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Chicago Youth Impels ‘Increase The Peace’ Campaign to Combat Violence

Gun violence plagues Chicago, a city of more than 2.7 million, where nearly 2,000 people have been shot so far this year

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Increase the peace campaign
Chicago Youths Hope to 'Increase the Peace' to Combat Violence. VOA
  • More than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year in Chicago due to Gun Violence
  • Instead of gunshots, drumbeats and chants fill the air as a man leads a group of young people, on a protest march to “increase the peace”
  • Carlos and Geiger both realize that marches and backyard cookouts can only go so far

July 17, 2017: When he woke July 5 to news that more than 100 people had been shot in the city of Chicago over the long Independence Day holiday weekend — 15 of them fatally — 16-year-old Carlos Yanez shrugged it off.

“After a while, you just get used to it,” Carlos said. “I mean, what can you do? We don’t have no one helping us. What can we do?”

Gun violence plagues Chicago, a city of more than 2.7 million, where nearly 2,000 people have been shot so far this year.

Though the number of shootings is slightly down from last year, the problem has caught the attention of the Trump administration, which has ordered more federal agents to assist state and local law enforcement in the Midwestern city. But Carlos said an increased police presence and a national spotlight on the violence have not helped those living in these South Chicago neighborhoods.

 

Increase the peace
Rev. Al Sharpton stands with clergy and responds to a question during a news conference, July 13, 2017, in Chicago, where concerns were voiced over the announcement that more federal agents will be sent to Chicago without serious meetings with community leaders. VOA

‘Gets worse and worse’

“It’s been going on and it just gets worse and worse,” he said, the resignation clear in his voice. “Chicago’s broke, CPS (Chicago Public Schools) is broke and yet they are funding all these cameras on every street corner, all these speed bumps, all these turnabouts. All these new cop cars, all this new equipment, but yet they still can’t fix the violence.”

It is violence Carlos himself has narrowly avoided. He said even though he’s not affiliated with a gang, he’s dodged bullets five times. Many of those around him have been injured, or died.

“Just a couple of months ago, a 28-year-old man was killed right on this block,” said Berto Aguayo, standing outside a church in the predominantly Hispanic Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

Aguayo is a community organizer with The Resurrection Project, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, is trying to work at the grassroots level to combat the violence.

“I lived two blocks away from here. I was a gang member in this community back in my younger days. I’ve lost friends to gang violence. I lost my first friend when I was 13 years old. And that’s a typical story of people here on the South Side of Chicago. Death is a constant fear.”

But on a balmy Friday evening, fear seems far away from these streets in the neighborhood Aguayo grew up in.

Increase the peace
Participants march for peace in a prayer walk, April 14, 2017, through one Chicago neighborhood hit hard by gun violence, the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. VOA

‘Increase the peace’

Instead of gunshots, drumbeats and chants fill the air as he leads a group, mostly of young people, on a protest march to “increase the peace.”

“This idea originated back in October 2016, when a 16-year-old girl was killed in front of our office,” Aguayo explained. “It became a point of the community being fed up. Young people were fed up with the violence they were witnessing.”

He said that became a catalyst for the Increase the Peace campaign.

“Youth decided, hey, why don’t we camp out on a street corner on a Friday night that is usually plagued by violence on a Friday night. What we try to do here is really stay on a block, and have a positive presence, and promote peace through our young people,” Aguayo said.

“It’s bringing people together, not ostracizing anyone,” Deztinee Geiger said. “The ostracization is what causes people to pick up a gun a lot of the time.”

Geiger is one of the youth leaders of this event at St. Joseph’s church, the first of several planned for Fridays this summer throughout different neighborhoods.

‘Respond with positive energy’

Carlos, the 16-year-old who also is one of the youth organizers of the Increase the Peace campaign, said the message is simple: “You don’t always have to respond with violence. You can respond with positive energy.”

But Carlos and Geiger both realize that marches and backyard cookouts can only go so far.

“The root of the problem is lack of resources, which results in violence,” Geiger said. “So therefore to fix the fact that violence exists, you have to fix the fact that there are a lack of resources.”

One resource Geiger thinks would help is a youth or community center, so those most at risk have a permanent place to go for positive activities. But with or without those resources, Geiger said the primary goal is to “change the narrative” of the violence shaping the city.

“I don’t think the violence will shape us. I think the leadership by young people is going to shape us. I think that what’s beautiful about this is that it’s not focused on violence,” Geiger said.

But it is violence that continues. On the weekend Geiger spoke to VOA, 41 people were shot in the city, three fatally, underscoring the need to “increase the peace.” VOA

Next Story

Student Project into Space, NASA Comes Up With Chicago Planetarium

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

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Earth
“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases, Pixabay

 

College student Fatima Guerra, 19, will be the first to admit, she’s into some really nerdy stuff.

“Like, up there nerdy.”

“Way up there nerdy,” she says. “All the way up into space.”

Guerra is an astronomer in training, involved since a high school internship with a small project at the Adler Planetarium, with big goals.

“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases,” she told VOA from the laboratory at the Adler where she often works.

FILE - Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago.
Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago. VOA

Coding ThinSat

Data that sheds light on those circumstances is gathered by a small electronic device called “ThinSat” designed to orbit the Earth. It is developed not by high-paid engineers and software programmers, but by Chicago-area students like Guerra.

“We focused on coding the different parts of the sensors that the ThinSat is composed of. So, we coded so that it can measure light intensity, pressure.”

“This stuff is very nerdy,” Jesus Garcia admits with a chuckle.

“What we hope to accomplish is look at Earth from space as if it was the very first exoplanet that we have. So, imagine that we are looking at the very first images from a very distant planet.”

As a systems engineer, Garcia oversees the work of the students developing ThinSat for the Adler’s Far Horizon’s Project, which he outlines “bring all types of students, volunteers and our staff to develop projects, engineering projects, that allow us to answer scientific questions.”

Garcia says the students he works with on the project cross national, racial and cultural divides to work toward a common goal.

“Here at the Adler, we have students who are minorities who have been faced with challenges of not having opportunities presented to them,” he said. “And here we are presenting a mission where they are collaborating with us scientists and engineers on our first mission that is going into space.”

Rocket carries project into space

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On board was ThinSat, the culmination of work by many at the Adler, including Guerra, who joined the Far Horizons team as a high school requirement that ended up becoming much more.

“A requirement can become a life-changing opportunity, and you don’t even know it,” she told VOA. “It’s really exciting to see, or to know, especially, that my work is going to go up into space and help in the scientific world.”

Daughter of immigrants

It is also exciting for her parents, immigrants from Guatemala, who can boast that their daughter is one of the few who can claim to have built a satellite orbiting the Earth.

“I told them it might become a worldwide type of news, and I’m going to be a part of it. And they were really proud. And they were calling my family over there and saying, ‘She might be on TV.’ And it’s something they really feel a part of me about,” Guerra said.

Also Read: ‘Big Steps To Reduce Carbon Emission’ Apple Expects Cooperation With China on Clean Energy

Long after the data compiled by ThinSat is complete, Guerro will still have a place in history as a member of a team that put the first satellite developed by a private planetarium into space.

She says her friends don’t think that’s nerdy at all.

“It’s cool, because it’s interesting to see that something so nerdy is actually going to work, and is going to go up into something so important,” she said. (VOA)