Ripple Effect Transcript
Audio Transcript and Featured Speakers
FEATURED SPEAKERS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
- Valerie Burgest, Survivor and Gun Safety Activist
- Maudlyne Ihejirika, host, author, and award-winning urban affairs journalist
- Tre Bosley, Survivor and Gun Safety Activist
- Dr. Lynda Gibson, Psychologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago
- Pastor Chris Harris, Founder of Bright Star Community Outreach
- Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health
- Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick, Executive Pastor at the Historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church
- Gia Biagi, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation
- Kim Smith, Director of Programs at the University of Chicago Crime & Education Labs
- Domonique McCord, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Metro Peace Initiatives
- Eddie Perez, Youth Services Manager with Illinois Business and Career Services
- Fred Weatherspoon, Program and Mentor Manager for the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago
- Maurice Cox, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development
- Sam Castro, Director of Safety Programs with Claretian Associates
- Curtis Toler, Director of Outreach for Chicago CRED
- TJ Crawford, Executive Director of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative
- Maria Pike, Survivor and Gun Safety Activist
Brought to you by the City of Chicago's Community Safety Coordination Center.
Valerie Burgest: He was my light; he was my air. He was my son and my only child. So his children are gonna grow up without a father. Some days are better than others, but I will never recover.
Maudlyne Ihejirika: That was Valerie Burgest, a Chicago resident who lost her son Craig to gun violence when he was only 23.
Maudlyne: Now, Valerie is not only a grieving mother but also a gun violence activist.
Valerie: I needed to have an outlet for my pain. And so I became involved in this movement because it’s a movement that we shouldn’t need.
Maudlyne: I’m Maudlyne Ihejirika, author, journalist and longtime resident of the Chicago metropolitan area. And this is The Ripple Effect from the City of Chicago’s Community Safety Coordination Center.
Maudlyne: Under certain conditions, a bullet can travel up to a mile and a half. But its impact goes much further, affecting entire communities for years, decades, even lifetimes.
Maudlyne: Only when we understand together the broader causes and effects of gun violence in our communities can we truly see the path forward. So, whether you’re walking The Ripple Effect trails across Chicago that go the length a bullet can travel or listening from home wherever you are, join us during this Gun Violence Awareness Month to explore just how far those ripples travel across our mental, our physical and our community health.
Maudlyne: Here in Chicago, we’re used to hearing about gun violence in the news.
Maudlyne: And it can feel uncomfortable to focus on only one type of gun violence in the midst of targeted attacks and mass murders nationwide. Those issues must be addressed. But today we focus on the specific issues plaguing our city, the systemic ways that those problems are perpetuated and the multifaceted solutions to this multifaceted problem.
Maudlyne: As you walk The Ripple Effect trails, you follow in the footsteps of the people that we lost in 2021; that’s 747 sets of footsteps stretched across the one-and-a-half-mile trail.
Maudlyne: 696 of those were adults. 51, children.
Trevon Bosley: We start to be desensitized from it. We don’t understand that these are not just numbers. These are actual people’s lives who’ve been taken. There is families affected. These people, even if they’ve been shot and they survive, they live with a mental trauma that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Maudlyne: You’re listening to Trevon Bosley. He started his activism young, attending rallies, protests and vigils at age eight after his older brother was shot and killed before his band rehearsal at church.
Maudlyne: He spoke to us about the mental anguish that can be left across generations. Tre’s entire family was able to turn their anguish into action.
Tre: My mother used to sing in the choir. Following his shooting, my mom, she stopped singing and she stopped doing most of the things. We had to go to therapy for years. Even now we still haven’t all recovered from losing my brother. She’s now finally getting back to singing a few songs here and there, but we used to be a super-musical home. And ever since my brother, we just stopped doing a lot of the things we used to.
Maudlyne: Tre’s on the board for March for Our Lives nationally. His mother started her own organization for parents who’ve lost children to violence. His father does work with ex-felons to help them get jobs.
Maudlyne: Violence prevention is now a family affair.
Maudlyne: And they’ve found a way to live with the trauma for the past 16 years. But it isn’t just survivors who face challenges because of the effects of violence.
