So far this year, 232 people have been killed in Chicago, about 9 percent below the 10-year average for this time of year, the Daily News reports. And the month of July has been particularly bloody: Over the July 4th weekend, 12 were murdered with more than 60 people injured, and just this past weekend, another 6 people were killed and 17 were injured in shootings that reportedly began on Friday and continued through Sunday.
The rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire has decimated Chicago’s urban areas in recent years, sparking headlines across the globe as body bags pile up and police and elected officials grapple with ways to quell mounting gang violence. Now three Illinois lawmakers, along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, plan to hold a summit on urban violence on July 25th and 26th at Chicago State University, with the hopes of mapping out a concrete plan to address the critical issue.
The Chicago event is expected to draw at least 1,000 attendees, including parents, students, elected officials, psychiatrists, local gang leaders, and religious leaders, such as the Min. Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) told NewsOne.
Davis also expects Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and officials from the Chicago Police Department and the school system to attend. Davis and Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill) created the event in order to develop a plan that would stem the tide of violence, he said. They also want do develop an action plan with three recommendations for follow-up.
“Chicago has become known as the epicenter of urban violence, though it’s not the only place where it’s occurring,” Davis said. “But being at the center of America and having such a large number of shootings, the three of us decided that we had to do something to address it in a serious way and we had to do it immediately.
“Some of shootings are gang-related; some of them are not. Just here recently, a grandmother choked her 8-year-granddaughter to death. She was babysitting. We are trying to understand this violent trend and how people are reacting.”
Davis and Rush represent congressional districts with the highest concentration of gun violence in the Chicago area on the South and West Sides. Both have been vocal about combating the problem.
“I have been working on stopping the flow of guns not only in to the streets of Chicago, but the nation for many, many years,” Rep. Rush said in a previously released statement that was sent to NewsOne by his office. “I have introduced legislation not only for Hadiya Pendleton [who was slain after performing with her high school band at President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities earlier this year], but also legislation for Blair Holt who was killed in 2009.
“If you really want to solve these problems, then let’s sit down and have a comprehensive and meaningful discussion and let’s begin with summer jobs. If you’re going to ask for $30 million to give to the FBI or the Chicago Police Department to sweep down and pick up 18,000 young Black men off the streets — then where is the money to employ some of these same Black men who [want] to be employed?”
Rush also said in the statement that the community and officials need to focus on job training programs, arguing that youth gang violence is not just “a law and order issue or a lock them up issue.”
“The jails are teeming now with African Americans, Latinos, but mostly African Americans, and that still has not addressed the problem of gangs, drugs and violence,” Rush said in the release.
Violence is so severe in Chicago that some concerned citizens and lawmakers have called for the National Guard to stand sentinel in gang-infested neighborhoods, and Rev. Al Sharpton is planning to spend some time in the city with the chapter of his National Action Network to figure out ways to address the problem, Rachel Noerdlinger, his spokeswoman, told NewsOne.
Part of the problem, Rush points out is the dismantling of public housing projects. The so-called “forced migration” of an estimated 20,000 families in recent years has resulted in unexpected frictions as people move from one community to another.
Davis also cites unemployment, poverty and access to decent housing and education as major factors in the growing unrest, which will be major topics of discussion during the event, he said.
“We have to look at everything from school curricula, conflict resolution to domestic violence,” he said. “At the end of the day, there will be two or three things that we will be able to recommend that people adhere to and do. There will be strategies that we can implement knowing that at the end of the day, we reduced the level and intensity of violence we are currently experiencing.