It was standing room only, for all who flocked to the RJ Café for “Restorative Justice through Community Gardening” at Art on 51st Street, last Friday. The gathering provided a forum for our neighborhood gardeners to network and to learn how community gardening can be restorative.
Featured speaker and Master Gardener, Mary Harkenrider, shared her experience of creating a rooftop community garden at a juvenile detention center and its restorative effect on the youth involved in the planting and caring for the garden.
Another highlight was the delicious, healthy food from the Dream Café and Grill donated by St. Barnabas Parish Peace and Justice committee. Thank you to everyone who helped make the day a great success!
If you missed our RJ Café, stop by our Community Garden to see the fruit (and vegetables!) of the labor of our youth and Sr. Carolyn!
April 20, 2016
By Jonathan Little
Everyday our youth are living through the stress and struggles
and the upper class expect us not to buckle to the negativity of our communities.
They say focus on school, focus on finding a job
but yet I can’t sleep because of the negativity that I see every day
and even when I try to stray,
I always end up going down memory lane.
As I’m walking down the street I think,
what am I doing? Am I making the right decision?
I race to take ma place in the next life,
cause we all live n we die right?
Nothing can compare to what I’ve been through,
but I promise I refuse to let ma son struggle like I did,
I use my mistakes to try to show the youth a better way.
Like ma boy Daniel used to say,
it’s a fight and I refuse to say anything less than what it really is.
Take note and listen. Close yo’ eyes and think.
No literally close yo’ eyes and think.
You wake up in the morning, kids crying,
baby down to her last diaper,
younger siblings asking can you buy some to eat,
tear rolls down your eyes
but you don’t want to let no one see you weak at home or on the streets.
Now this real talk to me.
This is my reality.
Put yourself in my place.
I’ll give you a second to think.
Actually I won’t ‘cause we don’t get that chance,
if we do our youth are the ones who feel the consequence.
I want you to understand and visualize things through my eyes,
‘cause when the storms come and we step outside all we hear is “freeze”
and naw I ain’t talking ‘bout no snow storm, I’m talking ‘bout the police.
Hold on officer what did I do?
“Oh don’t worry you’re just another young black man
walking up the street now what do you have on you?”
“Nothing officer I’m on my way to school.”
“That’s cool well let me do this full body search for my safety.”
“I have rights and you’re being disrespectful to me.”
He replied “put your hands on the car, open your mouth, and spread your legs.”
“All this shit for a routine stop?”
“Just wait let me run your name
and when it comes back clean you can be on your way.”
Time goes by, I try to stand strong
but ohhhhhhh you don’t know wat I really want to say.
“Officer Officer I’m going to be late.” I think to myself this shit ain’t cool
I was on my way to school, and get pulled ova’ by this dude,
cause in all reality he’s just another person to me,
just with a badge abusing his authority.
Once I’m released I think I’m too late for school
so I’m going to make these 2’s and fews,
cause my momma need help paying her dues.
We need to open doors for our youth
to explore and focus on their future,
it’s like going on a tour.
Our youth have been institutionalized, criminalize, publicized, marginalized.
Should I continue on or do you finally get the picture
‘cause to me this solidifies the true definition of what we fight for?
We fight every night to live with no regrets.
Lol we even fight in our sleep, ‘cause when we wake up,
we hope for brighter days and if you look back to when there were slaves,
today is just a new and smarter way to keep us maintained.
I didn’t even want to give a speech
but who better to tell our stories than me.
A young African American man who lived in poverty,
stricken by people’s ignorance to see we’re all one human race.
Wat do you think?
What’s next for our world?
It’s called opening doors.
Our communities need to see that for every little boy and little girl
there’s a chance for us to open doors
to what God really has in store.
I would love to wake up and think
everything is ok, and no matter how hard I blink
it would no longer be a dream.
This would be my community.
This would be my reality.
from Precious Blood Ministry Of Reconciliation http://ift.tt/1SiROG1
Help Shawn and other supporters of PBMR discover what our young men can accomplish when given the right opportunities. Join us in #OpeningDoors – purchase tickets or donate at http://openingdoors.mydagsite.com
Shawn Sweeney first came across PBMR in 2013 when she attended the fundraiser. She immediately fell in love with the joy, enthusiasm, and exuberance of the PBMR staff, as well as the ministry, and wanted to become involved.