Maudlyne: As we approach the quarter-mile mark on our trail, let’s examine how a bullet can have a ripple effect across the mental health of an entire community.
Dr. Lynda Gibson: Simply just being in the neighborhood when these things are occurring can have a significant impact on development.
Maudlyne: That’s Dr. Lynda Gibson, a psychologist at the Urban Youth Trauma Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She did a large- scale study of community violence exposure for children ages three to five.
Dr. Gibson: A lot of those kids were showing early signs of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, worry and depression. We worked with those families to track all of the violence exposure across seven consecutive days. A pretty high percentage of them had heard multiple gunshots throughout the week, seen others be injured or involved in physical or verbal altercations. One of the things that a lot of parents told us is that they were not as aware of the level of violence exposure that was happening until they had to report it.
Maudlyne: This trauma exposure can lead to behavior problems in younger children: separation anxiety, hostility, aggression, modeling the violent behavior that they see.
Dr. Gibson: They have stress-induced higher cortisol levels. They’re constantly on edge or experiencing hypervigilance.
Maudlyne: That experience is what’s more commonly known as “fight or flight.” And for kids exposed to violence, that experience is constant. Ultimately, their ability to trust others or to feel safe is compromised.
Dr. Gibson: A lot of our kids who are referred to the administrators for behavior problems, I would say 90% of those kids have some level of trauma exposure. That’s why it’s really important to be able to recognize the signs of trauma exposure, because once we know, we can implement more helpful and restorative practices for children.
Maudlyne: Dr. Gibson has turned her research into a real-world program helping these young children. She’s partnered with Head Start Association to implement the Preschool Community Violence Awareness Project.
Dr. Gibson: Before the kids even start showing those symptoms, putting protective factors in place. Talking with kids about safety, talking with them about positive behaviors and positive messages of nonviolence. One of the things that I always emphasize is that everyone can benefit from therapy, not necessarily saying you’re going to talk to them because there’s a problem, but more you’re trying to prevent problems from occurring.
Maudlyne: Mental health programs like these are a scientific approach to violence prevention for the youngest in our communities. For adults who are in crisis right now, Pastor Chris Harris has used his position from the pulpit to develop an innovative and effective solution.
Pastor Chris Harris: We asked the question, who does the trauma counseling for those families? And most cases, nobody because black and brown people, not exclusively, they don’t really go to counseling for four reasons: They don’t know, trust or think they can afford counseling. And then number four, the stigma, nobody wants to be labeled crazy. But they still come and talk to people like me, the faith leader.
Maudlyne: Here, Pastor Harris tells us the story of how a single phone call led to the creation of an entire crisis hotline.
Pastor Harris: She said, “Reverend, I got one question for you. I’m high right now. I’m drunk right now. And I want to commit suicide because my son was murdered. Why would your God allow this to happen?” “I can’t answer that, but here’s what I will tell you. If you’ll put the bottle down, not commit suicide, I’ll get on a plane and I’ll come and see about you. I can’t change what happened, but I can be present with you in it.” She did it. I was able to go and help her to identify her son’s body. I was able to go and help her shop to get the clothes for his funeral. I was able to be with her, funeralize her son and help her to heal.
Maudlyne: Eight years later, the woman that was in crisis is now a registered nurse and an ambassador for the Bright Star Community Outreach Program. Pastor Harris’s trauma helpline has been able to help over 50,000 people through the trained faith leaders and clinicians on the other end of that phone call.
Pastor Harris: We’re keeping them alive. We’re helping them to get employed. We’re dealing with their trauma, helping them with education. So when I see all of those folks who are still living and have hope, that’s what wakes me up every single day.
Pastor Harris: We know if it’s happening in greater Bronzeville, it can happen in the broader Chicagoland area.
Maudlyne: The University of Chicago Crown School of Social Work partnered with Bright Star to measure the impact of their comprehensive violence prevention strategies. And what they’ve seen is a 14% reduction in robberies, a 17% reduction in assault and a 12% reduction in shootings.
Maudlyne: Community-led solutions to mental health access like these have been necessary because of the low level of investment in mental health the city has historically shown. But that is changing.
