Chicagoland

St. Sabina kicks off weekly summer peace marches

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Tuesday, June 21, 2022

St. Sabina kicks off weekly summer peace marches

St. Sabina Church kicks off its summertime Friday night peace marches with a rally on June 17, 2022. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A young man stands by one of two boards filled with schools that have had mass shootings in the past 24 years. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir of Chicago sing prior to the start of the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sam Williams & Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir of Chicago perform before the rally begins. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants raise their hands when asked if they know someone killed by gun violence. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman prays during the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman prays during the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Michael Pfleger speaks to participants about the amount of children killed by gun violence in Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants listen as names are read of children killed by gun violence in Chicago this year. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Trevon Bosley, an activist with March for Our Lives and whose brother Terrell was killed by gun violence, speaks to rally participants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Pamela Bosley, co-founder and executive director of Purpose Over Pain, a parish-based organization for parents who have lost children to gun violence, holds a picture of her son Terrell, who was killed in 2006 in a church parking lot while helping a friend unload drums for a choir performance. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of Purpose Over Pain, a parish-based organization for parents who have lost children to gun violence, stand together during the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ayo Dosunmu of the Chicago Bulls speaks at the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People from the Auburn Gresham neighborhood gathered to attend the rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People walk through the neighborhood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People walk through the neighborhood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Hundreds of people gathered at St. Sabina Church June 17 for the first of the parish’s Friday night peace walks this summer.

In an event that was part rally, celebration, part memorial and part protest, speakers remembered dear ones who have been lost to gun violence. Young St. Sabina parishioners held large signs with four columns of names of schools that have been the sites of mass shootings in the past 24 years; mothers who have lost their own children to gun violence read the names of more than 60 children 17 and under who have been shot to death since last June.

Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu, a Chicago native who went to Morgan Park High School, was among the speakers, talking about shooting death of his best friend, Darius Brown, at Metcalfe Park in 2011 when he was 13.

Brown was playing basketball, Dosunmu said, something the boys often did together, and was so close to the family that Dosunmu’s parents often called him the fifth member of the family.

“I’m sick and tired of this feeling,” Dosunmu said.

St. Sabinia senior pastor Father Michael Pfleger lost his foster son, Jarvis Franklin, in a shooting near the parish in 1998, and has worked for years against gun violence and gun trafficking. A gun turn-in event the week begore the peace walk brought in more than 200 guns and 13 assault weapons, Pfleger announced. With the help of an anonymous $50,000 donation, the parish planned to continue accepting firearms, offering $100 for every gun turned in to the parish office and $200 for every assault weapon.

“The summer sounds of helicopters, sirens and gunshots are not normal, and we will not allow them to become normal,” Pfleger said, adding that the community must commit itself to protect its children by, among other things, passing gun reform legislation, and for parents and all adults to take better care of young people.

“We call on the adults to be grownups,” Pfleger said. “Know where your children are and who they are with, because our children are too precious to be just anywhere with just anyone. …

“To every young person out there, know how valuable you are, how precious, how powerful you are. They are afraid of you because they know how powerful you are, and they want to destroy you or have you destroy yourself.”

Children on the South and West sides of Chicago must have the same opportunities as their peers on the North side or on the North Shore, Pfleger said, saying too often, members of the community come together to remember and honor their children at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.

“Burr Oak cannot continue to be the gathering place of our community,” he said. “It’s time to stop looking down at caskets and saying, ‘rest in peace.’ It’s time to live in peace.”

Joseph Saunders offered a spoken-word performance in which he said he both loves and hates Chicago, which is both light and dark, and referred to the Chicago Public Schools as the “Chicago Penitentiary Preparatory System.”

“There is no neighborhood anymore,” he said. “Just the ’hood. No neighbors.”

Trevon Bosley, a member of St. Sabina’s BRAVE Youth Leaders, spoke not just about the death of his brother, Terrell, who was 18 when he was shot to death outside the Lights of Zion Church in 2006, but about the perceived indifference of government and political leaders at all levels.

When he asked the crowd how many had lost loved one to gun violence and the case was still unsolved, more than half the people in the audience raised their hands.

“You can be murdered in broad daylight, but your case will only be solved if you have a badge attached,” he said, and he decried politicians who seek the votes of Black and brown Chicagoans but disappear once they are elected, and those who point out shootings are down this year from last year, saying it feels like “they’re spitting in our faces.”

As of June 12, 1,075 people had been shot and 268 people had been killed in Chicago since the beginning of the year, according to the Chicago Police Department. Those numbers are down slightly from historically high levels in 2020 and 2021, but above year-to-date totals in 2018 and 2019.

Bosley made his remarks standing on the church steps with elected officials including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.

Stratton touted the state’s Restore Reinvest Renew grant program, and Lightfoot emphasized common themes among the speakers, including the role of parents and neighbors.

“We have to be the village for our young people,” she said.

That means, as Pfleger said, knowing where your children are and who they are with, but also stopping them from bringing guns into the house.

“When someone picks up a gun, it’s when and not if tragedy will strike,” she said.

Lightfoot said she would take what she heard to heart, even the words that were hard to hear.

“A lot of words have been said tonight, powerful, meaningful words, and we must take heed,” she said.

Following the speakers, the group walked from the church, at 78th Place and Throop Street, down 79th street, carrying banners, chanting and praying for peace.

Among them was Norma Wilson, a St. Sabina parishioner and social worker who plans to retire from the Veterans Administration this summer.

It was her second peace walk with the parish, and she said she participated because it’s important for members of the community to take action.

“You can’t expect anyone else to do what you aren’t willing to do, and I believe in this,” Wilson said. “What they were talking about, about needing a village, that’s how it was when I grew up. We need that.”

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