Austin teens help create action plan against Chicago gun violence

Chicago Proud
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A community leader from Austin is collaborating with teens to battle gun violence by creating a "safe zone" and hosting events reclaiming the neighborhood from violence.

"I know I can't stop everything, but I do know that there are different possibilities to curving what we see," said community leader Aisha Oliver.

Oliver, a native of Chicago's Austin neighborhood, said she is no stranger to gun violence. She said she's dedicated years to mentoring teens in her community to help mend that problem.

Oliver and about 10 teens she mentors came up with the Austin Safety Action Plan to help address the issue of gun violence.

According to the city's Violence Reduction Dashboard, there were 37 fatal shootings in the neighborhood from Jan. 1, 2021, to July 21, 2021.

"Instead of waiting on help, we created help for ourselves. So that meant identifying what the issues were, how they've been affected by it and what were some ideas that they had to put in place so we don't see the same violence continuously," said Oliver.

Lester Bradford, one of the teens who created the Austin Safety Action Plan, said he lost three people in a single week.

"We grew up rough, so we know how it is," said Bradford. "So this year, this summer, is terrible, multiple people dying and it's not even really grown folks. It's really the kids that are our age that we knew."

The safety plan includes a safety zone at Austin Town Hall Park, where the group hosts basketball tournaments every Thursday to reclaim their neighborhood from violence.

"A lot of the people who are in the streets, they used to have love for the sports, like basketball. So we're trying to like get them to come together through that," said Darian German, a teen from the Austin community.

The safe zone where the tournaments take place will be driven by neighborhood institutions like the Austin Town Hall and the Austin Branch of the Chicago Public Library. The goal of the action plan is to engage the community in positive and constructive ways. The events will continue until mid-August.
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