ENGLEWOOD — Students at the Academy of St. Benedict the African marched against violence Thursday as the surrounding Englewood neighborhood continues to struggle with shootings.
More than 200 people gathered at the Catholic elementary school, 6020 S. Laflin St., for the sixth annual Prayer Walk for Peace with signs that read, “We are better together.”
“We join together today as a school community,” Principal Jennifer Farrand said. “We’ll walk, sing, and pray for the peace we all deserve, for the end of violence, and for equity.”
The Prayer Walk for Peace was born after the particularly violent summer of 2015, Farrand said. Ever since, the school brings the community together in hopes of inspiring positive change, especially for families and children living in the neighborhood.
The 7th (Englewood) Police District, which includes the school, saw murders skyrocket last year, with 66 people slain by Oct. 17, 2021, according to police data. This year, the violence has fallen, with 47 murders reported so far. Shootings have gone slightly up, though, with 280 reported so far this year compared to 256 during the same point in 2020.
At the march, kids and teachers walked around the perimeter of the school while singing, praying, and listening to Bible readers. St. Benedict alumni who now attend Leo High School and 7th District officers accompanied the children.
“The walk is important because it’s our way to say that we’re against violence,” said Jeff Lacking, a 16-year-old former St. Benedict student.
“We want to let people see that today we’re walking for our community,” 16-year-old Timothy Durr said.
Farrand said she hopes the Prayer Walk for Peace plays a role in making the neighborhood a safer place for kids to play and live.
“The walk is a chance for us to teach the kids that there is power in being a community that loves and cares,” she said. “But, most of all, they need to learn that there is a community that loves and cares for them.”
The Academy of St. Benedict the African has served the West Englewood community since 1901.
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