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Raising Voices in Chicago to Stop Crime and Foster Healing

TargetAreaDevCorp0Photo2-feature750On Aug. 4, more than 100 grassroots advocates and community members gathered in Chicago at the HopeWell M.B. Church to launch the “Survivors Alliance for Justice and Healing.” They also shared stories about their lives.

For the participants, a key part of the solution to achieve that justice and promote healing in Chicago is a “systemic” response that focuses on quality education, well-paying jobs and access to mental health services.

Priscilla Simes, left, poses with a young friend.
Priscilla Simes, left, poses with a young friend.

The event occurred as the city is seeing a record number of homicides and shootings and its public schools are losing teachers. Also, elected state leaders have yet to pass a full budget which would provide money for social service programs to assist residents.

“We are an alliance of crime survivors and formerly incarcerated that have come together to call for healing in our communities. Together, we acknowledge the trauma caused both by crime and the policies that have ravaged our low-income, Black and Brown communities and led to mass incarceration,” alliance members said in a statement about their principles.

“We believe that crime is a symptom of an unhealthy society and our collective response must be to make our communities stronger and safer by providing the resources needed to heal. We call for healing through art. We call for education, mental health services, jobs and addiction treatment. We call for a shift in priorities. We call for justice.”

Among the speakers was Priscilla Simes, a parent-leader with Target Area DevCorp., a grassroots organization that focuses on social justice issues. Simes, whose son passed away, has been working with Target Area DevCorp. for more than 10 years on issues of public safety and criminal justice reform. She also works with youth in her community.

Target Area DevCorp. hosted the event. Communities United, another social justice organization, is helping to lead the alliance, which is receiving support from United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, ONE Northside and Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI).

Below is an edited version of remarks that Simes shared with community members and grassroots advocates at the event:

“Hello everyone. My name is Priscilla Simes from Target Area. I promise not to be before you long.

I come to you as a mother! I come to you as an ex-offender! I come to you, as a survivor. I did a six-year bid in prison, for something I didn’t do, but because of my lifestyle!

[I] stumbled into a place called Target Area DevCorp. They loved on me, receiving me with open arms. They didn’t look at me for who I was, but, for who I may become!”

— Priscilla Simes, now a parent-leader with Target Area DevCorp.

I found myself in a place I just didn’t want to be in. When I came home from the penitentiary, I couldn’t even get a McDonald’s job!

The system said, ‘No! You know that X you got on your back? Quit playing!’

I applied for government assistance, and the lady told me, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not eligible for government assistance, [a] job or job training because you’re an ex-offender!’

I said: ‘Let me get this straight! You won’t give me no job, I’m not entitled to job training, and I’m not eligible for government assistance?’

Then, I asked her: ‘What shall I do?’ I tell you what I did. I fell into a state of major depression, at the end of my rope, when all hope was gone!

I messed around and stumbled into a place called Target Area DevCorp. They loved on me, receiving me with open arms. They didn’t look at me for who I was, but, for who I may become! Trained me, gave me a second chance! Then, I got to give second chances!

[A] few months before I came home from prison, I got a phone call in [the] state penitentiary, saying: ‘I’m sorry Ms. Simes, your son was murdered, in front of your house, broad daylight!’

I tell you, the truth! You’re looking at somebody God brought back from the dead! [He] had a beautiful heart too, 19 years old, always smiling. Later on, they found out it was mistaken identity. But you know how they do! They shoot first and ask questions later!

If you happen to be a victim of circumstances, oh well, another one bites the dust! It’s time for a change!

I’ll never forget when my son came to me and said,  ‘Mama, I wish I had a job!’ You see, a place like Target Area DevCorp. wasn’t available in the Englewood area for my child!

It probably could’ve even saved his life, and so it is! Every day, we hear on the news another mother crying on national TV for [the] death of her child.

Children are being slaughtered in the streets on a daily basis! What price do you put on human life? Silenced voices! Shattered dreams!

They may no longer have voices, but their blood cries out from the streets for justice and equality in the land of opportunity! In the United States of America!

Unacceptable. Too many mothers crying. It’s too many children dying. We miss their voice. It’s time for a change.”

The top image, which shows the Aug. 4 kickoff meeting for the “Survivors Alliance for Justice and Healing” in Chicago, is courtesy of Target Area DevCorp.


6 Responses to "Raising Voices in Chicago to Stop Crime and Foster Healing"

  1. FRANCIS BREWER  December 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    You elected representatives to take your problems to our government to be acted on.

    You are holding meetings without any elected representatives. When you call a meeting to end crime, have all your representatives there. Have a signboard [noting] who comes and who doesn’t. Call those that are not there on speakerphone that all can hear. Call all TV stations and radio stations to be present.

    You haved voted in the governor, lieutenant governor, your two U.S. senators of Illinois. And all the Congresspersons in your area. Now, the mayor. All City Council people involved in the crime district. The police chief and other officers will act on your behalf.

    These are the people than can make a difference.

    If these people don’t do their jobs, vote them out of office. And others, fire all of them.

    Now let’s call on Gov to bring in the National Guard that is his job. They do not belong in Iraq .
    You can not end this gun violence people getting KILLED with out help from all the people above.

    Reply
  2. Celmo  November 25, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Where are the fathers of these children? It’s far pass time to hold them responsible….Society has a great deal of responsibility in this matter. However, we must do a better job of building stronger families in our communities.

    This means two parents in the household, that are committed to family. I, know there are some who don’t like to discuss this problem in public……It is time for us to come forward and do so. The solutions to some of our problems in [the] inner-city will not be solved by politicians/government….To think this is the case, will only prolong meaningful progress. To the fathers out there, your children are your responsibility. This means you should be there for them from A to Z. To the women, if he is a dead beat, don’t have anything to do with him!!!!

    Reply
  3. jim brdmoam  November 17, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I was a youth worker with the YMCA in the 1960s. Sitting in an office will not connect to the young people that need help. Hank Bach and his workers knew how to get the job done. We worked 24/7 at times to stop problems on the street. I think Hank and Jim are looking down with disgust at how things are done today. God help us.

    Reply
  4. No NAME  September 21, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    The violence has to stop. It’s the gang bangers. In order to stop the crimes and the killing, we need the National Guard for just three to six months. Just try it for the people in Ill. It can’t hurt, and see what will happen. The marching, it’s not helping. So, they need to try something else. God is trying to tell us something. No one is listening. He is tried of the killing. Also, we need to get all the no good cops off the force. They are not protecting no one or serving anyone. All police are not bad, but all gang bangers are. So, to the mayor and the good police, you have to do something soon.

    The gangs are scared. That’s why they kill the wrong person, little kids, old people. They just don’t care. So, you see we, of Ill., have to help. So, bring in the National Guard or even the troops.

    Something has to be done. We need help! If you have any other way, please use it now. Also, the good police are scared, too, just like the Blacks are. So, if we can all just get along, the world will be a better place. May God bless the world! We have to never stop praying.

    Reply
  5. JULIAN  September 21, 2016 at 11:22 am

    This place needs hope now. This will not contiune. It will be stopped.

    Reply
  6. JULIAN  September 21, 2016 at 11:21 am

    This is crazy. People getting shot so bad, especially Blacks. This is a bad year for people, and I hope it gets better. Stop shooting people for no reason. This has to be stopped.

    Reply

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