Peacemaking Gangs Build Playground

Chicago has become notorious across the U.S. for its high rate of street violence.  However, two rival gangs in the North Pullman neighborhood of Chicago were tired of the violence of which they were a part.  Cycles of killing claimed the lives of many young men with nobody knowing the reason why.  The Risky Road and Maniac Fours gangs fought over the North Pullman neighborhood until one day Sherman Scullark walked unarmed to meet face-to-face with the rival gang.  He found they were as weary of the violence as he was.

Scullark had earlier asked Chicago police detective Vivian Williams for help, but he initiated the break-through before she could get mobilized.  Williams, besides being a police officer, is known at the “neighborhood Mom.”  After Scullark’s bold walk into his rival’s turf to make peace, Williams connected the gangs to the local anti-violence community organization Chicago CRED.  They convened meetings with the gang members at a local church to work on maintaining and building upon the peace.

Now a different kind of news is coming out of Chicago. The gangs worked with other volunteers to build a playground to commemorate eight months of no violence in the neighborhood in large part because of the peace agreement.  Arne Duncan from Chicago CRED (Create Real Economic Destiny) said about the gangs, “They didn’t ask for anything for themselves. They said ‘our kids have no place to play. Can you help us build a playground?’”  As the gang members and volunteers constructed the playground  a sign proclaimed, “Peace begins with a smile.”

Gang member Sherman Scullark said, “It’s peace going on now….You get to hang out, sit on the porch and not have to feel somebody’s jumping out of the car and start shooting,  The kids can have somewhere to play peacefully and both sides can come and [enjoy] themselves.”  Detective Williams observed, “You see more children riding bikes … More people are walking their dogs. You just see more people outside doing what people should be doing in the city of Chicago.”

To view the local Chicago CBS station report about this, click here.

For the Chicago Tribune’s article, click here.

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