(Peace Events, 2016, Courtesy of Resurrection Project)

As mainstream media headlines continue to spotlight shootings on Chicago’s South Side, youth activists have decided to take a stand against not only local gang violence, but also the narrative the media continues to push around many of the region’s neighborhoods.
Their strategy is to turn a number of “Hot Spots”–blocks that have a reputation of being hotbeds of gang activity–into literal camp sites of communal engagement.

Spearheaded by the Resurrection Project, young Chicagoans will assemble to hold a string of overnight campouts in various parts of the city’s South Side. The group has successfully completed two campouts, the first of which was on July 7th outside of St. Joseph Church in Back of the Yards. These events were and still are scheduled to overlap with specific times when gang violence is most likely to occur (Fridays after 5 p.m.). The agenda consists of a peace rally through the neighborhood, followed by free food, music, sports, bonfires, workshops for employment, financial literacy, and peacemaking, and much more.

At each of the events, police will be present to monitor safety. Resurrection Project encourages everyone to come out and participate.

“We have a great group of kids leading this, that feel passionate they can change the way people view their community,” Jose M. Muñoz, Vice President of Community Ownership at the Resurrection Project, told Chicagoist. “The vast majority of people living in these communities are not criminals, yet what gets reported often are the shootings and violence going on. These kids want to make sure that everybody knows there are other youths who are catalysts for change there.”

The project, called #IncreaseThePeace, began last year after a Back of the Yards shooting inspired neighbors to organize a peace march. The overwhelming support from local youth and the community as a whole spawned five more similar events last year; and so the group has continued its campoout activism in 2017, too. Past events would have a turn out of about 100 people, but as the march went on, the numbers would inflate to 150 to 200 strong, Muñoz said.

The campouts in the coming weeks are expected to be held in Little Village/South Lawndale, Pilsen, Englewood, and once more in Back of the Yards:

Campout: Friday, July 21 – TBD

Campout: Friday, July 28 (Time TBD) at St. Ann’s Church (1840 S. Leavitt St.)

Black and Brown Solidarity Event: Tuesday, Aug. 8 (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) at Hamilton Park (513 W. 72nd St.)

Campout: Friday, Aug. 11 (5 p.m. to 5 a.m.) at St. Michael’s Church (4825 S. Damen Ave.)

Prior to each Friday event, youth leaders from The Resurrection Project take a week to canvass, share resources and “clean up the streets–literally” in each neighborhood,
Muñoz said. When the campout does show up, don’t expect much actual camping, though.

“Once the adrenaline starts pumping, and people start talking about the issues and get engaged in the activities, they get going and stay out all night,” Muñoz said.

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