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Chilly reception for gang summit reflects destructive force in community: Mitchell

Updated: October 28, 2013 7:21AM

Two news events shed light on why Chicago’s African-American community is not prospering.

Many neighborhoods on the South and West sides are being blighted by high crime and unemployment, spotty commerce, too many board-ups and failing schools.

So, there is no shortage of work for social service agencies and churches.

But too often, these groups are so busy competing against each other, very little is actually being accomplished.

For instance, on Friday, the Rev. Gregory Tatum, a West Coast minister who grew up in Chicago’s now-demolished Cabrini-Green public housing development, will host a two-day summit in the city to focus on gun violence.

Tatum had hoped to model his “National Unity Summit Review” after the historic closed-door gang summit held in 1994 after a series of killings, including the infamous fatal shooting of 7-year-old Dantrell Davis.

But after relocating to California, Tatum is looked upon as an outsider by a lot of activists.

“No, I am not involved,” said a minister who didn’t want his name used. “They are bringing in a group of preachers that we don’t know and don’t know what they are about.”

Another prominent minister said that a lot of churches walked away after Tio Hardiman, the former executive director of CeaseFire Illinois, announced he was running for governor.

Hardiman was the liaison between Tatum and Chicago organizations that work closely with gangs.

Tatum’s chilly reception is a reflection of a destructive force that blankets the black community.

“It’s us against us. We are destroying ourselves,” said Stan Dowell, 64, a former gang member from California who will speak at the conference.

Indeed, it is often the perception of being “disrespected” on the street that leads to violent gun violence. That is one reason the city had to carve out shameful “Safe Passage” routes.

“If somebody inside of Chicago had put the [summit] together, they would have known the players, and it would have been much different,” noted Janis Pass, a community activist from the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

“But I loved Tatum’s vision. When he called me, I decided we would go.”

Although initially put off because Tatum did not reach out to grass-roots groups like United in Peace Inc., Wallace “Gator” Bradley said he has decided to attend the summit.

Bradley, an organizer for United and a former gang enforcer, helped broker a gang truce in the Cabrini-Green development in 1994.

“We still have an obligation to work to stop this violence,” Bradley said. “We are not getting a grant or a stipend. It’s just the right thing to do. If he comes, I will be there.”

Tatum did not get either a government or private grant to organize the summit.

“No one is giving us any money. In fact, we are still looking for food donations for Saturday,” said Bonnie Winfrey, a spokeswoman for the summit.

The National Unity Summit Review will be held at House of Hope on the South Side and will kick off Friday with a prayer vigil for families of the victims.

On Saturday, a series of workshops will focus on the influence of music and social media on violent behavior. There also will be a panel discussion with experts, former gang members and business leaders.

Dowell, 64, said he has worked with a lot of men re-entering the community from jail, as well as prisoners who are doing life.

“I’ve lost a lot of close family members. I know a lot of these young men want to do something different,” he said.

Tatum also plans to hold summits in Los Angeles, Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland.

“I want this to be a healing for black people,” Tatum told me.

The sentencing of former alderman and Cook County Commissioner William Beavers exposes another problem prevalent in troubled communities.

When Beavers was sentenced to six months in jail Wednesday for cheating on his taxes, he boasted that he wasn’t a “stool pigeon.”

In fact, Beavers insisted the only reason he was prosecuted was because he refused to wear a wire against fellow Commissioner John Daley.

The only thing that separates Beavers from the thugs on the street who live by the “no-snitch” rule is his prominence.

The healing of the black community has to start at the top.


Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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