LINCOLN PARK — More than 70 photos line the front yard of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, memorializing every child killed by gun violence in Chicago over the past year.
The display — part of the church’s annual Vigil Against Violence — calls on passersby to “pray their names and say their names” and reflect on how the city can do better.
The sixth annual Vigil Against Violence will happen 4-6 p.m. Oct. 16 at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church, 600 W. Fullerton Parkway, taking the theme of “creating safe communities for all,” said pastor Beth Brown.
“It’s looking at why are neighborhoods unsafe and who are they unsafe for,” Brown said. “In Lincoln Park, Black people are not safe in this neighborhood. They’re often targeted by police and people who are afraid of their presence in the neighborhood and then call the police.”
The theme of this year’s vigil builds on last year’s, which explored what it means to defund the police. This year, speakers will discuss ways people can build safer communities without relying on over-policing.
“One of the topics that we’re going to address at the vigil is, ‘How do we as white people divest from our addiction to policing and instead invest in creating communities of safety and care?'” Brown said.
Part of that work should include financially divesting from the police so those resources can be directed to services or programs that reduce gun violence, Brown said.
“If we could even move a fraction of the police budget and put it into mental health care in even one community that’s most affected by trauma, that’s going to help end gun violence more than anything else that’s going on,” Brown said.
Part of the vigil will involve envisioning what alternatives to policing could look like in their communities, Brown said.
“If we’re not going to have communities that are heavily policed, what are we going to have?” Brown said. “We’re going to have communities that are empowered to create safety and care for all the people living in that community.”
Brown said the vigil is also a reminder to Lincoln Park residents that Chicago’s gun violence is a citywide problem that must be addressed by everyone.
“For a lot of white folks on the North Side, it’s easy to think that it’s somebody else’s problem because these are somebody else’s kids, but that’s not how we feel,” Brown said. “We say these are all of our kids, and to have anybody die by gun violence is terrible and preventable.”
The vigil will feature speakers from across Chicago, including:
- Cosette Ayela of BYP100.
- Arturo Carillo of Collaborative for Community Wellness.
- Amika Tendaji of Ujimaa Medics.
- Cheryl Hamilton-Hill of Lincoln Park Community Services.
- Rev. Smash of the Night Ministry.
- Ciera Bates-Chamberlain of Live Free Illinois.
Attendees will also be able to sign up for anti-racism working groups, which will meet over the next six to eight weeks going through a toolkit created by Standing Up for Racial Justice, a white ally organization.
“I hope people leave with some new examination of their own reliance on policing and feel invited to envision what alternatives to it could look like,” Brown said. “We want people to join in the work of being empowered to create safer communities and help empower others.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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