Monday, July 14, 2014 || By Michael Romain
MAYWOOD–Last Friday, the Maywood Police Department hosted a breakfast and meet-and-greet with area clergymen at Mariella’s Banquet Hall in Maywood. Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, was the keynote speaker. The discussion converged around the Concealed Carry legislation that Illinois adopted last year.
Walsh talked about the impetus for his anti-gun activism (when he was 12, two childhood friends of his committed suicide, one of whom shot himself with his police officer father’s service revolver); the cultural implications of gun violence; the details of the new legislation; and possible solutions to violence that pastors and community activists could pursue.
“Gun violence is a social justice issue,” Walsh said, noting the disproportionate affect that it has on communities of color. “But a bullet is color-blind.”
Walsh, a former aid to then State Rep. Eugene “Gene” Moore, told the clergymen gathered that they play a critical role in the efforts to staunch the rampant violence.
“You are the moral compass of the community,” he said, before asking the local religious leaders gathered to join him in advocating for tougher gun legislation.
“There is no faith that was forwarded on hate,” Walsh said.
Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley said that, as a counter to the violence, communities have to give neighborhood youth “work, hope and opportunity.” He cited the reactivated Maywood Explorers Program and his deep engagement with local businesses during his tenure as small steps in the slow community-rebuilding process that he said is a prerequisite for any long-term community strategy to combat the violence.
But exactly how local faith-based leaders could go about crafting a successful comprehensive anti-violence strategy was a matter of debate and, for some, disappointment.
Pastor Charles Jones, Sr., head of the Love & Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Maywood, said that he wished more pastors and faith leaders had heeded the Chief’s call to meet that morning.
“We need this coming together–it’s just too much killing,” he said. “Our young people are dying by the thousands. A kid I helped raise since he was six years old got shot just walking out of a restaurant here in Maywood.”
“We not only as a faith-based community, but as a community as a whole, have got to come together,” said Bishop Dr. Claude Porter, pastor of Proviso Missionary Baptist Church and Preside/CEO/Founder of the Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action (PLCCA). “We’ve got to coordinate our efforts together. The way to affect violence is through the homes,” he said. VFP