The spoken word poet Paige Gillian during a Feb. 27 recital of her work at the Maywood Public Library during a A Day of Remembrance for Victims of Violence. | The Village Free Press
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 || By Michael Romain
A crowd of around 30 people gathered inside of a second-floor meeting room at the Maywood Public Library last Saturday, Feb. 27 listened closely to the testimony of area poet Paige Gillian, who recounted being chased by a group of men in Berwyn one night.
She said if it weren’t for her newly purchased Android cell phone, which fell loose from a coat pocket, she may not have been alive, or well enough, to be speaking that day. When the phone fell, her pursuer, distracted, slowed down, allowing her to gain some distance and run to safety.
“It could’ve all been over just like that,” she said. “Just like that. Life is serious. It is to be taken seriously.”
Gillian was among a panel of speakers and poets who shared their thoughts with community members during a Day of Remembrance for Victims of Violence, an event co-hosted by the Women’s Community Leadership Council and the group Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS).
A program that was circulated during the event featured a list of names, “Our Children Gone Too Soon,” of victims of violence in the Chicago area. They included young people, like Michael Brown, who have become symbols of injustice; in addition to cases, such as those of Bryeon Hunter and Dashamone McCarty, that took place closer to home.
Pac Butler, a youth advocate and filmmaker, reminded the audience that violence also tends to be perpetrated by people who have been victimized and hurt themselves.
“It wasn’t anything for us to shoot somebody,” Butler said, during a talk he gave right after Gillian delivered a poem about a friend of hers who was murdered (“He was only partying, good time with company, until his brain was blown out like leaves from a tree”).
Butler, an ex-gang member, said he was born on the South Side of Chicago and was homeless by the time he was 15 years old. He would ride the buses from one end of the city to the other just to keep warm and would wash up in restaurant bathrooms. He wore the same clothes every day.
“I did a lot of things,” he said. “I survived a couple of gunshot wounds I shouldn’t have survived.”
It took the murder of a close friend for Butler to realize, “That could’ve been me.” And it took a Chicago police officer, who took him off of the streets, for Butler to have a chance at redemption.
“When I finally had kids, [I told myself] if I was going to be boy enough to be part of the problem, I had to be man enough to be part of the solution,” he said. “So, I started volunteering with groups like” CeaseFire and Mothers of Murdered Sons.
He also produced a documentary film called “Young Bulls” about Chicago gang violence. He said he interviewed mothers like MOMS founder Phyllis Duncan and listened to their stories.
What he learned, he said, was that the epidemic of violence in Chicago and its suburbs isn’t isolated to areas where guns and crime predominate.
“This epidemic of violence doesn’t skip over the good [people and places],” he said. “It touches everybody, whether you’re bad, broke, Republican or Democrat.” VFP
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