Maudlyne: For a look into the state of mental health in the city of Chicago, we spoke to Dr. Allison Arwady, the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Commissioner Allison Arwady: We are building a system for mental health access in this city that we frankly have never had. Not only have we really expanded our capacity in our own clinics — child and adolescent services, adding evening hours, telepsychiatry in long-standing trusted organizations in communities — we’re actually providing funding to be able to hire additional child psychiatrists or outreach workers or therapists. And that’s something we really learned from COVID: putting therapists, social workers in food pantries, in outreach settings that maybe people historically did not think of settings to get mental health. And that has been hugely successful. We saw about 3,500 patients in 2019. We’re on track to serve more than 50,000 this year.
Maudlyne: The task of caring for an entire city of 3 million people’s mental health can seem very daunting. Will there ever be enough therapists, clinicians, social workers, outreach workers to really fulfill all the needs? Treatment cannot be the only approach. How does our city itself feed into the stress of urban life? How might our environments be encouraging the violence that we want to avoid? Can we instead design our cities to calm our anxieties?
Maudlyne: As we approach the half-mile marker on this journey, we turn to discussing the importance of and strategies for creating safe spaces in our communities.
Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick: It’s vacant. It’s been vacant. It was a thoroughfare for violence and just negative exchange. And it was really a place that there was a lot of rubbish and just a lot of negative activities.
Maudlyne: Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick had a problem with a vacant lot on the street near her church, the Historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale. So she did something about it.
Pastor Fitzpatrick: We created the garden. We put a stage there, food, flowers, a place to barbecue, a place to sit in fellowship. It’s become a safe place because people have the opportunity to now talk and share, and they’re building camaraderie and rapport with one another. And that’s really important because there’s not a lot of trust in communities that have been disinvested, that have been looked past or looked over.
Maudlyne: Fortune magazine named Pastor Fitzpatrick one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. She believes in the healing power of community. And it turns out that a communal garden is a powerful way to heal a community.
Commissioner Gia Biagi: We know that the quality of the built environment has a lot to do with how a community feels but also how it’s operationally safe.
Maudlyne: That’s the Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner, Gia Biagi. Along the streets and boulevards of our city, her department has a surprisingly important role to play in violence prevention.
Commissioner Biagi: We know that more lighting helps reduce crime, but we also know that more trees and greenery similarly reduce crime, and they do it by reducing feelings of anxiety and stress, make environments welcoming and inviting and so neighbors spend more time outside together. We know that as we work on our vacant lots and turn them into parks and open spaces, those are opportunities, folks to get to know each other and to really build those community ties and also have eyes on the street in a way that enables us as a community together to take care of each other.
Commissioner Biagi: All of that has everything to do with helping communities to stay safe. And it’s not just a theory — it’s practice, and you’ve seen it studied quite deeply in a number of cities.
Maudlyne: Research has shown that cleaning and greening can lead to a 40% reduction in violent crime in neighborhoods. But it’s not just about vacant lots — it’s also about missing trees.
Commissioner Biagi: It also is connected to creating safe space. So there's no reason for us to not move forward with a massive tree planting plan, which we are in fact, doing. And Mayor Lightfoot has announced, we are planting 75,000 trees in Chicago over the next five years. In fact, by the end of this year one, we'll have 15,000 trees planted.
It's a massive reinvestment, a reforestation of our city, but where are we planting those trees? We are particularly looking at neighborhoods in the city that on the block are experiencing the most violence over the last five years, and we are deliberately planting trees on those blocks. We are going after those vacant lots and making sure we clean them up and making sure we build an opportunity for communities to decide together, what should this vacant lot be?
And how does what happens here in this vacant lot, relate to how we're going to reduce violence in our neighborhood.
Kim Smith: There’s a saying that there is only one map of Chicago.
Maudlyne: There is only one map of Chicago. This is a phenomenon often remarked on by data scientists and researchers like Kim Smith, Director of Programs from the University of Chicago Crime and Education Labs. Maps of Chicago show patterns: the tree equity map, maps visualizing crime rates or parking ticket violations, even maps comparing the rates of asthma among children across Chicago. They all seem to match.
Kim: That speaks to the persistent and racially segregated ways in which our city operates with respect to gun violence, with respect to education, with respect to health.
