CHATHAM — A group of community activists, nonprofits and media outlets met Wednesday for two hours with New York-based REVOLT TV CEO Keith Clinkscales to discuss the city's violence problems and ways to fix it.
The group said if the city wants to reduce crime, especially among youths, it needs to improve public schools.
"The most violent neighborhoods have the poorest schools. It's no wonder that the children that live in those neighborhoods are the ones committing the most crimes," said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham. "The city's focus should be on improving struggling schools."
Chicago Public Schools officials were unavailable for comment.
The meeting at Josephine's Cooking restaurant in Chatham was attended by 30 people including Grammy-award rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith, who attended on behalf of the nonprofit Donda's House, where he teaches creative writing to youths.
The Chatham resident said when the city closed dozens of schools last year it left many black kids with nowhere to go.
"The schools left open from the closings were used as dumping grounds for kids who cannot test into better schools," Smith said. "It is another example of black children being exploited."
But Clinkscales challenged representatives from radio stations to police the songs they air.
In a year the name of gunmaker Glock "will be mentioned 19,000 in songs played by urban radio stations," Clinkscales said. "Is that the kind of message we want to send to our young people?"
Clinkscales moderated the meeting and said he planned to host more community meetings in hopes of presenting an accurate picture of how Chicago residents were working together to reduce violence. His network, REVOLT TV, was founded in 2013 by entertainer Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and is carried in Chicago by cable provider Comcast.
Neighborhoods with good schools often translate into a good, quality of life, said Derrick Harris, a community activist.
"But if you have bad schools you will have a bad quality of life," Harris said.
A broken educational system is not the only reason for youth violence, said Jonathan Jackson, a spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
"A lot of these kids have mental health issues that gets overlooked as bad behavior," Jackson said. "When a child kills a child it is not only a crime but a mental health problem."
Rashanah Baldwin, co-founder of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, said while the meeting was productive she did not hear a lot of discussion about job training programs.
"Yes, we need jobs, but we also need more job training programs," she said.
David Peterson Jr., president of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in Pullman, said you could never have too much attention when it comes to a problem like violence.
"The more attention we place on a problem the sooner we can see a change," Peterson said. "I think the conversation started tonight was good and will eventually lead to solutions for a problem that won't be going away anytime soon."
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