Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homicide Quilt draws attention to violence in Chicago....again.

Rex W. Huppke's column in the Thursday, April 17 edition of the Chicago Tribune is titled "Look closely at the violence tearing at the fabric of Chicago". You can see slides of the quilt being made on this April 11 DNAinfoChicago article.

These were just two of numerous stories generated by the quilt. In Huppke's article he writes "Each year, as the grim tally comes in, I think: "Surely this will be the year Chicagoans say, 'No more.' Nowhere can this level of violence be deemed acceptable." And yet little seems to change."

Making something change requires a consistent effort to draw people together to make something happen. This being Easter weekend, it's a good time to think of how many years Christians have been "drawing people together" to support their beliefs. I wrote about this at the start of the week.

The media have been telling stories of violence, poverty and poorly performing schools in Chicago for more than 30 years, with some of these stories getting occasional front page attention and editorial "rage". Yet seldom do these stories point to all of the places where poverty contributes to these problems, or to the different social purpose organizations, such as volunteer based tutor/mentor programs, that are working in these neighborhoods to help kids have extra support and learning opportunities that might help them move through school and into jobs out of poverty.

Thus, my strategy has been to create "Rest of the Story" articles, using maps to point to where the news story took place, and writing stories that encouraged readers to seek out places where they could offer time, talent and dollars to help neighborhoods have a full range of learning, mentoring and job opportunities. This is one of those stories. This gallery shows more.

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 one of the core strategies was to create more frequent media stories that would draw attention and needed resources directly to tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods. This article showed that strategy. It's from 1994.

You can see this and more stories resulting from my efforts at this link.

Unfortunately, I started doing this prior to having the Internet and social media as a tool so my efforts were too little, reaching too few, and never have gained the support of higher profile leaders in media, business, politics, religion or support. Yet I keep trying.

It took 300 years before the Christian faith was firmly established in the Old World. I've only been at this for 20 years.

How do we expand this effort and build more consistent attention, greater involvement, and a better flow and distribution of needed resources? The violence quilt is an example of what's possible. However, this effort needs to focus in on individual neighborhoods, and needs to generate media, or social media, attention every day.

In February I wrote this article following this shooting in Rodgers Park. In it I suggested that youth in local high schools, non school programs and faith groups could become the journalist who keep this issue in front of the public on a regular basis, and who use maps like the ones I've created to show who the adult leaders are in the community who should be providing talent, technology, dollars and space for needed non-school tutoring/mentoring, learning and skill development programs in every neighborhood where too many stories of violence and lost opportunities appear.

I included this map in the February story, and I've updated it to show last week's shooting. Visit this page of the Chicago Tribune site and you can see other homicides in this part of Chicago. This article has maps of every community area of Chicago, showing how many high poverty youth between age 6 and 17 live in the area.

In every church celebrating Easter this weekend, and every synagogue celebrating Passover, someone will pass a collecting plate asking for donations. We don't just need stories about bad news. We need stories that ask for donations of time, talent and dollars to support youth serving and jobs programs in every neighborhood where kids need extra help.

Anyone can create these stories. They can probably write more effectively than I can. They can post stories on a wide range of social media sites, and create more emotional connection with readers than I can.

Do it. Do it every day. Keep doing it for an entire year, or a decade. Do it until all of the leaders in the community, and those in the wider Chicago region, are actively involved making high quality, constantly improving programs available to youth in every high poverty neighborhood.

Use the maps as a planning tool, and an accountability tool.

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