NEW CITY — Mothers Against Senseless Killings, the army of Englewood moms also known as MASK, took over a new block Saturday and Sunday.
The block was the same area where a pregnant woman and her mother were killed September 28. Patricia Chew, who was pregnant, and her mother Lolita Wells were preparing for a trip to visit family when they were shot. Chew's 11-month-old son and two men were also injured in the shooting.
The group expanded its territory to the 5300 block of South Aberdeen and May Street after a resident from the neighborhood reached out on Facebook for their help, said Tamar Manasseh, the group’s organizer.
“I never thought it would get to be like this,” she said. “The way that this started out, it was one corner in Englewood, one corner, and we felt that if we could make a difference on that one corner, we had [done] our job.”
A fed-up Manasseh formed MASK in June to patrol the neighborhood where she grew up after the murder of Lucille Barnes, 34, in the 7500 block of South Stewart. She now lives in Bronzeville but says that her roots are in Englewood. She and other mothers hoped to stop any retaliatory violence on Stewart and nearby streets. The community knows them as the "Army of Moms."
“You can’t tell people when they call for help, ‘No,’ especially when it is something as important as trying to save the lives of our children. You can’t say, ‘No, I can’t help you try to save your kids,’” she said.
To get the community to accept them, the mothers brought food, turned up the music and started introducing themselves. Initially, the block was wary of them, but after the group marched through the neighborhood, knocking on doors and offering free hot dogs and chips, residents warmed up.
“We’ve seen that when we bring food, when we come bearing gifts, people are a lot more likely to actually ... sit down and listen to us, have conversations with us,” Manasseh said.
The mothers group also offered backpacks and hats for the children.
Doris Meaux, 45, a resident on the 5400 block of South May Street, says she supports MASK.
“It takes a lot of courage to get out here,” she said. “I commend them. You never know what you might say that could could have an impact on a young person.”
Robert Dishman, 53, has lost two sons to gun violence. One died in 2010 and the other in 2012. The shootings took place across from the corner where MASK set up last weekend.
“I’m losing my whole family,” he said.
Dishman approves of MASK’s strategy and says he supports the mothers.
“This is a good approach to the stop the violence,” he said. “I don’t live in fear, I’m not scared.”
Residents said that many of the people shooting come from outside the neighborhood.
“It would be a good thing if we could bring the neighborhood together,” said Ruthie Carpenter, 60, who's lived on Aberdeen for eight years.
The plan is to pop up on different blocks, throughout different neighborhoods before it gets too cold, Manasseh said. She said she wants people to know who they are now so that in the spring, it won’t be a surprise when they’re on the corners daily. Bronzeville is next on the list, she said.
“This is all about spreading love,” she said.
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