Shawn supports the work of PBMR because “it’s the right thing to do, to level the playing field – to share opportunity and God’s love. Depending on where you are born, there is so much inequity as far as resources, opportunities, education and jobs. I have seen Father Kelly adopt young men and put them through college – he can make it happen. I have gotten to know the young men who participate in programs here, and there are so many good people. Given the right opportunities, who knows what they can accomplish?”
Nigel Lee, 16, has never been outside his neighborhood in south Chicago, let alone, seen the world. So, we were thrilled a few months ago with the opportunity for him to train with other young men for an ocean voyage of self-discovery, teamwork and transformation from their criminal pasts.
Nigel has made bad choices and been in jail eight times. He has been exposed to violence and trauma that is the norm for his neighborhood. Each time, he vowed to make a change but hasn’t yet done so. He is a regular at our Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, which supports young people coming out of jail to make better choices for their future.
Sail for Justice asked us for a recommendation of a young person who was deeply involved in the juvenile justice system who might benefit from its novel approach. The group selects eight young men, flies them to Baltimore for a month of training and preparation, and flies them to Spain where they sail a 65-foot boat across the Mediterranean. The crew would stop at port cities to do service projects along the way, and compete in a race across the Atlantic – from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas.
Nigel left in September for Baltimore and lasted about a month in his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He went on retreat, trained in navigating a boat, and learned a little more about himself and others. But he had a hard time adjusting. He called frequently, saying he wanted to come home, and I tried to persuade him to stay one more day. At one point, he seemed ready to tackle this opportunity, but ultimately he begged to come home.
The tough kid who knows the mean streets of south Chicago was afraid – of the water, the unknown, his potential? I’m not sure. He didn’t advance past Baltimore.
The other young men selected from throughout the U.S. for this unique program also came back home early, although many of them did make it to Europe. Posts on Sail for Justice’s Facebook page suggested that negative behaviors that emerged among the crew would have jeopardized their safety at sea. The young men haven’t been abandoned, however. Each is getting some kind of help toward a transition to a better life.
Nigel is back home, studying at Chicago Public’s alternative school downstairs from our offices. He lives with his mom. If nothing else, he got a taste of something other than what he’s known in his young life. He never had exposure to the outside world, and only knew the neighborhood. Now, he knows there is something beyond this neighborhood, and the experience seems to have enkindled some desire to embrace it.
Time will tell. We’re not giving up on him.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – Nigel Lee, 16, has had several friends die violent deaths on the streets of Chicago, with most of them dying before the age of 20.
But there is hope for Lee. He’s been selected as one of 9 troubled youth in the United States to participate in a very unique program.
It’s a program that believes incarceration is not the answer, and their solution involves a sail boat, the open ocean and a race.
“We want them connected to society. To know people care about them. That they are not evil,” said Mark Hunter.
Hunter is the co-founder of Florida based ‘Sail For Justice,’ which is a program that takes at-risk youths and teaches them how to sail.
“We use sail boats as an alternative to incarceration,” Hunter said. “Everyone on board is a productive member of the team.”
And Hunter said that teamwork is a critical component to changing the way the offenders often view themselves.
“People start thinking that I’m a bad person, and nobody cares about me. We want to do the opposite,” Hunter said.
A success in Florida, Hunter said the program has helped hundreds turn their lives around. He said it’s also evidence that jail for youth offenders is not always the answer
“To make sure we can prove that juvenile offenders are capable of change, and by working together we can find a solution to this persistent and expensive problem,” Hunter said.
This is first time ‘Sail For Justice’ has expanded beyond the sunshine state.
Lee is one of the 9 at-risk youths chosen to participate. He’s only 16 years old and has been locked up 8 times for burglary, grand theft auto and retail theft.
After his last arrest, Lee met Father Kelly. That’s where his life started to change.
“Father Kelly really got me on my feet, he got me going to school and staying out of trouble,” Lee said.
When ‘Sail For Justice’ contacted Father Kelly looking for possible candidates, he nominated Lee, who wasn’t sure it was legit.
“At first I thought it was a scam,” Lee said.
And when Hunter visited Lee’s home, he still couldn’t believe it.
“All the way over there in Spain? No, this couldn’t be happening,” Lee said.
But it’s happening. Later this week, Lee will travel to Baltimore, meet his teammates, and train for a month, before ultimately setting sail.
“November 22nd, we launch from the Canary Islands and the World Atlantic Rally, with the finish line in the Caribbean at St. Lucia,” Hunter said.
Win or lose, the real work for Lee begins when he gets back, in his words, a changed man.
“I’m representing all juveniles to show that they can do more than what people say they can do,” Lee said.
