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Fierce Women of Faith march, rally for end to gun violence

The Rev. MarceniRichards pastor Life Center executive director Fierce Women Faith calls for more community political actireduce gun violence Chicago

The Rev. Marcenia Richards, pastor of the Life Center and executive director of Fierce Women of Faith, calls for more community and political action to reduce gun violence in Chicago and the suburbs at a rally Sunday on the South Side. | Dan Rozek~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 30, 2013 6:59AM

After 18-year-old Fearro Denard was gunned down last May, hundreds of people packed his funeral — but so far no one has told Chicago Police who killed the teen, his sister recalled Sunday.

“We have to stop being afraid,” Brenda Smith said, speaking of her slain half-brother at an anti-violence rally at the Lowden Homes in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood.

Smith gathered with dozens of other women and children — most wearing fuchsia shirts or scarfs — to launch a new effort to fight gun violence in the city and suburbs.

Declaring a state of emergency because of the ongoing shootings, the group — Fierce Women of Faith — unveiled a faith-based effort that will rely on a mix of community outreach and political activism.

“We will take back our community,” said the Rev. Marcenia Richards, executive director of the group, which organized a short march from Trinity United Church of Christ to a playground rally at the nearby Lowden Homes on 95th Street.

During the gathering, five white body bags were laid on a podium to represent those slain. Some at the rally wore toe tags used by authorities to identify the dead.

“These represent what we are no longer going to stand for,” said Anna Lloyd, a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We are here to make a change.”

The rally occurred on a weekend in which a man was shot to death and 12 other people across the city were injured in shootings. But Chicago Police statistics show shootings are down 24 percent so far this this year and murders have dropped by 26 percent year-to-date compared to the same period last year.

Despite the statistics, 12-year-old Avery Bolden said she worries about her safety and the safety of her 4-year-old brother.

“Here in Chicago, young people are not learning and living in healthy environments,” said Avery, a South Sider who attends St. Sabina Church. She urged residents to lobby legislators for tighter gun laws and more educational opportunities.

“We must find our voice and fight for change,” the seventh-grader said, even as she acknowledged “some of us are not old enough to vote.”

Richards said the group plans to train community advocates to work to stop gun violence in their own neighborhoods. That will include trying to mediate disputes peacefully to prevent shootings, she said.

She called for residents to push their legislators to back what she called “commonsense” gun regulations.

And members also will reach out weekly to their neighbors for Tuesday morning prayer sessions, Richards said.

“There’s a lot of fear but if we try, I think we can do more,” Richards said.

Since the death of her brother, that’s what Smith is focusing on — preventing violence and encouraging residents to work more closely with police to solve the killings that already have occurred.

“I think I was desensitized, too. You don’t wake up until it’s your family,” said Smith, 48, who lives in the Lowden Homes.

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