SOUTH SHORE — A violence prevention program will use $500,000 in state funding to expose South Shore youth to a world beyond their neighborhood.
Christianaire, a faith-based nonprofit led by activist William Calloway, received the grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority through the state’s 2023 budget. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the budget into law April 19.
The funds will support the nonprofit’s new Passports for Peace program, which aims to provide out-of-town trips, job training, relationships with trusted mentors and other supports to residents at risk of perpetrating violence or being victimized by it.
Organizers will also monitor participants’ social media, a “driving force of a lot of violence in the city,” Calloway said.
The initiative will solely focus on preventing violence in South Shore, particularly among several neighborhood factions in conflict with each other, Calloway said.
Twelve people have been recruited to the program so far; organizers hope to draw at least 70 participants, Calloway said.
“Most importantly, [the goal] is to get them out of this lifestyle,” he said. “All they know is Jeffery, Chappel, Clyde, Merrill, Paxton. They don’t know anything else. It’s important for us to expose them to a new culture, so they can see a world outside of South Shore.”
The program will run June to early September, Calloway said. Its success will be determined by monitoring city crime data in South Shore, as well as regular check-ups with participants to ensure they haven’t been victimized or targeted by violence, he said.
Passports for Peace is modeled in part after the Peace Over East initiative launched in South Shore last Independence Day weekend. Two participants in that program have since been killed, Calloway said.
State reps. Curtis Tarver and Kam Buckner joined Calloway for a news conference Monday to announce the program.
The representatives worked to secure the state funding because of Calloway’s past work to counter police violence and community violence, they said.
“I’m committed to working with Will on whatever he’s trying to do to quell gun violence — period, point blank,” said Tarver, who beat Calloway and five other challengers in the 2018 Democratic primary election for the state House seat.
“He’s been talking to me for years about this, as I walked into office, saying, ‘I need these resources.’ I’m just happy to be in a position, along with [Black Caucus] chairman Buckner, to bring those resources to the community.”
The legislators trust Calloway to develop an effective violence prevention program, Buckner said.
“A lot of times in Springfield, people have to put together a task force to figure out what’s going on and what the answer is,” Buckner said. “But because of our connection with Will and the work he’s been doing, there was no need to go through an analytical process to figure out what’s working.”
Artist Quentin Crockett, who grew up on 78th Street and Exchange Avenue and is a friend of Calloway’s, credited his experiences in his art career and in the military for exposing him to the joys of life beyond the neighborhood.
South Shore residents will benefit from a similar experience through Passports for Peace, Crockett said.
“I understand what these young men are going through because, when I was a kid, I was either doing the same things or around the same stuff,” he said. “I can communicate with them and understand, but then I’ll also be like, ‘Man, it’s another world out there, too.'”
Crockett oversaw the painting of the “South Shore Strong” mural on Jeffery Boulevard over the weekend to symbolize the program’s launch. He also led neighbors in painting a Black Lives Matter mural on the street in 2020.
Angela Simmons, who owns the Spice Beauty Bar at 7045 S. Jeffery Blvd., said she’s considering moving her business out of South Shore because of violence. There’s “been joy and pain” during her 11 years of owning a business in South Shore, she said.
Simmons said she was shaken up after a man was shot and critically wounded April 23 at the bus stop in front of the Spice Beauty Bar. It’s “the first time that actually happened right in front of my business,” she said.
Simmons enjoys building relationships with people who get haircuts in her salon, but some inevitably stop showing up — either because they’ve been incarcerated or died in a violent incident, she said.
Darnell “One Step” Bass, who was fatally shot in 2018 and memorialized with a mural Crockett painted on the side of Christianaire’s headquarters, was a Spice Beauty Bar patron, Simmons said.
It remains “questionable” whether Simmons will stick around South Shore, but projects like Passports for Peace are a step toward reining in the neighborhood’s violence, she said.
People at risk of committing or being victimized by violent acts “need resources; they need [someone] a phone call away,” Simmons said. “This is all they know, so an outlet [to explore beyond the community] would be a big help.”
Simmons wasn’t familiar with Christianaire before showing up at Monday’s news conference, but she’s pleased at the legislators’ support and the $500,000 in state funding, she said.
“Those commas are a lot, but that’s a start — I believe that’s a big start,” Simmons said.
Other groups receiving portions of the $21.3 million in state funding approved for Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority grants:
- $1.35 million for the Roseland CeaseFire Project.
- $300,000 for UCAN Violence Intervention and Prevention Services in North Lawndale.
- $197,000 for the Breakthrough FamilyPlex and Community Center in East Garfield Park
- $100,000 for Imagine Englewood If…
- $50,000 for Teamwork Englewood.
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