Kim: The ripple effects of gun violence are truly just so far reaching. Unsurprisingly, the same places where gun violence is most concentrated, those are the same places where opioid overdoses are most concentrated, where transportation is least accessible, where there are very few, if any, grocery stores for fresh food — same with pharmacy availability.
Maudlyne: How do these overlapping maps compound the effects of gun violence? We’ve now traveled three quarters of a mile down the trail. Here we look at the ripples through our physical health.
Maudlyne: Pastor Fitzpatrick and Pastor Harris share similar fears.
Pastor Fitzpatrick: People are afraid to come on their porches. They are afraid to go to the store or come out when it’s dark. So it has an effect across the community, a lasting effect, a long-lasting effect.
Pastor Harris: As a father, I have to worry about my five children, who we had to put a basketball hoop in our backyard because I’m afraid to send them to an amazing park that’s about two blocks away.
Maudlyne: This constant fear can cause chronic illness.
Dr. Lynda Gibson: When individuals are exposed to trauma, such as community violence, there’s long-term physical health impacts. They are more likely to show early health challenges.
Maudlyne: Dr. Lynda Gibson is speaking about the growing body of research connecting childhood exposure to violence to an increased likelihood of a number of chronic health conditions. Heart disease? 2.2 times more likely. Lung disease? 3.9 times. Stroke, diabetes, cancer? The trauma stays in their bodies, affecting their whole lives.
Commissioner Arwady: Even before COVID, black Chicagoans on average lived almost nine years less than white Chicagoans, and gun violence is the number-two driver, by the way, of that racial life expectancy gap.
Commissioner Arwady: But chronic disease is number one, and where we think about how those two are interacting, there’s a lot — a lot — to say about that, but quite often where there are communities that have decades and decades of disinvestment and not having the environmental protections, we do end up seeing things like higher rates of asthma.
Maudlyne: Dr. Arwady took a lot of lessons from the city’s experience with COVID.
Commissioner Arwady: And so it’s made me think a lot about how do we work on access better, right?
Commissioner Arwady: Like where, again, we’re not waiting for people to come to clinics or just coming to this place. How do we do more to — like, that nurse home visiting and connection program — how do we really make sure that we’re thinking about health in all of its forms? And not just in the health care that I might get in a clinic and being more creative about making sure we are getting resources better to people where there are not, where there’s just not at this point as much access to the services that I think everybody deserves.
Maudlyne: One health department initiative that considers health in all of its forms is PlayStreets Chicago.
Commissioner Arwady: It’s really about promoting community connection and safe and healthy physical activity. So we work across the city, but we are increasingly focused in some of the areas that have had higher violence. And we work to literally shut the streets down and have a little bit of a block party but with a physical exercise focus.
Commissioner Arwady: It tends to be younger child focused, but they’re very popular. They’re lots of fun. And we work with community partners to really fund these kinds of engagements, get people out and talking to each other and claiming these spaces as opportunities for kids to play and for adults to connect around physical activity and improving community connectedness, and in a long-term way, those are the things that in turn can help reduce violence.
Domonique McCord: Let’s take a kid in school, for example, and they fall asleep. Maybe we shouldn’t assume that they were playing a video game. Maybe we should assume that gunshots kept them awake.
Maudlyne: That’s Domonique McCord, a licensed clinical social worker. Domonique is the director of behavioral health for the Metropolitan Peace Initiative. Here at the 1-mile marker, let’s listen to her talk about the ripple effects of gun violence on jobs and education.
Domonique: Individuals who live in communities that are plagued by violence, it translates into school environments. It translates into work environments. And maybe the way that they are responding, the way that they are in a classroom, it may not be attributed to a video game or lack of parental support. I think that leads to individuals feeling hopeless and not having an outlook that is based in opportunity and health.
Maudlyne: Kim Smith from the University of Chicago Education Lab has seen this in the research as well.
Kim Smith: We know that exposure to gun violence severely impacts children’s ability to learn — more specifically, students who take academic assessments in the days following a homicide on their block testing as if they’ve missed two years of school.
Maudlyne: If our children are being dragged behind by the effects of gun violence, how does this follow them into young adulthood? Into the workforce?
