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CeaseFire Rogers Park Celebrates Four Months Since Last Shooting

By Benjamin Woodard | February 28, 2013 4:44pm

ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park residents are celebrating an auspicious milestone: It's been four months since the neighborhood last saw a shooting.

By this time last year, three people had been killed in shootings, said neighborhood CeaseFire organizer J.W. Hughes.

"I believe it was because we were here," he said of his organization's effort to stop violence on Howard and Clark Streets and Morse Avenue.

Last year, he said, the so-called violence interrupters weren't working the streets due to a lack of funding.

The Rogers Park CeaseFire group held an intimate gathering Wednesday night at the Mayne Stage to celebrate both Black History Month and the lack of shootings.

An abridged version of documentary "The Interrupters" was shown and a panel including CeaseFire star Ameena Mathews, Northwestern University professor John Marquez and Rogers Park violence interrupter Willie Dixon answered questions and discussed what it takes to stop the escalating violence that took 506 lives last year in Chicago's neighborhoods.

Hours before the event took place, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) released details about a low crime rate and the lack of shootings within the Rogers Park Police District, the only district in the city yet to have a shooting or homicide in 2013.

He mentioned beat police officers and vigilant Rogers Park residents were to thank.

But the interrupters, who have been working in the neighborhood since September 2012, weren't directly mentioned.

"I was a little bit surprised we were not mentioned," Hughes said of the alderman, who he thought would be at the event.

He said it takes more than police to curb violence among gang members.

Yet Moore says he gives "a lot of props" to the community for the reduction in shootings, which includes CeaseFire interrupters, CAPS beat facilitators and business owners.

"It would not be fair to the other members of the community if I simply singled out CeaseFire and left the rest out," the alderman said in an email.

Marquez, the professor, said while on the panel that he has "metal in my body" from experiencing violence on the street.

"We have a problem in our community that we don't love ourselves to the extent that we should. We can only save ourselves," he said. "We need to stabilize our own out of love for one another as black and brown people."

Kush Hatley, of Rogers Park, performed with his three-man hip-hop group, 50 Grand.

The 16-year-old Sullivan High School student said he was inspired to promote an anti-violence message after his cousin, South Side rapper Lil JoJo, was shot and killed in Englewood last September.

Hatley's songs urge his peers to "quit beefin'" and to not hurt each other.

"As you know," Hughes said to the audience, "the police do play a valuable role in what we do out here. I also know there are a lot of other community entities that goes into helping making this community safe for 119 days.

"I wanted to make sure that the people here understand that. It's not just the police or CAPS, it takes a community."