Gun Violence is increasing around the country taking the lives of many, particularly in minority communities. Whether the shooting deaths occur from drugs, domestic violence, gang activity, a stray bullet or any other cause, the common denominator is a family left in crisis. The lives of the surviving family members, especially the children, are forever changed.
Last Sunday, two were killed and 10 others wounded in shootings in Chicago. A 23-year old man was shot in the face at 3:10 a.m. as he sat inside Sammy’s Grill & Restaurant in the 6300 block of South King Drive according to Chicago Police. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other men were shot in the same incident. Ten other people across the city, from Saturday to Sunday, were wounded in shootings, including a 17-year old boy.
At 2 a.m. last Sunday in the Englewood Neighborhood of Chicago, a 22-year old man was shot in the neck as he stood talking to a group of people. Two other people were wounded in a shooting Saturday night in the Hermosa neighborhood. According to reports, they were walking in the 4000 block of West Cortland Street when an unidentified person began shooting at them. The shootings continued.
Gun violence is happening throughout the country. Three people were killed in San Diego, California recently when a man shot his wife in a domestic violence dispute and mortally wounded her parents. He was then killed by San Diego police, leaving one wounded and three dead from the gun violence.
Families are feeling the effects of the violence. A young Black man was scheduled to start a new job on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. That start was not to happen as the 19 year old was shot along with another teenager on Thursday night, Nov. 17, 2016, as he sat on his mother’s front porch in the Hallmark Neighborhood in Louisville, KY.
His cousin said, “His life has been snatched from him before he can even get it started.” His mother said her son was not a saint, but he had been working to change his life. She said because he was on a good path, his death has been very difficult to deal with for the entire family.
The family was already in the process of dealing with a death. The 20-year-old half- brother, was killed by gun violence in August, 2016. His murder is yet unsolved. These are just two of the 110 homicides in Louisville for 2016.
In 2015, the City of Chicago got the distinction of “having the most violent year of all major U. S. Cities.” According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the city had 2,988 shooting victims and among those were 470 homicides. The year 2016 came in with gun violence, with less than two weeks into the year, 120 shootings had occurred resulting in 19 deaths in Chicago.
Even in a smaller city like Louisville, gun violence does not recognize holidays. On Thanksgiving Day, six people were shot, two died, in Shawnee Park. The shooting, although not a part of the annual traditional Juice Bowl Event, occurred as the football games were being played in the park, with the Louisville Mayor standing just 200 yards away.
The country watched Chicago during the 4th of July holiday weekend when 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Five of the shootings involved police, with two male teens killed by police in separate incidents. In another killing, a 44-year-old woman was fatally shot at a barbeque as she leaned into a parked car. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The total number of shooting victims in Chicago is currently over 4,000, more than the final total from 2015. Chicago has had a staggering rise in gun violence and killings.
With these staggering number of Chicago homicides that leaves countless children and families grieving in silence. Many people in cities, most recently Chicago, are developing programs and initiatives to help families and victims deal with the aftermath of that violence. The ordeal does not end when the loved one has been laid to rest, for many families, the tragedy is just beginning.
Recently, Chicago based leaders in communications, counseling, legal services and community activism joined forces to help survivors process their loss.
The Allies of Innocence Initiative recently held a launch event on Nov. 15, 2016, to raise funds to provide no-cost grief and trauma counseling to families and children affected by gun violence in Chicago. “It is critical for survivors to have the space to properly process their grief and mourning,” said Fay Ferguson, CO-CEO of Burrell Communications Group.
Allies of Innocence is made up of Burrell Communications Group, Perspectives Ltd, The Faith Community of St. Sabina, Purpose Over Pain and Winston & Strawn LLP.
It is the brain child of Ferguson, who has over 30 years of experience leading people, organizations and causes. This is not her first initiative, she has been involved in changing the lives of people of color in other initiatives including Black is Human and By the Hand Club for Kids. She established a scholarship for students of color at her alma mater Concordia College. She also has an MBA from Indiana University.
