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Gang members invited to summit designed to end the violence

Tio Hardiman  | Sun-Times photo

Tio Hardiman | Sun-Times photo

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Updated: September 3, 2013 7:13AM

Hundreds of gang members will be invited to a summit in Chicago in an attempt to broker peace in the bloodiest neighborhoods — 20 years after “gang summits” here and in other states drew national attention, organizers said Wednesday.

The Rev. Gregory Tatum, a California pastor with Chicago roots, said he hopes the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton will attend the Sept. 27-28 summit. Jackson spoke at a gang summit two decades ago in Chicago, delivering a message to gang members that they were the “new frontier of the civil rights struggle.”

“This is a historical moment, this is a national moment,” said Tatum, who grew up in the notorious Cabrini-Green public housing complex on the Near North Side in the 1960s.

A spokesman for Jackson said he was unaware of an invitation to the summit. A spokeswoman for Sharpton was unable to confirm whether he will attend.

Tatum said he planned to hold the summit at Salem Baptist Church on the Far South Side. The Rev. James Meeks, pastor of the church, did not return a call seeking comment.

Tatum said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was his mentor when he was a child in Cabrini-Green and supported his idea to have a gang summit here.

“Next year, we will go to Los Angeles, then Detroit,” Tatum said. “The whole goal this year is black on black crime in Chicago.”

The gang summits in 1993 sought to forge truces among Chicago’s Vice Lords, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Black Souls, Cobras, Stones and Latin Kings — as well as LA’s Crips and Bloods.

It’s unclear whether the 1993 summits had an impact on crime. Chicago’s murder total actually jumped 9 percent to 931 the year after the 1993 summit before steadily falling over the following two decades. Last year, there were 506 killings in the city, 45 percent fewer than in 1993. Still, Chicago’s murder rate dwarfs New York’s and LA’s.

The gang dynamics in Chicago have changed since 1993, too. The Gangster Disciples and other former “super gangs” no longer have a corporate hierarchy that dictates the daily activities of thousands of members — as the gangs did in the early ‘90s. That’s partly because the feds began hammering the leaders of the GDs and other gangs in the 1990s.

The Gangster Disciples, for instance, have fractured into smaller “cliques” that control blocks instead of the entire city. They often battle other GD factions and sometimes hang out with members of rival gangs such as the Black Disciples.

Tio Hardiman, former director of CeaseFire Illinois, said he plans to recruit 300-400 hardcore members of the city’s more than 600 gang factions to attend the summit in September. “You cannot reduce violence without bringing the killers to the table,” he said.

Last month, CeaseFire Illinois decided not to renew Hardiman’s contract after he was arrested on a domestic battery charge that was later dropped. On Wednesday, he incorporated his own non-profit group, Ceasefire Violence Interrupters, which he said will continue to try to prevent retaliatory shootings.

“I will ask the brothers to cease all shooting when kids are present,” he said. “That’s a start.”

Tatum said former LA gangsters who’ve made positive changes in their lives will speak to Chicago gang members at the summit.

“The real issue is no mentoring — all the fathers are gone,” he said.

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