CeaseFire puts on family event to stop violence

August 1, 2008 4:06:51 PM PDT
It has been a day of peace in Chicago's Roseland community. Preparations were made for up to 600 people to enjoy a day of family fun, all in an effort to stop the violence in their neighborhoods. The event was put on by CeaseFire, the public health group that has toiled in Chicago to prevent violence for eight years.

It was a gathering of children, community activists, and even gang members, who crossed territorial boundaries to add their voices to a universal message.

Ex-felons all, rappers from the group Gradschool implored the impressionable to not make bad choices like they did.

It's awareness-building, a key to stopping the violence.

So many blocks in Chicago have been scarred by death and destruction. Charles Williams, a former gang member is grateful for the event. He says it builds courage and accountability.

"When I was younger we didn't have things like this coming up, so violence just occurred. Now we got people standing up, we got all these kids knowing that violence is wrong, that gun crimes are wrong," said Williams.

There's hope in the gathering on a sun-filled day. The message drew in Paco Williams, a 21-year old gang-banger who has ventured beyond his block.

"I was in the streets, so it gives me something to do, I could be playing here in the jumping jacks see," said Paco Williams.

Gang member Dale Daniels, 19, is motivated enough now, he says, to carry the message of non-violence to his block tonight.

"It gives me the courage and the bravery to do it, it give me a pat on the back," said Daniels.

Turning around individual lives is a key milestone for community programmers such as 13-year veteran Audrena Spence. She wants to dispel the cynicism felt by many who see events and marches like these and think nothing changes.

"When I see all the young people I have worked with, say after 20 years they remember me and they tell you you have changed their lives, it gives me the momentum to keep on doing what I am doing," said Spence of Metropolitan Family Services.

CeaseFire is a program of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. The initiative takes a strategic public health approach to violence prevention.

In Roseland, Democratic state representative Bob Rita says CeaseFire has reduced crime by 33 percent in eight months.


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