“A big piece of this is to see how strong they are, how resilient they are to do something they never dreamt they could do,” Hunter said.
Hunter said the program aims to make sure participants return as productive members of society.
‘Sail For Justice’ also assists with job placement, and all of this is privately funded, made possible by donations.
Hunter also said the program is still less expensive than the cost of incarcerating just one juvenile offender for 12 months.
The new school year is coming and our youth are in need of their school supplies.
We are collecting donations of school supplies at our center to help our kids succeed in this academic year.
We are in need of:
Please drop-off your donations at our Center :
5114 S. Elizabeth St.
Chicago, IL 60609
Thanks for your help and support!
Summer has come; school is about to be out, so we are gearing up for our summer program. We are going to concentrate on two different tracks this summer: an educational track that supports and motivates youth toward a stronger participation in school, and a vocational track that exposes and prepares youth, that are not necessarily college bound, in the skilled trades. Both will include team building activities and outings that expose youth to careers.
A longer term goal is to bring an Educational Specialist aboard to build a strong educational curriculum that will engage our youth in a structure that will give them the tools needed to break a cycle of poverty, violence, incarceration and/or early death. This longer term goal is in collaboration with St. Xavier University here in Chicago.
Much of the chronic failure that young people experience is due to the trauma in their lives. They have a hard time imagining a future. In some cases youth don’t even believe they will ive into adulthood, and, in other cases, they are just so caught up in the daily struggle – surviving – that they don’t have the capacity to dream of something different.
Precious Blood Frs. Jim Gaynor and Máximo Mecia were here from Peru a couple of days ago. Fr. Jim and I were talking about our work and the struggles that the people have to endure – many are the same struggles. We spoke, too, of how blessed we were in growing up with strong family support. The simplest things that I took for granted are precisely what these kids need and long for: family structure, safety, a supportive community, quality education, and a faith lived by adults as a model of what it is to be a good human being.
At the core of our Precious Blood Center is a commitment to demonstrate and share those fundamental needs. We strive to offer guidance and care so that our youth have the capacity to make the tough choices in life. Not going to school wasn’t even a thought for me as a kid. But, just yesterday, one of the kids told me that he had to babysit his little sisters and brothers and so he couldn’t go to school. For him, it is a regular occurrence; his mom just didn’t come home.
I get angry at those who fail these kids in such profound ways: parents who aren’t there for them, and systems that are unwilling to listen long enough to know what’s really going on in their lives. And these are the ones charged with ensuring that our youth have what they need!
Even in the midst of it all, I am strengthened by our spirituality – that our good work will be blessed and bear fruit a hundredfold. I am strengthened, too, by the resolve of some of our families and youth. Just yesterday, Joe, a 17 year-old kid, told me some of what he was going through. He just needed to have a place and someone he trusted to talk with about his struggles. I thank God he had enough trust in me and that he had the strength to open up and not keep things bottled up.
Frankly, as the Precious Blood Center, we need to do more; we need more people who can create strong relationships both with our youth and their families. We need to supply what is lacking in the lives of these children and their families before we lose them to the streets and the prisons. We need to find the funds to strengthen these efforts and offer a strong education curriculum to redirect the lives of the youth of our community.
Be assured that as much as we need your financial support, we certainly know that we need your prayers and for all we are extremely grateful.
Thanks for being there and supporting us along the way. God bless you and your families!
Take good care,
P.S. We had a basketball tournament yesterday coordinated by a young man from the neighborhood who just graduated from Graceland University in Iowa. He is giving back to his community. I love it!
Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment provides concrete data and ideas of how we can re-envision juvenile justice in Cook County. This Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment was commissioned by Cook County Justice for Children. For all whose lives are touched by the juvenile court system, we hope that this report will serve both as an action plan and a testament to the collective will to enact meaningful justice reform that keeps young people in community with services that help them to foster positivity in their lives.
This document reports findings from a study conducted via a multi-modal design that incorporated data collected from focus groups of court-involved youth and their families, surveys distributed to hundreds of justice stakeholders, and in-depth individual interviews with justice system leaders. Data were compiled by the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation at Roosevelt University and the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at the Adler University.
You can download the report at the following link
by Michael Sean Winters
Last night, District Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a St. Louis County grand jury had declined to vote a true bill of indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The announcement was followed by episodic violence, out of all proportion to the grand jury decision: The violence was episodic. The injustices our criminal justice system perpetrates on black Americans is systemic.