Ferguson said after watching and reading the news of the continued violence in Chicago and in the United States she thought about the families, children and survivors, many of them low income and unable to get the help they needed. It was then the idea for the initiative came to her. She said losing a loved one to gun violence is something families “do not get over that easily.” She said many families can be traumatized for life. Ferguson said she decided to focus on Chicago and see what she could do to help “the survivors who are left behind to process the tragic loss of their loved one.”
According to Ferguson, she contacted Perspectives Ltd and the Law Offices of Winston & Strawn about the initiative and they were all in.
Ferguson has been able to bring together an impressive group on the initiative. One such person is The Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, senior pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina. Father Pfleger is known in Chicago as a Community Activist. He has been involved in issues such as campaigns against the sale of drug paraphernalia, negative music glorifying violence and degrading women and the easy access to guns and many others.
Another key person working on the initiative is Pam Bosley, the co-founder of Purpose Over Pain, a parent advocacy group that works for stricter gun control legislation. The organization will be instrumental in referring families impacted by gun violence.
Perspectives, Ltd, is an organization committed to delivering workplace resource programs. Bernard Dyme, co-founder, president and CEO has used his formal clinical training and business experience to provide consulting services to hundreds of organizations. He is also an active member of several professional and community organizations and serves as the President of the Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Through Allies of Innocence, Ferguson said (until there is no more gun violence) they hope to eventually have a new generation that works through the effects of gun violence thereby breaking the cycle. “Children are our future and many are faced with gun violence on a daily basis,” said Ferguson. She said if families and children do not get the help they need, the cycle will continue.
The mother of the 26-year old male that was killed in Shawnee Park during Louisville’s Juice Bowl on Thanksgiving Day said, “I never, ever in life would have seen that coming for my child.” She continued, “It’s like a piece of me is gone.” She said, “It’s like it’s still not real.” The victim left behind two children, ages two and three years old. Their grandmother said she is trying to answer the tough questions for the children.
The trauma is obvious in those affected by the violence. According to the Chicago Tribune, a woman Sunday morning walked through a Parkway Gardens Apartment Complex across the street from one of the shootings; she was crying and stomping her feet as she yelled out “(Expletive) Monsters.” All too often, family members of the victims are at the crime scenes crying and yelling and doing what they can to comfort each other.
To provide the needed help to families, so they can answer the tough questions and begin the healing process, funding is critical for the Initiative. The initiative is seeking to raise an initial $50,000. However to continue the work on a long-term basis, they need to raise an initial $250,000. Donations can be made by individuals, small business, corporations, government agencies and anyone who wants to help. Donations can be made through www.facebook.com/allies of innocence.
The initiative has a wide range and many years of experience in making a difference in Black Communities.
Burrell Communications is celebrating more than 40 years of best-in-class transcultural communications. The foundation of its success lies in uncovering rich insights and deep understanding of the Black community.
Perspectives Ltd is in its 35th year. They offer counseling services and high-impact solutions for workplace planning, productivity and performance challenges. They are making a difference in strengthening communities.
The Faith Community of St. Sabina is working in the community. Its purpose is to nurture and develop spiritually mature Christians who are trained leaders and are not confined by the walls of the sanctuary.
Purpose Over Pain is an advocacy group that works for stricter gun control legislation. The organization provides positive developmental activities for youth, advocates for and promotes save communities and strengthens families by providing crisis support to parents/guardians whose children have been victims of gun violence.
Winston & Strawn has a 160-years history in handling many significant high-profile legal matters for its clients. The firm has grown to more than 850 attorneys throughout the world. Through their foundation, the firm has developed lasting relationships with many civic and non-profit organizations across the world.
The group, through the initiative, is ready to make that difference in Chicago, what they need is the funding. After that, who knows where the initiative can go? Ferguson said she hopes the initiative can eventually reach out to other communities throughout the Country. Gun Violence is not just a Chicago problem!