WOODLAWN — When Lunden Gregory closes her eyes, she dreams of thousands of Chicagoans holding hands in peaceful protest against the violence that led her to move around the city twice before moving out-of-state.
On the past few Sundays, the 26-year-old took her own steps toward making her dream a reality by gathering dozens of anti-violence activists to hold hands at the intersection of 63rd Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in Woodlawn. She plans to continue the protests indefinitely with hopes a creating a giant "MLK Peace Chain."
"I just got tired of hearing people say, 'We should do something,' or, 'This is so sad,'" Gregory said about the gun violence in the city that takes hundreds of lives each year. "I didn't lose anyone specifically but this does affect me."
When she was in Uptown six years ago, the sound of gunshots kept her up at night, forcing her to move to Woodlawn and South Shore before finally finding "peace" in Michigan, she said. But Gregory moved back to the city when she wanted "to no longer run from home" and "be part of the solution [instead] of running from the problem, when times get hard."
"I can't keep leaving my city," she said adding she chose the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive because she felt the civil rights leader it was named after wasn't being portrayed accurately with the violence that routinely occurs so close by.
She began standing on the corner three Sundays ago, joined by 11 people. The number has almost tripled since, mostly with mothers who lost children to gun violence, including Fatima Hope, whose son was murdered just a few blocks away in 2011.
"It shows were trying to reach a goal. Not just take our streets back but to show them we're not scared and we're going to do what we can to prevent [violence]," Hope said.
Yolan Corner — the mother of Nova Henry, who was murdered with her daughter in 2009 — was inspired when she heard about Gregory's vision of uniting the city against violence.
"These are my babies. They're not here anymore because someone decided to take their lives," Corner said, hiding her tears behind a picture of her daughter and granddaughter, who was the daughter of former Chicago Bulls player Eddy Curry.
"It seems like we're the ones who have to take our blocks back. They say don't come out here, 'It's dangerous,' but you can't do nothing worse to me. You already took my babies," she said.
Corner plans to rally with the group every week.
"Every week we hope to grow this until we cover the city. If I have to stand on the corner like a lady of the night. I will so she can grow up," Corner said grasping the hands of a young girl standing next to her at the rally.
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