brenda Scott, the events emphasize unity and peace. 

“This is to help kids get out and enjoy,” Scott said. “Hopefully they have something to do. … Learn about your community, neighbors, and give back.” 

The next Hit the Hood event is set for Sept. 6 at 10406 S. Maryland Ave. to celebrate Labor Day. 

Children from the Pullman neighborhood enjoy games Sunday. Credit: Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago

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