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Gang summit fizzles, organizer says it’s ‘the beginning’

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Updated: October 30, 2013 6:54AM



The theme of a national gang summit on the Far South Side — organized by a California pastor with Chicago roots — was “the village is here.” But the village wasn’t there Saturday at the sparsely attended National United Summit Review.

The Rev. Gregory Tatum had hoped hundreds of current and former gang members would fill the seats at the House of Hope, but he said squabbles about his street cred might have kept people away.

Tatum said he believes Chicago pastors didn’t support him because they didn’t know him.

“They kept saying, ‘Well, we don’t think it’s a good idea. It was done before. You’re from California. Even though you lived here many years ago, things have changed,’ ” Tatum said. “But overall, they didn’t know anything about me. I think that was the greatest fear, not knowing who I am.”

Still, Tatum said he wasn’t disappointed at the turnout.

“This is the beginning groundwork,” he said. “That’s why this is a five-city tour because we figure this is going to take awhile to implement this. . . .We got ex-leaders from different sections of Chicago gangs that are committed to this, and it’s going to matriculate all the way down to street level.”

Former Operation CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman, now running for governor, blamed the low turnout on transportation that didn’t pan out — and people not wanting to be labeled as gang members. Hardiman also pointed the finger at lack of pastor unity in the city.

“We should never mix politics with religion,” Hardiman said. “We have to take off our little titles that we wear when it comes to helping these brothers stay alive.”

Tatum said he reached out to Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minister Louis Farrakhan, none of whom showed up.

“I’m not disappointed in the sense of them not being here,” Tatum said. “Rev. Sharpton said he had something previously planned. But the bottom line is that he did recognize the importance of this meeting.”

After a jam-packed morning, the summit fizzled. Some left, and the dozens who stayed spent the afternoon waiting for forums that never began.

Earlier, things appeared to be going smoothly, as former gang members rubbed elbows with the families of slain children, each offering cautionary tales of loss and pain.

Anthanette Marshbanks sat in the fifth row, watching Ron Holt offer support to people like her. Marshbanks lost her 20-year-old son, Archie Chambers Jr., to gun violence in April 2012 in Calumet City.

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @tinasfon



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