LOGAN SQUARE — More than 100 parents, kids and activists donned bright shirts and colorful signs Saturday as they marched through Logan Square for the 18th annual Walk for Peace.
“I’m worried about my students," said Olga Jimenez, a first grade teacher who attended with her family. "The stories that my kids tell are about shooting. It's about fighting. 'The police came to my neighborhood. Someone got killed on my street.' They shouldn’t be — at that age — experiencing that kind of violence."
Walkers convened at Richard Yates Elementary School, 1839 N. Richmond St., for speeches and prayers before setting out to canvass the neighborhood.
"I don’t know what you have heard."
"CeaseFire's come to spread the word."
Participants chanted as they weaved through residential streets and waved at cars along West North Avenue and North Humboldt Boulevard. Some clung to photos of people they've lost. Others carried homemade signs and red paper hearts.
"Put down the bullets."
"Pick up a book."
"I want to grow up."
"Let me grow up."
CeaseFire co-sponsored the walk, along with the Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) and the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) in an effort to raise awareness of anti-violence methods. Though CeaseFire has been in the news lately for the dismissal of its former director, Tio Hardiman, who was recently arrested for domestic assault, participants wanted to shine a light on peace — something that can be hard to come by in a city that recorded more than 500 murders last year. On Friday and Saturday alone, at least 13 people were shot.
Lori Crowder, ALSO's executive director, said such partnerships could stem violence.
"If we work together then we may be able to provide an extra lifeline to these vulnerable young people," Crowder said. "Often times these young men and women aren’t in school. They aren’t employed — at least not in mainstream jobs. And they aren’t accessing services unless they’re mandated to do so by the courts."
Michael Hendricks, an 18-year-old Humboldt Park resident, said he's lost friends to gun violence.
"Hopefully [this walk] will get the slightest bit of hope back in the community," he said. "Maybe change can start."
Isaac Aguiniga, 20, said the walk really resonated with bystanders. People cheered him on, snapped photos and took videos on their phones.
“What we just did was really good for the neighborhood," said Aguiniga, who lives in Logan Square. "I've got little brothers, little cousins. I want them to have a safe neighborhood to grow up in."
After the walk, participants reconvened at Yates for the Celebration of Peace, a block party-style fete with live music, hotdogs and hamburgers.
"I used to live on the South Side of Chicago," Moniqwa McCoy, 17, said while she waited in line for snacks. "It was a very rough neighborhood, guns shooting everyday. One day you wake up, and your friend’s gone. That's somebody you’ve known your whole life.”
The Rev. Autry Phillips, a CeaseFire spokesman, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“We must teach our children how to say no to violence and yes to love."