South Loop rally calls for peace

April 13, 2012 4:15:39 PM PDT
Jeff Maldonado's classmates took a message of peace to the South Loop Friday afternoon, hoping to keep his memory alive while calling for an end to the violence.

Some students at Perspectives Charter Schools had something added to the curriculum.

It was a special class to address ways to resolve conflict, how to deal with bullying, gun violence and how to honor victims of violence.

That class culminated with a display at the school and an act of social activism.

Students at Perspectives School hope to be agents for change, taking their message of peace through South Loop.

Many of the students did not know Jeff Maldonado. He graduated from Perspectives in 2008. A year later, the college student with a budding hip hop career was shot and killed.

"It's still very fresh," said Elizabeth Maldonado, Jeff's mother. "This year will be three years July 25 of the year with be his third year anniversary, so it's still very fresh."

It's believed the suspect shot at Maldonado, mistaking his van for that of a rival gang member.

"It's urban terrorism and it's happening in our communities and it needs to stop," Elizabeth Maldonado said.

Friday's anti-violence march ended at the school with music, including Maldonado's music.

The march and rally were part of a new art installation in front of the school called The Fallen. Students created the display representing all the young people killed by violence since Maldonado's death -- 258.

"You always hear about students being killed and you're waiting with baited breath if it one of ours," said assistant principal Anita Brown. "And when it is one of your students that you've known for four years, it really breaks your heart

Students working on the installation understand their stake in curbing violence. They hope their message is heard for their sakes. In just this small group of 6th and 7th graders, four know people who have been shot.

"When will I be the next one to get hit by a bullet for no reason?" asked 6th grader Clay Butler. "Or when will one of my friends get hit for no reason also? When will this gun violence stop? It should stop immediately."

Marcelino Sauseda was charged with the Maldonado's murder and is awaiting trial.

The afternoon Maldonado was shot, he was leaving the barber shop, wanting to look good for his first public performance at a block party.

His mother said Friday's rally was like the block party her son should have had.