Teens from rival neighborhoods meet at summit

November 14, 2009 5:15:05 PM PST
An effort was under way Saturday to stop the violence by bringing teenagers together to talk about their differences.Saturday's event follows the brutal murder of Fenger high school student Derrion Albert. Fenger students from two Chicago neighborhoods met at the peace summit.

"Life is too short for this bull crap," one summit attendee said.

The dialogue between the students was real, just like the student want to stop-- by simply starting to talk.

"Before we get to fight, we ask ourselves, 'Do we really want to do this or is it worth dying over?" said Fenger student Damien Coleman.

All of the summit's participants were from Chicago's embattled greater Roseland community on the South Side, but they don't consider themselves from the same neighborhood. Half are from Altgeld Gardens. The other half were from an area called the "Ville."

It's the anger fueling ongoing conflicts between the two groups that some blame for sparking the violent brawl that killed Derriion Albert.

"The Ville, they probably don't want the Garden kids over here. They don't want them in their neighborhood. They think they should stay where they're supposed to be. They have a school in their neighborhood. So, why do they have to come all the way to Fenger?" said Daria Traywrick, also a Fenger student.

Most of Daturday was spent trying to establish some sort of common ground between the students at the non-profit group Ceasefire's first ever 'Searching for Peace Summit.'

"You've got all of these young brothers and sisters in the same place, and they wouldn't necessarily come together unless we brought them together today," said Ceasefire's Executive Director Tio Hardiman.

"Derrion Albert came up, and it was so refreshing to me that they were able to disagree without being disagreeable," one woman said as she addressed the group.

There were some conflicts resolved when the anti-violence organization was able to put high-risk teens in the same room.

Altgeld Gardens resident Stanley Rice says he was skeptical about the summit and came ready to fight, but he is glad he didn't have to.'

"We all do the same things. We all like the same rappers. We dress alike sometimes. We do everything kids do the same," he said.

Most people at the summit said the five-hour session of teaching, and not preaching, ended as a good first step in addressing the issues so many teens face.

"It changed things for me a lot. It gave me a better perspective on life, and it also made me feel differently about life," said Lee McCullum, a Ville resident.

In a separate event Saturday, Congressman Bobby Rush hosted a two-hour, commercial-free radio show on the escalating youth violence. Notable radio personalities, as well as students, parents and community leaders took part.


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