WICKER PARK — The mother of a 19-year-old gunned down last month wants to bring the community together Friday for a vigil against violence at the busy intersection near the CTA Division Blue Line "L" stop where her son was killed in a gang-related murder.
"I want the violence to stop. It's senseless. These kids are killing kids and for what? There has to be some way we can all come together as a community," said Marsha Perez, the mother of Cesar Perez.
Set for 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m, Friday, the "Unite to STOP the Violence Vigil" will be held in the Polish Triangle, in the 1200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, at the intersection of Milwaukee, Avenue and Ashland.
Participants will be encouraged to light white candles and at 6:37 p.m., the time that Perez died on March 29th, balloons will be released into the air, according to the event's Facebook page.
"He was my first born son and my best friend," said Perez, who has three other children and a grandson. "I begged the Lord, please take me and spare my child. I would die a thousand million deaths in order to keep him and have him back."
Perez denies her son was a gang member but acknowledged that he had many friends, including some who are in different gangs.
"I want the community to know who my son really was. Everyone is so quick to judge," said the 43-year-old who was born and raised in the neighborhood.
Perez said there will be "members of different gangs, skate boarders, people that play hockey, people of every culture, every race, every affiliation" at the vigil along with family and friends.
"He was not a follower and didn't care about what gangs were where. He would bring them together. He'd say, 'Lets go camping, let's explore.' They used to call him Referee. You never wanted to get into a fight in front of him, you knew he would stop it," Perez said.
Perez said she left a message with Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) about the vigil but has not heard a response yet. Hopkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday's vigil. After the fatal shooting, Hopkins sent out an alert to give residents a description of the shooter, who is still on the loose.
Perez is urging the person who shot her son to turn himself into police.
"Therefore we may see your humanity and compassion. If not, the the system will find you. And may God have mercy on your soul," Marsha Perez wrote in a tribute to her son that she plans to read at the gathering.
Area police were notified of the vigil and, said a Shakespeare District officer, "we are aware of it and will be planning accordingly."
Adam Brehmer, a former neighbor of the Perez family who is helping to publicize the event, said the vigil is not onlyto honor the teen but that the victim's mother also "wants to use this as a means to highlight the ridiculous amount of gun violence in this city."
Brehmer, who now lives in Logan Square and is studying social work at Northeastern University, said that Perez's death was a reminder that the Wicker Park and Noble Square area is not as safe as some people think it is.
Brehmer said the vigil will be "a good opportunity to unite those that live in more 'privileged' neighborhoods, with these situations that are so common on the South and West sides of this city."
"It is very easy for myself, and my peers, to go without noticing the tragedies that occur in the lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. Out of sight, out of mind," Brehmer said.
Perez would have turned 20 on April 19, Marsha Perez said.
Here is the tribute Marsha Perez says she plans to deliver at Friday's vigil:
In the honor of my child Cesar Mario Perez. A man, a leader, not a child not a follower. An individual as unique as the sun that sets. The flowers that bloom. My son always had time for the downtrodden. The misunderstood. No matter race or culture. If you knew Cesar he was always there to comfort one's soul. He never judged you on background or affiliation. My son walked through his area with no fear knowing in his heart he never harmed one soul. A young man so beautiful so true. Innocent would never begin to sum him up because that would simplify Cesar Perez. My son was a man. Never afraid to grow or learn. Smiling knowingly. That smile haunts because that smile is true. My son's voice will never be silenced because I am my son's voice. In order to stop the violence we need to stop the conspiracy of silence. My son loved to explore Mother Nature. Never afraid of the unknown. Sharing his adventures and experiences with others. Our child Cesar Mario Perez was always constantly reminded growing up by his grandmother Lilliana, father Cesar Perez and mother Marsha Perez that he was a son that would be a man and someday would be a father. And was always taught to respect and value others. Cesar had a golden heart that touched many. And many knew. Tragically cut short to immature and all too common street violence happening all around Chicago. My son was born and bred Chicago through and through. The Perez family is thankful that you honor the memory of our child lost to a senseless violent crime. Every life is valued. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers the lives that have been lost of every creed race and culture. Mothers fathers sisters brothers we all grieve morn the same. Please remember the sorrow and grief. To the person who took my child's life. I urge you to turn yourself in. Therefore we may see your humanity and compassion. If not the the system will find you. And may God have mercy on your soul. To my pooh bear regardless of where you are I am with you and you are within me. I love you to the moon through the stars into the sunrise. I love you infinity your "mom". - Marsha Perez