School’s out for public and private school youth around the city. And with a string of violent weekends since Memorial Day that cut short the lives of at least three youth under age 17, the task of keeping kids safe continues to be a citywide concern.
One West Side mother and grandmother said keeping youth out of harm’s way means keeping them busy. Coralyn Bryant was with her family Friday outside the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 1252 S. Wolcott following her daughter Dora Bryant’s graduation from Community Services West Career Academy high school. The graduate will be preparing for college life and enrollment in Truman College.
“We have to give the kids something to do and keep them busy,” she said. “The mother and the father has to stay in the kids’ life and keep them busy, find them something to do.”
She said her grandchildren, including her Daniel Webster Elementary School third grader Destiny Frazier, will attend a local community center summer program and take part in family events as part of the family’s efforts to keep the kids safe. “You have to give (kids) something to do. That’s how you keep them safe,” said Coralyn Bryant.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was bombarded with questions about safety and curbing gun violence during a June 12 press conference where he announced a new public school and public library partnership. The preceding weekend saw 40 shootings and eight deaths.
“I will not rest until we bring safety to every part of the city,” the mayor said.
Last year, from July to September there were 175 murders in Chicago, almost all of them from gun violence, according to Chicago Police Department crime data. In fact, analysis of the data revealed that those three months have, with very few exceptions, been the city’s deadliest since at least 1991.
The mayor expressed confidence in the strategic policing plans that his police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced early this year and continues to develop.
“We are doing things differently,” the mayor said at the press conference. He added that the police department reversed course, going from “reactive to proactive,” in dealing with gang members and drug dealers — who are blamed, in large part, for the city’s gun violence.
The City’s Summer Youth Employment Program, Chicago Park District and After School Matters (ASM) are entities set to provide opportunities for youth this summer. The mayor said earlier this year that money collected from scofflaws would put an additional $2 million each into the employment and After School Matters programs and $2.5 million more into programs through the park district. As a result, more youth age 16-24 would be able to work and 2,000 more youth would be able to take part in internships, apprenticeships and other offers as part of ASM. One million dollars of the money for the park district gives thousands of additional youth a chance to participate the Park District’s summer day camp. The rest of the money means other youth may be able to take part in other park programs.
Many churches and non-profit organizations will also offer programs. Sixty churches partnered with Chicago Public Schools as part of the school district’s Safe Haven, Safe Summer program that will provide at least 2,000 youth with activities and educational enrichment at the participating churches daily from June 25 through Aug. 3.
Police crime data indicates that most homicides are committed on the streets, in public thoroughfares. For many that is a call to have more indoor havens.
“We need all hands on deck,” said Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church on the West Side. “We need churches opening up their doors. We need politicians coming up with programs and financial resources for youth to have live options. … Businesses and block clubs must do more. Families must do more. School systems must do more.”
By Rhonda Gillespie