AUBURN GRESHAM —The Rev. Michael Pfleger has planned a peace rally and march for Friday, the first day of summer — because more youths are killed during the summer than any other time during the year.
"The warm temperatures seem to bring out the worse in some people. Friday is the first day of summer and for many public school students the end of the school year," said Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Place.
"Summertime means we are even more at war with gangs, and we need soldiers in our community during a time of war."
The rally will begin at 7 p.m. in front of the church, followed by a march through Auburn Gresham. Joining the social activist at the rally will be the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nathaniel and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, parents of slain teenager Hadiya Pendleton.
"I plan to be there," said Cowley-Pendleton, whose 15-year-old daughter was shot and killed Jan. 29. "The shootings have not stopped since my daughter's murder and easy access to guns remain the number one reason why violence continues to run rampant in Chicago."
Ideally, Pfleger said if residents keep a strong, visible presence outside it could curtail gang bangers from starting trouble because "people would see them do their dirt.
"I'm not asking anyone to put their own life in danger. What I am asking is that everyone come together as a community and work together to keep drugs and violence off 'our' street corners and out of our community," he said. "It's hard for one person to win, but when a group of people stand together for a common cause, that's a different story."
The South Side clergy leader said shootings rarely happen around St. Sabina Church in part because members and residents look out for one another and protect what they consider is sacred ground.
"All of Auburn Gresham is not bad but when a shooting or killing occurs, all of Auburn Gresham gets lumped together and that is not fair," Pfleger said. "I would like to duplicate the success St. Sabina has had keeping violence around the church to a minimum to all of Auburn Gresham."
Jimmy Prude, a community organizer for the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., a nonprofit organization near St. Sabina, agreed.
"Peace is one of the principal things the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation advocates for," said Prude, who plans on attending the rally.
Starting June 25 and running until Aug. 3, the city-funded Safe Haven program will be available at various locations, such as churches, throughout the city. And while St. Sabina will not be a designated Safe Haven location for the city, Pfleger said it has always been a safe place for youth.
He said the church offers summer programs and part-time jobs. Call 773-483-4300 for more information.
"Throughout the year we have summer programs for youth and that has not changed and will actually increase for the summer," Pfleger said. "One of our alternatives for help keeping youth out of trouble is to give them jobs and keep them busy."