AVALON PARK — Frustrations, concerns and possible solutions were vented over the airwaves in the wake of a shooting that left a 6-month-old girl dead and her father seriously injured.
Rev. Corey Brooks, who has acted a spokesman for the girl's family, hosted an informal discussion on Inspiration 1390 on AM radio during the Community Empowerment Hour program Tuesday afternoon in which residents were urged to call in and speak their peace on the city's ongoing gun violence epidemic.
Six-month-old Jonylah Watkins became the youngest victim of gun violence this year when she was shot five times as her father, Jonathan Watkins, changed her diaper in the passenger seat of their family van.
Jonylah succombed to her wounds early the next morning after doctors at Comers Children's hospital were unable to save her.
"It seems like violence is not lessening in our city — it seems as if things are just getting worse," Brooks said on-air. "Just when you think we’re turning the corner…things like this happen to let you know that there's more work to do."
More than a dozen individuals called in to share their condolences with her family and comment on local violence, offering solutions such as the opening of youth community centers to reinstatement of the death penalty.
"We need to reclassify the offenders who are doing this," said one caller, a medical student and self-described mother of a young child. "This is not just happening in black neighborhoods and communities. … We need to understand that the violence that is plaguing these cities in America is universal and we need to deal with it as a people."
One caller, a 30-year-old Chicago native, placed blame squarely on the shoulders of parents, calling them "the most culpable individuals in this tragic saga."
Without responding to the accusation directly, Brooks said that while much has been made of Jonathan Watkins' alleged gang-involvement, "the truth is that we don't know."
The local reverend, formerly known as "the rooftop pastor" is a staunch advocate for families facing violence in Chicago and frequently acts as a gatekeeper for those individuals.
On Tuesday he urged anyone with information on Jonyla's shooter to come forward and offered what has become an $11,000 reward.
"There's somebody out there right now — you know who the shooter is. We need you, for the sake of community and for the sake of Chicago, to call in," he implored. "We need you so bad."