Back of the Yards residents drum for peace

November 19, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The area is a community facing gangs, guns and violence, but with the help of a Catholic priest, peace is the message this week.

"We want to walk for peace and justice," one person said.

Dozens gather to join in the efforts.

"So often we hear that Back of the Yards is violent. Tonight it's a place of peace," another said Friday night.

The peace is considered a Native American way by those gathered. There were many drums but one beat.

"The drum represents the beat of the earth, of Mother Earth, Tonantzin," said drum instructor Josie Dykas. "We're going to pray for Tonantzin because the healing has to come from the inside to come out."

Marchers hope it is time to heal - after so much pain. Since August, five young people have been killed in the neighborhood.

Fr. Bruce Wellems of Holy Cross/ Immaculate Heart of Mary officiated three of the funerals.

"We are not going to lay down and die," he said. "We're going to be a people of hope. They're showing me how to do that."

Adult members of the community and the young people who built the drums as part of a community project during the last three months march to the beat to send their own message.

"For peace in our neighborhood, so the violence will stop," Liliana Mejia said. "Everyone can see and hear us through our drums."

"It's important to show our youth that we're with them, here to help them, and support them," concerned mother Maria Vazquez.

They're there to hear, help and support the young people who are choosing peace instead of violence.

"When death takes away energy, they are going to find that spirit that gives them hope again - not separately, but together. I think that's the we are sending by walking on the streets. We're going to walk together," said Father Wellems.

The peace march ended at the neighborhood library, which was recently shut down because of flooding problems. It's the only library in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Parents say the church provides activities, but resources, like a neighborhood library, are also important to have in the community.

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