Young people representing the Humboldt Park community’s 10 public schools participated in a “town hall” meeting and a peace march and rally against violence.
The May 27th town hall meeting was hosted and moderated by Reverend Wilfredo de Jesus, Pastor of New Life Covenant ministries. 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan were featured panelists. They listened intently for over an hour as young people shared their concerns and asked direct questions to these individuals.
There were frank discussions taking place, and the students didn’t hold back on their questions and comments. Some of their comments and questions addressed the need for more extracurricular opportunities as an option to gangs for the community, while others offered an insight into the fear, frustration, and desperation that many young people face every day. This was pointedly expressed when a student challenged Superintendent Weis on acts of abusing power by some police officers, an all too common occurrence in communities with high gang activity.
The town hall meeting was followed up two days later by an evening march/rally in Humboldt Park. Over 300 students, young people, and community members participated in the march from various points in the community and converged at the Humboldt Park boathouse where they were treated to dance, poetry, and musical performances by students. These performances highlighted the positive contributions of a generation and in a community where all too often only the negative is brought to light.