Thursday, February 23, 2017

How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Kingdom Covenant Church

Last year in Chicago, hundreds of young black men took out their guns and shot each other.

The city saw 762 murders, more than New York City (334) and Los Angeles (294) combined, and far higher than its 2015 tally of 485. Much of the violence was driven by gang activity on the South and West sides of the city; three-quarters of the perpetrators—and victims—were young black men.

Some speculate the rising violence was caused in part by a police force weakened after a video of a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. In August, arrests were down by a third and stops were down by 80 percent from 2015, 60 Minutes reported.

Others point to longer-range reasons, including the unintended consequences of tearing down high-rise projects around 2011, which dispersed the gangs that gathered there. Even moving imprisoned gang leaders to out-of-state correctional institutions—a decision meant to cut off their communication with the street—backfired when street leadership became “chaotic and out of control.”

But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city.

One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.

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