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Sharpton encourages black clergy to embrace gang summit

FILE - In this June 26 2011 file phoRev. Al Sharptarrives BET Awards Los Angeles. MSNBC has named Rev. Al

FILE - In this June 26, 2011 file photo, the Rev. Al Sharpton arrives at the BET Awards in Los Angeles. MSNBC has named the Rev. Al Sharpton as host of a weeknight program on the network. His new program, to be called "PoliticsNation," will premiere next Monday. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, file)

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Updated: October 28, 2013 7:40AM

On the eve of Chicago’s first gang peace summit in two decades, the Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday encouraged the city’s African-American clergy to embrace the event — instead of turning their backs on it because the organizer is a minister from California.

“The disunity is something we have to get beyond,” said Sharpton on his radio show on WVON-AM (1690).

Sharpton said the city’s religious leaders can’t effectively combat the violence in Chicago if they’re fighting their own “turf wars” and “we are acting like dressed up thugs ourselves.”

The Rev. Gregory Tatum organized the event being held at the House of Hope church at 752 E. 114th. He said he hopes up to 1,000 gang members and others will attend the event Friday and Saturday.

“People have been doing their due diligence in getting the word out,” said Tatum, who grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing complex on the North Side. “I am hoping for a miracle.”

In Thursday’s newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote the summit is receiving a chilly reception from some ministers and activists who don’t know Tatum.

Sharpton, the New York activist who is spending part of his time in Chicago to campaign against the violence here, said he will be out of town over the weekend. But he offered his support.

“I hope we can all work together,” he said.

Tio Hardiman, the former CeaseFire director who is running for governor, said he has invited hundreds of gang members to the event. But he said he is still looking for transportation to get them to the South Side church.

“I am doing my best to support the summit. It’s a good idea. I will be there,” he said.

Tatum said he is planning a prayer vigil Friday for the families of crime victims. Gang members will attend the summit Saturday and hear positive messages from a police supervisor, community leaders and former gang members, Tatum said.

He acknowledged that gangs have changed radically since the last peace summit in 1993. They were once governed by citywide, corporate-style hierarchies. Now, they usually don’t have much organization beyond their neighborhoods.

“It’s kind of chaotic,” Tatum said.

He said the theme of the summit is “A Village is Here.”

“We are saying to our young black kids, the fathers have failed. Now we are here. What do you need?” Tatum said.


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