Eddie Perez: A lot of our participants that come through our program that have experienced or have seen gun violence because of the trauma are really turned off and they just don’t feel like they belong in that environment.
Maudlyne: We spoke with Eddie Perez, Youth Services Manager with Illinois Business and Career Services.
Eddie: We help young adults with what we consider barriers to employment, from low-income, high-poverty areas, help them find employment. And that’s one of the things that we try to really break from their mindset is your past traumas don’t have to define your future.
Eddie: We in particular help with work readiness skills, giving them the tools needed that they may have not learned in school or may have not had an example of what work ethic looks like at home. You know, really get individuals that have these barriers to employment to be able to have those strong ambassadors or mentors for them to understand what success looks like. We give them the skills needed for them not only to obtain employment, but most importantly, be able to retain employment for a long period of time.
Eddie: I can make a difference and a positive impact on somebody’s life daily through the smallest things, whether it be a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. Whether it be getting on their nerves for calling them at six o’clock in the morning to get to work, or whether it be them saying thank you for calling them at six o’clock in the morning. But I think those little things is what kind of keeps me going on a daily basis.
Maudlyne: It has been proven that job readiness training keeps people safe. Kim Smith brings the data to back it up.
Kim Smith: What we are seeing is that participation in a program like READI Chicago, which combines trauma-informed cognitive behavioral interventions with paid transitional jobs and supportive wraparound services, reduces the likelihood that participants are shot or killed or arrested for shootings or homicides. And the return on investment is amazing. We see with about 85% confidence that for every dollar invested in a program like READI Chicago, society reaps $3 to $7 in return.
Maudlyne: As we heard in the last checkpoint, there is only one map of Chicago. And, similarly, the issues of education and opportunity for people in these communities overlap with the histories of red lining and economic disinvestment.
Fred Weatherspoon: The fact that we don’t have a commercial district in our area is a result of gun violence. You can’t get people to come in and open shops.
Fred: A lot of people who have been in these communities for generations, once they get the chance to get out of there, they’re moving.
Fred: A lot of our people are forced to go outside of the community to find a job.
Maudlyne: That was Fred Weatherspoon, the Program Manager for the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago.
Fred: I would like to see private institutions become more involved, right? Private business owners, private corporations open up businesses in these different communities.
Fred: You go north and you’ll see like a karate shop or a dance theater that we never see in our community. Like, I want to see that type of stuff so we can have different interests from our kids involved in different things in our community.
Maudlyne: We spoke to commissioner Maurice Cox of the Department of Planning and Development.
Commissioner Maurice Cox: If you can't go to a coffee shop, if you can't go down the street and get a pizza with your family then you end up leaving your community to find those services and by leaving, those dollars also leave. Either there's a continual re-investment that gives people access to goods, and services, or a neighborhood dies.
Commissioner Cox: What we have seen is historically where city policies were very laid back when investment was disappearing from communities of color, there would be an assertion, “That's just the market. The market is going where the people are.” But not understanding that without a concerted effort to bring a cross section of private sector investments to those communities, you don't have an incentive for residents to stay. Public policy has to find a way to prepare the ground for re-investment create the incentives for businesses to refresh their establishment or to offer more amenities
Maudlyne: Ultimately, no single program can correct for generations of inequity. The city’s INVEST South/West plan is working toward balancing the scales.
Commissioner Cox: What the City is doing with Invest South/West. It's to fill in the gaps on those commercial corridors with buildings, with ground floor retail amenities and transparency into storefronts. It's sidewalks that are super wide, where people are dining outdoors, where people are walking under a shade canopy of trees. The vision that we aspire to in INVEST South/West, this reinvestment in the commercial corridors of our south and west side, is one that looks and feels like the environments that give us a sense of community safety. We have to invest in the places where people gather which is that sidewalk life we're talking about. And so our job is to get entrepreneurs in every storefront. To fill every vacant lot with an established building or a landscape that brings you joy and puts a smile on your face. This is how we combat in the physical environment, how we combat gun violence.
Maudlyne: Many of us listening might find it hard to imagine what it’s like to be a survivor of gun violence. Doubly difficult is putting yourself in the shoes of a perpetrator. How do people become perpetrators of gun violence? Here at the one-and-a-quarter-mile marker, we pause to discuss the roots of violence. Here’s Pastor Chris Harris.
