On July 11, 2019 at the Target Area DevCorp/AFC Center in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago, MacArthur President Julia Stasch moderated a panel of four activists working to reduce gun violence in their communities.
William “Billy” Moore from the Green ReEntry Program, Teny Gross from the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Tanya Woods from the West Side Justice Center, and Jorge Matos from the Alliance of Local Service Organizations discussed the challenges they face, the needs of their communities, and building trust within those communities. The crowd of about 300 included government officials, other activists, community members, and workers.
One theme was the consistent challenge of trauma in their communities. Moore remarked, “We have to be trauma informed, so we can train healed people to heal people.” The community outreach workers are often going back to homes where they experienced trauma or where the neighborhood still experiences underinvestment. Children might be acting out because they cannot express what they are going through, and, without the tools, they may never be able to address it.
Woods, along with the other speakers, emphasized the need to consider the whole person and their community. “As we uplift one individual, we are uplifting families and communities at the same time.” Later she continued to point to intersections of identities: organizations need to see injustice wherever it happens, whomever it is happening to. “It’s all of our responsibilities to speak out in places where we see injustice.”
Matos brought journalism and media into the conversation when Stasch asked what gives them hope. He says he sees positive work going on every day and walks alongside people who are putting their lives on track. “But you don’t see those stories in the media. You only see the negatives.”
Gross pointed to the need to support local media, to both diversify those stories and hold the people in power to account. But he also emphasized that organizers need to spend the time to build trust and honesty with folks from every area where they work — the community outreach workers, the people in the community, journalists, and even law enforcement.
At the close of the conversation, Stasch remarked, “I asked what gives you hope, but your work gives me hope.”
Thank you to our panelists for a thoughtful discussion on reducing gun violence in Chicago and for the continued work.