GRAND CROSSING — In an effort to bring awareness to the lives lost to gun violence on the South Side, thousands of people are expected to stand in unity across 21 blocks on Saturday.
At an appointed time, those who have lost love ones will be asked to step into 79th Street and lie down in an effort to demonstrate the enormity of the violence.
Participants in the two-mile prayer line from Greenwood Avenue to the Dan Ryan Expressway will wear red, representing the blood that has been shed, said John F. Hannah, pastor of Grand Crossing's New Life Covenant Church.
The call to action is being spearheaded by Hannah, who said the church’s role was to “come out of the four walls” to save souls and help improve the South Side.
One way to reduce violence is through jobs, he said. His church has hired nearly 70 employees for a new $4 million child-care center located 7522 S. Greenwood Ave.
The anti-violence “Prayer on the 9” gathering is in its sixth year; this year it's including those outside the church, he said.
New Life Covenant is “not an indoor church,” he said.
“We felt there needed to be a strong presence of the church in the community, so once a year we would line up with only members from 79th and Greenwood, all the way to the Dan Ryan Expressway. But with this increase of violence I just felt like we needed to do something a little bit more” and invited others to join, he said.
Hannah is anticipating at least 4,000 participants this year, he said.
Hannah said he had a vision from God two months ago where he was told to take his annual initiative a step further, he said. In addition to wearing red, participants are being asked to bring a photo of a deceased loved one for what Hannah is calling “The Step-Out.”
Church members, along with at least 21 community and faith-based organizations will take over 42 street corners. Hannah is trying to get groups and individuals to claim both sides of the street. Those interested can register online at www.prayeronthe9.org.
“I pulled a scripture from [the biblical book of] Genesis, when God said to Cain, your brother’s blood is crying out from the ground, so there’s a lot of blood cries in this city,” Hannah said.
Participants will meet on the corner of 79th and Greenwood at 10 a.m. Saturday for a community address and prayer. By 10:30 a.m. people will line up in their assigned spots. At 11 a.m. everyone will join together in song, chant and horn honking.
The Chicago Police Department is working with the church and will hold traffic during the highlight of the event, he said.
Anyone who has lost someone to gun violence will step out into the street in unison at 11:30 a.m. and lie down holding the photos of the deceased.
“There will be three minutes of silence to represent our loved ones who we’ve lost,” he added.
Hannah said he appreciated efforts by activists and those who are a part of the Black Lives Matter movement who attempted to halt Black Friday shopping on the Magnificent Mile last year.
“But the blood is a little further south," he said. "The crying is in our community. I want to bring that same drive into our community and basically say to the young men, whoever has the guns, this is what our streets look like.”
Hannah plans to distribute flyers with the image of the bodies in the street, hoping to touch the hearts of those with the guns. Having a visual is the best way to reach the younger generation, he said.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words,” Hannah said.
Hannah hopes the one-day event will spark conversations that will lead to solutions.
Groups and individuals can register online at www.prayeronthe9.org.
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