The Summit on Urban Violence is being hosted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Chicago State University has billed this as a national event watched by violence-wracked cities across the country.
"We can do this. I don't like to listen to a lot of theory, either you know something about this or you don't," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles).
The panel included six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Chicago-area representatives Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Robin Kelly.
"We've asked the people who are gathering to come up with workable plans -- something that in the short term can show a difference," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago).
The Chicago State University planners asked the lawmakers to consider all types of violence affecting urban neighborhoods, including so-called "abstract violence."
"Abstract violence is when young men who are 18 to 26 years of age have no hope of getting a job and therefore no hope for a future," said Dr. Wayne Watson, the president of Chicago State University.
"This is not just about fighting crime," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "It's about providing opportunity for our kids and our families throughout our city of Chicago."
Emanuel left after his speech, before other panelists held a news conference citing the lack of educational opportunities and school closings as part of the problem in violence-wracked neighborhoods.
"It's going to take some reinvestment in urban communities," said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago).
"I think Danny Davis and Bobby Rush been in there too long. I mean, what are they bringing back to the community?" said community activist Bob Israel.
Some in the audience viewed the conference and some of the Congress members with skepticism.
"I can't say we need to just get rid of them, but we need to see something else different to work for our people," said activist Ezra McCann.
The participants broke into smaller groups for the balance of the afternoon. At 7 p.m. Friday, they were to convene a town hall meeting to which the entire city of Chicago was invited.