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Rev. Al Sharpton Defends Mission in Chicago, Might Bring 'Diddy' Here

By Wendell Hutson | October 23, 2013 8:22am
 Some community activists are upset at comments civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton made during a news conference in Chicago earlier this week. 
Activists Resisting Rev. Al Sharpton
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WOODLAWN — The Rev. Al Sharpton will spend time in a West Side apartment and the streets of Chicago in coming months hoping to shed light on gun violence and what people in the neighborhoods are doing to combat it.

He also might bring some famous friends with him, including Sean "Diddy" Combs, he said.

But not everyone is excited about the 59-year-old Baptist minister's plans.

"He came here with no resources [to combat gun violence]. I don't understand. Why is he here if he did not bring resources?" said Harold Davis, an entrepreneur and community activist on the South Side, during an interview Tuesday on WBGX (1570 AM). "He said he is coming to Chicago to put a spotlight on gun violence, but that spotlight already existed in Chicago."

Davis was one of three community activists who blasted comments Sharpton made Sunday at a news conference at the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center in the Austin neighborhood.

Sharpton said it’s time for local activists to “stop acting like gangbangers themselves and stop fighting over turfs” while trying to stem gun violence in Chicago, according to the Sun-Times.

Those remarks did not sit well with the Rev. Anthony Williams, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in south suburban Robbins.

"I am not a gangbanger, nor do I hang with gangbangers," Williams said. "I have nothing personal against Rev. Sharpton, but brother Sharpton coming to Chicago is not going to change anything.

Sharpton told DNAinfo that his comments were taken out of context.

"I was not referring to any one group, but to all of us, including myself, when I said we all need to stop acting like gangbangers who protect their turfs from others," Sharpton said. "We cannot act like this toward each other, even if we do disagree. I want to meet with any activists willing to work with me on this problem of gun violence."

Sharpton plans to commute to Chicago from his New York home once a week, and he could return to the city Thursday. He said he might bring Combs or other famous friends from time to time.

Tio Hardiman, former director of CeaseFire Illinois and now a gubernatorial candidate, said he understands where Sharpton was coming from when he made the "gangbanging" comments Sunday.

"Al Sharpton is correct when he made the comment in regards to all local activists need to stop gangbanging amongst themselves and worrying about who will take credit for reducing violence in Chicago," Hardiman said.

"Al Sharpton could be the very person to help unify the many different leaders in Chicago. The young men on the streets know that local activists are divided, and some people wonder why the young men do not listen to some of the local activists," Hardiman added. "Al Sharpton stated that he wanted to illuminate the leaders and organizations that are currently working to reduce violence. [But] he never stated that he had all of the answers or resources."

The Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, said he will be working closely with Sharpton on improving economic development in urban areas like Austin.

"Black businesses that are successful is the one thing good we have going for us," Acree said. "I think it is a positive step in the right direction to have Rev. Sharpton coming here to work with us."

But some black pastors might go along with everything Sharpton says just to benefit from his power and status, said Bamani Obadele, a community activist.

"You have some creatures with hidden agendas," he said. "I won't call them preachers because some of them do not act like men of God, so I call them creatures."