Pastor Harris: You have to ask yourself, what is the reason? A lot of people would think, well, those guys are violent and those girls just want to sell drugs. Is that really true? Is it that they can’t find opportunity? Have you come into their community to see what their lived experience is? They become violent because they’re hurting.
Maudlyne: Violence not only ripples through our health and our communities — violence causes more violence, creating a vicious cycle that requires intervention to stop.
Sam Castro: One shooting is a domino effect. One shooting may lead to 30 more shootings; it’s just amount of time, right? There’s no statute limitation on revenge.
Maudlyne: That’s Sam Castro. He himself was stuck in a cycle of violence, between gangs and prison sentences. He course corrected and has devoted his life to violence prevention through street outreach.
Sam: If I get to save one person’s life, then I won. We created a nonaggression agreement between the two street factions. They’ve been rivals for over 30 years. These groups never met. We told them, what would it look like if you guys would just play defense in your community and not play offense?
Sam: “Oh, it’s not going to work.” “What do you got to lose? Right?” So they were like, all right, go talk to them. If they agree, we agree. So we went across the street, because literally what divides them is a street. We just gave them the same sales pitch, and they were like, oh, they’re not going to go.
Sam: And we were like, well, how about if they agreed already? So they both agreed.
Sam: We felt good was bringing peace to the community. One group wanted speed humps and a park for kids to play. We talked to CPS. They worked on a playground; they cleaned it up. The other group was just happy. And they just said, look, before you guys came into our lives, nobody was outside but gang members and assault rifles.
Sam: Now you come through in a summer day, people are enjoying the community, there’s kids in the park. So when we see that, then you say, this is why I do that work.
Maudlyne: Sam’s organization, Claretian Associates, plus 21 others, make up Communities Partnering 4 Peace, a collective working to build relationships with the people most at risk in the community.
Maudlyne: The city of Chicago has invested $52 million annually in violence intervention strategies. That’s 20 times more than in previous years. And this is building a new front line, a front line of street outreach workers.
Curtis Toler: There’s a saying that hurt people hurt people, but healed people can help heal people.
Maudlyne: Curtis Toler was one of those hurt people. Now he’s the Director of Outreach at Chicago CRED, Creating Real Economic Destiny.
Curtis: And he just asked me, what were you really good at? And I was like, man, I was good at running the street gang. Right. And he said, well, how do you think that you could change the lives of those who are involved that will be trying to get out?
Curtis: I wanted to work directly in the area that I caused the most havoc in, directly with the, quote unquote, the “opps” of my particular organization.
Curtis: And they were like, you’re crazy, man. You’re out of your mind. I was like, no, if I really want to show that I’m about this work for real, that’s where I need to be.
Maudlyne: So Curtis turned his talents toward healing, developing trauma-informed approaches to care.
Curtis: I really believe that the program don’t change the young men and women. Relationships do. And building these strong relationships and showing that we do care.
Curtis: They have a life coach, and the life coach just really walks them and guides them through the goals that they set and to see something different. And then they get a job coach, try to give them soft skills and hard skills to get out of the illegal economy to the legal economy. And then hopefully they’ll get full-time employment.
Maudlyne: Curtis reflects on a proud moment where he saw a young man and woman from the CRED program graduate from high school, just two of the over 200 graduates the program has helped so far.
Curtis: And just seeing the sheer joy that was on their faces when they received their diploma. And then to see their child run up on the stage and the looks on their parents’ faces was something.
Curtis: The young man told me, this is really one of the first accomplishments that I really feel that I’ve ever had in my life. This could be the first one, but hopefully it won’t be the last. And we’re going to walk that journey with you to make sure that this is not your only accomplishment.
Maudlyne: The relationships that Curtis, Sam and outreach workers like them develop in the community are vital when crisis hits.
Curtis: We try to engage immediately because what we’re actually trying to do is stop the next murder.
Curtis: We always try to buy time. We think that the more time that we can buy, the less likely a retaliation is.
Maudlyne: When a shooting happens, a timer starts: 48 hours — the window within which retaliation is likely to happen.