Mr. McCulloch addressed several aspects of the case in announcing the decision. (He did not explain why he chose to announce the decision at 9 p.m. as opposed to 9 a.m., a decision that raises large questions about this man’s judgment.) McCulloch pointed out that the grand jury was the only group of people who have examined all of the facts in the case. Still, there is one brute fact that the jury may or may not have considered: another unarmed young black man was killed by a white police officer and there will be no consequences for the officer. (Federal authorities are continuing their investigation of civil rights charges, and the Brown family could file a civil claim.) The District Attorney said he sought nothing more than justice in this case, but the lack of accountability for the police officer surely does not feel like justice.
To be clear, our jury system is a singular achievement of our culture. Even when a grand jury or a trial jury gets it wrong, our current system of jury trials is far preferable to Star Chamber indictments. But, the jury system exists within a society and it is susceptible to whatever has corrupted that society. In this case, it is racism that continues to afflict our society and that affliction is nowhere more evident, nor more pernicious, than in our nation’s criminal justice system. I know police officer’s have a difficult job, they must make split second decisions. Still, the brute fact looms: Officer Wilson was armed and Michael Brown was not.
Last Friday, I attended a conference on restorative justice that was co-sponsored by Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, where I am a visiting fellow, and the Catholic Mobilizing Network. In one of the talks, Professor Robert Brenneman of St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, noted that one in eight black men in their twenties is in jail or otherwise involved with the criminal justice system. Black men account for 53 percent of all drug convictions although they constitute only 14% of the drug-using population. Professor Brenneman noted that every night, on his college campus, white students are doing drugs without fear of arrest or prosecution. It is a safe zone for them. That same activity, done in the inner city, gets you arrested and put in jail.
Such data can be verified by experience. If you have ever sat on a jury, you know that black folk and white folk view the testimony of police very differently. We like to think that justice is blind, but she is not. The relationship of law and morality is a complex one, and one sin does not entirely mitigate another, but the sin of racism stalks our national life still and it is no use denying it and any attempt to deny it will only allow the cancer to spread, all the more perniciously because now racism usually hides itself behind platitudes and niceties. At least when Governor Wallace unleashed the dogs and the water cannons, the evil was obvious and palpable.
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The conference last Friday – and when the video is posted I shall link to it – fascinated me at many levels, but most obviously because the churches are the only ones in our culture raising the deeper questions about our criminal justice system and seeking real answers. There was a priest who works with young offenders on the southside of Chicago, Fr. David Kelly, C.PP.S., who explained the real sources of the problem: First, young people know they are vulnerable, they know someone who has been victimized by crime. Second, they know they are at risk whenever they walk down the street, at school or in the park, and so they are always on guard. Third, they know that adults won’t or can’t protect them. It is not surprising that these three, in combination, create s circumstance in which people get hurt who, in turn, hurt other people. Fr. Kelly spoke about his efforts to bring some reconciliation out of the horror of urban crime. He associated his work of restorative justice with young offenders with Holy Saturday – “the killing is done but Easter is not here yet” – and noted that crime is a violation of relationships that can only be made right by truthfully acknowledging that violation and then rebuilding the relationships. It is very biblical. And, many of us in the room were in tears as he told he stories of reconciliation between victims and victimized.
As Catholics, we are called to do more than merely bemoan the racism that corrupts our criminal justice system. Last night, at the Month’s Mind Mass for Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the first reading from Luke 4, when Jesus announces His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” I could hear Lorenzo speaking to me after the verdict: “This verse from Luke cannot remain a metaphor, we really must preach deliverance to captives and set at liberty them that are bruised.” Fr. Kelly is doing that work on the south side of Chicago. Other Christians and holy men and women of God are doing that work in many jails throughout the country and in the neighborhoods and in the schools. Our nation has tried mass incarceration and it does not work. It is time to try the joyful incarceration of the Mass, at which we cleave to the Lord who delivers captives and unite ourselves with Him in the Eucharist.
Last night, Officer Wilson escaped indictment, but America’s criminal justice system did not. There is work to be done and the Church must be at the forefront of that work. We cannot lose another generation of young black men to crime and to the system that polices it and prosecutes it. Unarmed black teenagers cannot continue to be killed with impunity. Justice must mean something again. Maybe the evidence required the grand jury to reach its conclusion. But, there are other evidences that all of us must consider, not just the grand jury, evidences of the ugly sin of racism which, like cancer, seems to come back time and time again. There is no cure for cancer. There is a cure for sin: Him who heals the brokenhearted, delivers captives, and sets at liberty those who are bruised.
Published by NCR Nov.25, 2014 http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/injustice-ferguson