MORGAN PARK — Black fraternities and sororities teamed up with Roseland CeaseFire Saturday to canvass hard-hit South Side neighborhoods with a message of anti-violence.
“There’ve been a lot of shootings and killings that happened in this area recently,” said Bob Jackson, Roseland CeaseFire’s executive director. “There’s probably going to be a lot of retaliation, and we’re trying to get in front of that.”
On Friday, Dionta West, a 38-year-old father of three, was shot to death outside his West Pullman home while leaving for work. Youth counselor Dane Whitfield, 31, had been gunned down less than a half-mile away just two days prior.
“A lot of the youth — they say they don’t fear dying,” said Andrew Jones, 49, from the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. “If they don’t care about dying themselves, they couldn’t care less about another life.”
About 150 people congregated Saturday morning at the Roseland CeaseFire headquarters, 1340 W. 111th St. Armed with flyers and bumper stickers, volunteers visited shooting sites across Morgan Park, Roseland and West Pullman.
“These [fraternity and sorority members] are all college graduates — many with advanced degrees,” Jones said. “The young people need to know there’s a better way of life than violence.”
Volunteers urged community members to report violence and get involved with CeaseFire’s anti-retaliation efforts. While some residents were eager to chat, others eyed the influx of volunteers suspiciously.
“A lot of people are not going to talk to us because they’re looking at it as, ‘You’re snitching,’” said Pretrece Devose, 38. “They say, ‘snitches get stitches.’ If you tell something, you’ll get it. A lot of people are scared to actually tell.”
Devose lamented the lack of community.
“Kids can’t be kids no more,” she said. “They can’t play in the street… I don’t want to lose my [11-year-old] son to the street.”
Keystone Lodge member Lavell Eaton, 21, said he experienced a lot of violence “just growing up in Chicago, ducking and dodging.” Several of his friends have been shot.
“Chicago didn’t used to be as bad,” he said. “Everybody has less morals now, so I’ve been impacted by it a lot… you know, not being able to walk home sometimes.”
When a volunteer urged an elderly woman who had lived in Morgan Park for more than 60 years to “have a blessed day” and “be safe,” she replied: “Well, where can I go [to do that]?”
Jones said violence has “absolutely” gotten worse. Kids today don’t learn as much about morals or the consequences of their actions, he said.
“People talk about the community being a village, and it truly used to be a village,” Jones said. “A neighbor or stranger would tell me to stop doing something, and I would stop. You know, there was a respect factor. That seems to be missing [now]. I think that alone would remedy a lot that’s going on.”
Volunteers on Saturday said they hoped to act as positive role models or mentors for neighborhood youth. Several distributed student financial aid flyers.
“Someone brought us up,” said Patricia Smith, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Chicago. “Someone did the same thing for all of us — made sure we stayed on the right path… Youth need that mentoring. We’re out here to try to lead by example.”