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'Let Us Live,' Youth Plead, in March to Spotlight Violence

By  Josh McGhee and Quinn Ford | July 28, 2013 8:33am | Updated on July 28, 2013 12:54pm

 Hundreds joined Rev. Corey Brooks Saturday afternoon to march up North Michigan Avenue and stage a "silent sit-in" to help spotlight young people who are disproportionatley affected by violence in Chicago.
Project Hood Marches Downtown
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CHICAGO — Hundreds joined a South Side pastor Saturday afternoon to march up North Michigan Avenue and stage a "silent sit-in" to help spotlight young people who are disproportionatley affected by violence in Chicago.

The "Let Us Live" march, organized by Project HOOD, culminated in a "State of the Hood Address"  given by Rev. Corey Brooks of Woodlawn's New Beginnings Church outside the Wrigley Building.

Brooks said when a child goes missing in America, the government issues an Amber alert. The pastor said it is time to issue an Amber alert for a generation of black youth.

"Today, we are issuing an Amber alert from the hood because our black children are missing," Brooks said. "Missing education, missing employment, missing parents..."

Of the at least 229 people murdered in 2013, the vast majority have been African-American, according to DNAinfo.com Chicago data, and over 36 percent of those killed have been between the ages of 18 and 24 years-old.

Saturday's march and sit-in were organized by young people in those demographics. Brooks said 668 people registered for the event.

Corey Hardiman, a 22-year-old college student from the city's Roseland neighborhood, said he wanted to organize the march to let his voice be heard about an issue he feels local politicians do not talk about enough.

"I'm here today because there's no reason that 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton should be in her grave, 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins in her grave," Hardiman said, adding that it was important for young people to take the lead on anti-violence measures.

"This march isn't ran by old people; it's ran by 10- to 25-year-olds, because when you ask a young kid where they want to be when they grow up, they say '25,'" he said.

And Hardiman said although black youth are disproportionately victims of violence in the city, he wanted to view the issue though a different lens.

"This is not a race movement," Hardiman said. "This is a human rights movement."

Brooks echoed a similar message. He cited poor literacy, a lack of resources, negative media influences and unstable home environments as some of the causes that have led to youth violence.

Brooks also said most of the shootings that claim the lives of Chicago black youth is black-on-black crime and said "no one is outraged" about that.

"Where are all of the celebrities? Where are all of the politicians when it comes to us taking our own lives?" he asked the crowd. "Where is Jay Z? Where is Kanye?"

Afterwards, marchers sat outside the Wrigley building on North Michigan Avenue to hold a "social media sit-in." Teens were asked to remain silent for more than an hour while taking their message to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Tiffany Warren, another young person who planned the event, told the crowd Saturday's sit-in was about changing the perception of young people who do not expect to live past 25 years-old.

"I want to say the moment violence becomes a reality is the moment we need a reality check," she said.

Saturday's event came one day after an "emergency summit" on urban violence held by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Getting the community involved in creating solutions is important, Brooks said.

"It gives them a voice."