The headlines tell the tale: unchecked, senseless violence claims additional victims in urban communities every day. But the numbers do not truly register the families torn apart, the lives shattered, and the emotional trauma of losing a loved one. The loss, compounded with a feeling of helplessness, leaves a gaping hole in the community’s life.
This is why the Zakat Foundation of America held a peace rally and coat giveaway December 4, raising awareness and advocating solutions around the issues of community violence in Chicago.
The rally was held on the corner of 79th Street and Exchange Avenue, in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, a troubled area where there were 20 homicides between January and November 28, 2016. The coat giveaway was a peaceful counterpoint to the shootings to bring hope to the community. Zakat Foundation of America gave away about 80 coats at the rally.
U.S. Programs Coordinator Marcus Knight and Community Outreach Associate Fahmi Jones encouraged the community to work together. The Zakat Foundation Chicago Community Hub (Zakat Foundation of AmericaCCH, located at 3018. E. 79th Place) is for youth engagement and development, particularly for those who feel they have nowhere else to go. Mr. Knight said the space is for brothers who are looking for jobs, a space to relax, or a way to deal with the environment and stressful situations.
“We want to take this space back and make a difference, but in the meantime, before we actually achieve our goals, we’re going to find ways to enjoy this space for a positive purpose,” Mr. Knight said.
Mr. Knight said he wants to work with community leaders and residents to find a way to reduce violence in the area. He said handing out the coats was a gesture of goodwill, but it was also to show residents the potential for positive community gathering and interaction.
Mr. Jones specifically addressed the violence in the area. He asked those around him how they would feel the next day if they lost a family member.
“That needs to be a question that’s asked all around this world when life is lost,” Mr. Jones said. “You have to change your attitude. You have to change your mindset because you’ve got to think about other people. When you take someone’s life, you’re not just killing that one person. You’re killing that whole family, a whole community.”
“You need to understand that when we embrace change, when we embrace love, we become one voice and one community,” he added.