Helping Those Affected By Community Violence

I attended a lovely event for Bright Star Community Outreach last night. The event commemorates the launch of a new Turn Center to provide trauma-informed services. Congratulations to Pastor Chris Harris and his colleagues in this important effort. Congratulations also to my University of Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern Hospital colleagues who have taken lead roles in this partnership, particularly my SSA colleague Deborah Gorman Smith and her team, who lead the effort in our school.

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The event was held at Martin Luther King College Prep at 45th St. and South Drexel Boulevard in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Bronzeville is by no means Chicago’s toughest neighborhood. But it’s tough enough. Many in the audience last night had lost children, siblings, partners, parents, or other loved-ones to gun violence. Hadya Pendleton was only the most well-known of the precious people who have been lost.

This memorial to Ms. Pendleton may be the first thing that catches your eye as you enter the school’s front door. Pardon my poor photographic composition. You get the point there.

Cable TV pundits commonly charge that African-Americans communities are reluctant to acknowledge or face the high rate of “black-on-black crime” occurring in Chicago and across the United States.Remember this picture when you hear such claims. That charge displays the insulting psychological distance between these pundits and the communities they are discussing. Nothing could be further from the truth. No topic is more widely-discussed than the incredible toll of gun violence among Chicago youth.

People are desperate to make progress in reducing the violence. I hope and expect that the new Turn Center will be helpful in this effort. During the ceremony, Pastor Harris commented: “Don’t talk about the violence until you are doing something to reduce this violence.”Indeed.

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[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.