Reclaiming "Chi-raq"

KeAnn Mays-LeNoir is a member of Y-Life at First Baptist Congregational Church and an active high school junior, student council and National Honor Society member just to name a few at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School on the west side of Chicago in the Austin community. She gave the following testimony at the Reclaim Campaign Launch at First Baptist Congregational Church on November 4, 2013:

Why is so much violence acceptable to our city and our nation? Why have adults been sitting back while the next generation…is dying?

My school requires each student to have a corporate job in the professional world, on top of the rare opportunity to work for major corporations like J.P Morgan Chase, BMO Harris, and even side by side with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yet, my school is located in the fourth most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago, and my high school experience can speak for itself.

As soon as we return back to school grounds, we are in fear. We fear for our lives and our peers standing next to us because we are not sure who will be gunned down next in this city called “Chi-raq.”

The students at my school are trying to do the right thing, but even that is not enough to escape.

You will not catch a Christ the King student hanging out after school, because we fear that we might not come back to school the next morning.

We’ve had more lock downs than I want to count because another person became a victim of violence literally in front of our eyes.

Some may say “it’s an environmental and community problem,” but that does not mean it is okay, for any child to die senselessly. Our generation feels many have turned their backs on us. It is not okay that we are being blamed for this epidemic of violence.

It is not okay for my classmates to bury several of their friends, family, and neighbors in the same year, by the same pointless act.

It is not okay that my friends and I have already planned our funerals.

It is not okay for any child to be robbed of their childhood because of fear & confusion.

It is not okay.

That is why I am standing here as a member of the Reclaim Campaign because I and my fellow young people need our county to invest in violence prevention and Restorative Justice Peace Hubs.

We need to rebuild relationships with young people in our streets and on our corners to prevent violence from occurring.

We need to connect our communities and resolve small conflicts before they spiral out of control.

We need to heal and restore people to our neighborhoods after violence happens.

We need the Reclaim Campaign to keep us alive.

The Reclaim Campaign is a partnership between Community Renewal Society and Gamaliel Metro Chicago to address the violence that is devastating our communities. The campaign is calling for Cook County to fund the creation and expansion of Restorative Justice Peace Hubs in local churches and organizations by reducing the population of the Cook County Jail. These hubs reduce violence by working with young people to build relationships, reduce trauma, address and resolve conflict, and build community.

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