For the past 7 years, Pastor John Hannah and New Life Covenant Church have joined with community members and lined 79th street, from Greenwood to the Dan Ryan, and prayed. The church’s “Prayer on the 9” has been a resounding call to end senseless gun violence in the city.
But this year, observers will notice a stark difference in the march that will take place on Saturday, May 19 at 11 a.m. It will be led by youth.
“We know the march the youth called in Washington, D.C.—the March for our lives…I watched that and I saw the impact of it,” Hannah told the Defender. “I thought to myself ‘if anyone should have voice like that, it should be Chicago youth considering the amount of violence here.” I said to our church, ‘Let’s step back and let teens/young adults march and we stand on the sidelines and pray. Let’s push their voices to say enough is enough.’”
Hannah said the youth from his church and community have taken the baton and run with it. The youth created a mural on 79th and Greenwood to publicize the event and they have been using social media to get the word out.
“The same way that America has paid attention to the youth’s voice in Washington, I want those who are in Springfield and Chicago to pay attention to the voices here.”
The effort to stop the violence doesn’t end with the march or with the prayer chain. Hannah’s church is also involved with the Chicago Police Department’s gun buy back program the following weekend, May 26. Community members will be able to come to the church and leave their guns—with no questions asked—and receive money or gift cards.
“The goal is to get guns off of the street,” Hannah said.
In addition to these programs, New Life Covenant is also providing financial assistance to several youth organizations. Hannah believes a key component to violence prevention is keeping youth engaged and giving them something to do. The church has targeted 3-5 organizations that focus on youth and will provide them with financial assistance.
The church also hosts programs to create a safe place for youth where they can go and “don’t have to worry about foolishness,” Hannah said.
Hannah is encouraging all of Chicago to participate in “Prayer on the 9.” He encourages the youth especially to participate. The program begins at 11 a.m. and the “step-out” where the youth march down 79th Street begins at noon.
“There is no power on Earth stronger than prayer. Together, we will harness the power of collective prayer to address the problems of the community while seeking healing and transformation for the many ills in our society, including all types of violence, poverty, mental and physical illness and more,” Hannah, who leads the 20,000 plus congregation, said.