Mayor Brandon Johnson's safety plan put to test as Memorial Day weekend crowds roll into Chicago

South Side residents attend peace walk as BUILD Chicago hosts Summer Kickoff on West Side

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Sunday, May 28, 2023
Enjoy Navy Pier fireworks, festivals and more for Memorial Day weekend
Looking for things to do in Chicago this weekend? Check out the Navy Pier fireworks, the Belmont Sheffield Music Festival and the Suenos Festival.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Beneath the music, games and singing is a bigger mission taking place at the BUILD Chicago campus on the city's West Side.

"All of the activities BUILD has to offer have been open to the youth for the last two days," said BUILD, Inc. Chief Program Officer Monique Draper. "Just keep that in mind that we want all of our babies to come back on Tuesday."

The facility opened up its doors to youth up to 12th grade for its Summer Kickoff, which keeps them busy indoors and away from possible violence.

"Trying to spend time with them, show them positive things and that there's better things to do out here than just, you know, be out in the streets," said BUILD volunteer LaTee Smith.

READ MORE | Mayor Johnson, Chicago police unveil safety plan ahead of Memorial Day weekend 2023

The efforts are part of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's safety plan for Memorial Day weekend, aiming to support violence prevention and youth outreach efforts across the city by funding the work of more than 250 grassroots organizations working across 24 communities on the West and South sides.

Johnson was on hand at another event under his safety plan.

The return of the Prayer on the 9 brought hundreds of people out to walk down 79th Street.

They spoke out against gun violence, supported parents who have lost their kids to it, and brought awareness to mental health.

A pain buried deep in China Houston's heart turned into action as she gathered with hundreds of others at 79th and Greenwood.

"We got to stop being scared. We have to come out!" said Houston. "Say, 'Our youth matter! Our youth matter!'"

On Saturday, the Prayer on the 9 peace walk took off down 79th to the Dan Ryan. They marched past 79th and Ellis, where Houston's son, Jalen Price, was shot and killed in September.

"I never thought that I'd belong to the mothers' club of losing your children until when I went to my son's funeral," Houston said. "And, I was like, 'this got to stop.'"

SEE ALSO | Chicago shootings: 21 shot, 4 fatally, in Memorial Day weekend gun violence across city, CPD says

Johnson shared those sentiments at the event.

"The soul of Chicago is in full effect with the work that you all are doing. And, the encouraging part about this moment is that we don't have to do this alone," Johnson said.

A unified front shed light on some of the city's most violent neighborhoods.

"So, we can get some control over the violence that our children are dealing with," said Jennifer Gilchrist, who lost a loved one to gun violence.

They joined the event's spear-header, New Life Covenant Southeast Church Pastor John Hannah, in taking back the streets.

"This is what we call taking over our community," Hannah said.

Those who attended hope this Memorial Day weekend won't be a repeat of last year's.

"Fifty people were shot, nine were fatal last year. So, we're believing those numbers are going to go down. A lot is being offered to our community and our city, so hopefully we can take full advantage of it," Hannah said. "Your city and your community is worth staying around for."

Back on the West Side, Saturday is the last night of the Summer Kickoff at the BUILD campus, but organizers said they are already planning ahead to have more events throughout the summer in hopes to keep young people off the streets.