Chicago, IL -- The city of Chicago has seen record-breaking violence in near war zone proportions recently. Over the July 4th weekend, 82 people were shot, and 15 died. This violence happened in spite of Chicago's 12,244 sworn officers, and the fact that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
The ban on assault rifles, a high-capacity magazine ban, and nowhere to purchase ammo makes Chicago one of the toughest places in the country to obtain a serviceable and firing weapon -- legally.
With these strict laws and thousands of cops, how on earth is there still all this gun violence in Chicago?
While there are many ways to answer that question, the short answer is this: Cops cannot be everywhere, many of them are corrupt, and gun control only keeps guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
A group of courageous and wise Chicago moms understand the notion as mentioned above, and after police and gun control have failed them, they've taken to the streets to do some policing of their own. Instead of brute force and the threat of violence, these mom's use love and caring to incite peace. It's working too!
The city of Chicago is made up of 77 neighborhoods. However, one neighborhood, in particular, accounts for almost half of the violence throughout the entire city. That neighborhood is Englewood.
Only 3 square miles in size, Englewood is known as one of the most dangerous areas in the country. However, as police superintendent Garry McCarthy points out, this violence is in decline thanks to the community policing work of Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK).
MASK is made up of moms who grew tired of seeing their community turn into a war zone and have taken action. MASK has been patrolling the neighborhood for two months now, and the results are astonishing.
Known to the children in the community as "the pink shirts" these brave Chicago moms don their uniforms of love (a pink shirt) and take to the streets. They are not out there to force compliance, however, but instead help those in need.
Tamar Manasseh is the mom behind the creation of MASK. On their first night 'on patrol,' Manasseh and a half dozen other moms set up on a street corner in an attempt to prevent a retaliation shooting after a young woman had been killed the night before. They were armed only with food.
"If it didn’t work and there had been a reoccurrence of violence that night, I would have packed it up that day. But there wasn’t. So I decided to keep going," Manasseh said. "Our strategy is food, pure and simple. Even the toughest kid will come out for free food. It’s also strategic because people have to stand around and wait for you to cook. And, while you have them there, you can have meaningful conversations. It works every time."
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The community has since rallied behind these moms and residents are going so far as to disassociate with the gang members in the community and refuse to allow them to operate.
"No one is going to shoot here because the kids themselves have gone to great lengths to protect us. They tell others that they can’t sell drugs or carry guns here. If you want to do something, you have to go down the street," explains Manasseh.
Manasseh gets it. She understands that the war on drugs has created a vicious cycle of violence and drug abuse and the kids in the neighborhood are left with very little choice. All too often, kids who are simply selling drugs to make ends meat end up in the prison system, which essentially guarantees zero future opportunity outside of the black market.
"What we really need is more opportunities. You can’t tell kids “don’t sell drugs” but then give them no way to make money. Their needs aren’t so big. Kids want jobs but need skills," says Manasseh. "Kids want to get gang tattoos removed. A kid has been abused by the police and wants to talk about it. Maybe a girl needs pampers for a baby. When you get into it, it isn’t about taking the guns. It’s about these back stories and what happened to make them pick up a gun in first place."
One would think that the Chicago police department would be bending over backward to help these mothers achieve their goals of reducing violence and helping their community, however, one would be wrong.
As Manasseh explains, the cops are the largest part of the problem.
I thought the kids and the violence would be the hardest part but it turns out that the police are.
We notify police officials when we do patrols and they are fine with it. But there’s a breakdown in communication with the guys on the ground. I’ve had officers threaten to “clear” me off the corner.
Once, we were singing happy birthday to a kid and an officer drove by and flipped us off. Another time, an officer accused a 14-year-old boy of saying “f**k the police!” Before we knew it, the kid was pressed against a car and four other police cars, each containing four officers had driven up. Everyone was screaming and yelling. It could have really escalated if I hadn’t diffused it. You know, an unarmed man was killed by police in Englewood just last week.
I wanted us to bridge between the police and community, but that isn’t possible. We are there to protect the community and I tell the kids that—I’m here to protect you from both yourselves and any outside enemy, including the police.
Manasseh and the other intrepid mothers are involved in a war against violence and crime. They have no tax farm from which they can draw to fund this war and no arsenal of weaponry and troops to fight it -- yet these mothers still fight, and they are successful.
The secret of positive change lies not in the government's authority to mandate it. It has to do with love. As Dale Brown, owner of the astoundingly successful private police force in Detroit known as the Threat Management Center said,
"The cornerstone for protection is love, not violence, not guns, not laws, you cannot truly protect anything that you do not love."
Share this story with those that you know so that they can see the true power of love.
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