A discussion for change

For most of us, the weekends are a time to relax, to push our cares and worries to the side, and look away from our problems.  But this Sunday, October 7, a group of dedicated citizens and leaders from communities in and around Chicago’s South Side did just the opposite; they gathered in the auditorium of the DuSable Museum to confront one of the most devastating and deeply entrenched challenges facing the city today–how to curb and eventually reverse the increase in youth violence.  The afternoon began with the screening of two documentaries about this theme and words from each of their directors. In both, the pain was palpable to all present, but the entreaty for action on the individual and community levels was equally moving.  The suffering was not presented as hopelessness, but rather as urgency.

As the microphones were opened up to the audience, it became clear that the room was filled not only with people who were touched by the violence in their communities, but who were doing something to try to change it.  A quote from the film “Nineteen and a Day” rang in my ears: “Picking up a gun is easy, but what’s hard is to change the lifestyle that allows you to pick up that gun.”  The films made it clear that youth violence isn’t an isolated problem; it is a result of a vast network of historical and present-day factors. The forum made clear that every person has a role to play in remedying one of those.  From the nonviolent, teenage rapper JDEF, who was the subject of one of the films, to recovered drug addicts turned motivational speakers, to the young man Brandon who was brave enough to voice his opinion about the problem and its cure–anyone who lives among violence but chooses to live above it, serves as a role model and a positive influence on their peers.