BRONZEVILLE — With only a single day of school left for Perspectives Charter Schools, students decided to make a stand against one of their biggest fears — Chicago's violent summer — with a peaceful march to take back the streets.
"We have discussions about if we're going to make it through the summer. The fact that I thought, 'I'm not going to make it through the summer,' that's what really pushed me," said Razia Hutchinson, who organized the "I am for peace" march that paraded more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff bearing the slogan on white T-shirts down State Street from Cermak Road to 36th Street.
"Hands up. Guns down. Stand up Chi-town," students of all ages and faculty shouted along the route, which ended at an anti-violence rally MC'd by WGCI radio's Tony Schofield outside Perspectives Charter School's IIT Math and Science Academy Campus, 3663 S. Wabash Ave.
During the rally, Schofield, the Rev. James Meeks and Ald. Pat Dowell thanked students for being part of a positive movement.
"Young people like you have the power to create a more peaceful Chicago. Chicago needs more ethical leaders," Dowell said to the students, who raised two fingers high as a sign of peace as they gathered on the school's football field.
"Your voice is being heard today. It's being heard loud and it's being heard clear," Dowell said.
Hutchinson, 17, a junior at Perspectives Charter School's Rodney D. Joslin campus became passionate about keeping the peace especially during the summer after hearing her classmate's reactions to the death of Tyrone Lawson, a 17-year-old Morgan Park honor student who was fatally shot outside a highly touted basketball matchup between Simeon and his high school, and the fatal shooting of Endia Martin, 14, after a fight on Facebook over a boy.
"It's Chicago, what do you expect?" Hutchinson remembered her classmates telling her during discussions of the shootings. Those "terrible" reactions told her that students were immune to the violence and that immunity allowed the violence to continue.
So she and Janeya Cunningham, 17, organized Thursday's march.
"Every time you hear about another young person dying it's heart-wrenching, and who's going to do something about it? We can't just watch people die back-to-back-to-back," Cunningham. "It can't continue."
Students recorded the march and rally on film in hopes of adding it to a documentary they're filming that will show how they plan to combat violence in their neighborhoods. The students have been raising money to produce the film through a Kickstarter fundraiser and have found themselves still about $20,000 dollars short of the $35,000 needed to produce the documentary with only five days remaining.
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