ENGLEWOOD — When Tamar Manasseh formed Mothers Against Senseless Killings to patrol the neighborhood after a murder in the 7500 block of South Stewart last month, she hoped to stop any retaliatory violence.
So far, in the five weeks since a man opened fire on three women on June 23, killing 34-year-old Lucille Barnes, there have been no shootings on the block or on the 7500 block of South Harvard where the patrols have also been set up, according to a DNAinfo Chicago map of shootings in the city.
"When you have sisters like sister Manasseh and others out here just participating, it makes a big difference,” said Johnny Banks, the executive director of the community organization A Knock at Midnight.
But Manasseh, who makes the trek daily from her home in Bronzeville to the neighborhood, said her group really needs more people in the area to join the effort, and that recruitment has been difficult.
“Recruiting and getting more volunteers has been quite the challenge,” Manasseh said as she sat on her folding chair on 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, watching over the block, not far from where she used to live at 55th Street and Bishop Avenue.
Right now there are about 15 adult volunteers who have pledged to be out there every day until Labor Day. That's about the same number the group had when it started a few days after the June shooting.
Manasseh said she didn’t think it would be this difficult to bring in more concerned residents.
“What we’ve learned since we’ve been out here is that people’s attention spans are short," she said. "It’s hard to keep their interests between tragedies.”
Andrea Watson says organizers want moms to remain active:
The block and surrounding area where the "army of mothers," as she refers to it, have set up have been peaceful since the group formed, she said, but the lack of adult volunteers surprised her.
“It’s like some people want to put their children in a bubble because they have good kids,” she said. “They want to separate their good kids from all of these bad kids, but your kids are going to grow up in the world alongside those very kids that you tried to shield them from. So wouldn’t it be better if you tried to save them all instead of just yours?”
She said she had higher expectations for the adults, but underestimated the teens from the neighborhood. At least two dozen teens have taken an interest in keeping their community safe and have taken part in the patrols, Manasseh said.
The ultimate goal is to get people on other blocks to follow her and start their own neighborhood patrols. She said she wants to hold an orientation in the near future to teach them conflict resolution and strategic placement.
Community policing in Englewood and on the South Side is important to Manasseh, she said, because she wants to help save her own children from becoming victims of the violence.
Chicago Police did not respond to a request for comment.
Banks' group, which provides direct services such as workforce development, family advocacy and more to Englewood residents, encourages more adults to volunteer, but he said he understands why some might be hesitant.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “Our people are afraid so they don’t participate."
He said that's all the more reason the group of moms and others should be praised for their courage and determination.
Manasseh said although the neighborhood has changed since she was a child, she is holding on to one day seeing a better, safer community.
“It’s like Englewood is the land that time forgot,” she said. “It’s the land that has been forgotten, but I have hope, I see hope here.”
In addition to seeking more volunteers, she’s asking for water and any other donations, which can be dropped off daily between 4-8 p.m. at 75th and Stewart.
To help, people can visit Behindthemask.org.
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