Maudlyne: In this scenario, Sam Castro takes on the role of first responder, immediately deploying to pour water on the situation.
Sam: So, for us, our job is to create doubt. These groups may have five to 10 different adversary. They don’t know where it’s coming from. So their mindset is we don’t know which one did it, then we’re going to retaliate on all of them. Right?
Sam: I just highlight to them, think about consequences. Think about you; you have a newborn. Think about you; you got sisters. Think about you; kids, right? If you go retaliate, you can end up like this or go to jail.
Maudlyne: Even after the 48 hours has elapsed, Sam joins them at funerals. Memorials. Vigils.
Sam: When you see the young man’s mom crying and you be like, man, you know, we don’t want to put our moms through that. Kind of let them know, I was once you.
Sam: So I think when you pour that in them, it’s just a little cloud of a doubt in there. Then it’s the next day, come and visit. Hey, let me take you for a bite to eat. Let’s go talk about some things just to check on you, right?
Maudlyne: It sounds a lot like friendship. The wraparound approach to street outreach is violence response, but it’s also community building. Clinical social worker and self-described “brain coach” TJ Crawford has taken a unique approach to community building with the creation of Black Culture Week.
TJ Crawford: The three themes around Black Culture Week: celebrate, commemorate and collaborate. So how do we celebrate Black people in the culture that we’ve created?
TJ: How do we commemorate that through ritual ceremony, traditional activities? Then how do we collaborate to make new contributions to the culture? Out of that came the concept of Black culture wellness, which essentially says that the expression of the values and principles self-determined by the Black community will add to the long-term health and well-being of the Black community.
TJ: We’re doing Black Culture Week June 10th through the 20th. Like I said, celebrate, commemorate, collaborate. People need to celebrate others for what they bring to the table before they try to get them, if they even try to get them at all, to fit into a box that is more acceptable to larger society.
Maudlyne: At the start of our walk together, we learned that a bullet can travel up to a mile and a half. But now you can see that it doesn’t stop there. You can see the ripples, the connections, the far reach of trauma. So what now? Where do we go from here? Is there a path forward?
Maudlyne: No. There are many.
Dr. Lynda Gibson: By learning more about this issue and being more vocal about it, I think that’s how we can bring about the most change.
Fred Weatherspoon: Adopt these communities, get to know these communities, right? Go to these communities, the restaurants, the entertainment centers.
TJ Crawford: The violence is the surface-level thing. We need to go beneath the surface and really start to invest in finding the best way to nurture positive ground.
Eddie Perez: If we can keep them off the streets through work, it’ll start to minimize some of those ripple effects.
Chris Harris: Here’s what I tell people all the time: say nothing about Chicago violence and trauma until you do something about Chicago violence and trauma. We don’t need words now. We need people that are willing to step up and do the work.
Valerie Burgest: Find your voice. You have one. Find it. Use it. Raise it. Do whatever you have to do because change only happens when people demand change.
Curtis Toler: The only way that we’re going to see a change is together.
Commissioner Gia Biagi: Investments in infrastructure, housing, public health — all of those things combined are how we move forward together.
Fred Weatherspoon: Gun Violence Awareness Month helps to lift up and provide opportunities to explore the whys and to really look at solutions and then allow us to do an evaluation of what works, what doesn’t work, allow us to evaluate what we’ve tried and what we haven’t tried all along a path.
Commissioner Allison Arwady: Go to neighborhoods that may not be your own and think about how are you supporting and spending and making the other parts of Chicago potentially more vibrant.
Maria Pike: This is not a sprint. This is a marathon. And what should guide us is the future of our kids.
Maudlyne: That last voice was Maria Pike. She lost her son Ricky to gun violence as he was parking his car in front of his Logan Square apartment. And her words remind us that the path to change is long. It’s made up of so many smaller steps along the way, steps that make you wonder if it’s actually making a difference.
Maudlyne: But as we learned throughout The Ripple Effect, it’s the small things that can make the largest impact. So imagine, how far can peace travel?
Maudlyne: Thank you for joining us. From the City of Chicago Community Safety Center, I’m Maudlyne Ihejirika, and this has been The Ripple Effect.