Just 48 hours before a gunman killed four people in a Chicago hospital, Lake Region Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) leadership held a panel discussion at Shiloh Church where youth grappled with ways to deescalate the area’s violence.
While there are no easy answers to this vexing problem, during the Sabbath afternoon program panelists weighed in that systematic and spiritual changes were necessary.
Zakia Jarrett, Lake Region’s public campus ministry representative, believed one area to explore is “equal access” since many children in low-income areas do not have the same resources and opportunities available to those in middle class and/or high-income areas. “That’s what people want,” she said. “It’s almost an expectation, but it’s denied to a certain subset of people, and that’s not right.”
Another panel member Eron Powell, an educator for the City of Chicago, was of the opinion that people needed a reason to have hope. “Financial hope, economic hope, spiritual hope,” he said. “It seems that we’re living in a world where young folks feel hopeless. Parents, adults--feel hopeless.” Powell recalled an incident where a parent whose child was in trouble sat in his office and the parent told him, ‘Mr. Powell, let me tell you something. I already know what’s going to be the outcome.’” The parent said they’d already taken out an insurance policy on their child because they knew he wouldn’t be around much longer.
The issue of police brutality toward African-Americans was also broached and the group, ranging in ages 21-35, expressed sentiments of outrage, frustration, hopelessness and disgust. When asked about their reaction to the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police office Jason Van Dyke, many expressed a sense of relief that some measure of justice was served when they heard the officer was convicted of second-degree murder. Some were surprised of the conviction because oftentimes police face acquittal after a shooting. In his remark, Hyde Park Church member Adam Joseph offered the reminder, "Two people are technically losing their lives because of a foolish decision."
The discussion concluded with the question as to what role should churches play in reducing violence, and the panelists noted churches can provide shelter from the chaos encircling the community. Joseph said, “This needs to be a safe haven for everything going on outside, people should be able to take sanctuary here.” Moderated by Lake Region’s PARL Director, Edward Woods III, the discussions serve as a reminder of the importance and value of dialogue pertaining to issues our members face.
Elijah Horton, Chicago-based correspondent, with Lake Union Herald staff
Panelists from right to left: Eron Powell, Ronnie Nicholson, Carrie Willis, Zakia Jarrett, Janelle Strong, Adam Joseph, Tevin Thomas, DJ Daly