llinois has been making moves toward reducing incarceration, but there is a large group of people who are being left behind. People like twenty-one-year-old Joe Montgomery, who have been sentenced with Class X felonies, make up almost a third of Illinois’ prison population, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Some say these individuals who need the most help are instead left with few options but prison. City Bureau reporters Sajedah Al-khzaleh and Bia Medious spoke with Montgomery’s friends and family about the hole his absence means to his community.
Click the link below to see the full article and hear the interview.
Disabato: Kendell Spearment leaves the violence behind, makes the most of a different life at St. Laurence
Photo provided by St. Laurence Sports Media Club
Article by Pat Disabato of Daily Southtown
Kendell Spearment isn’t sure what his life would be like if he had remained in Englewood with his mother and two younger siblings.
But he had seen enough — one older brother killed, the other in jail — to realize he needed a change of scenery to have a chance.
“I knew I didn’t want to get caught up with anything,” Spearment said. “You have some friends who want you to go down the wrong path with them. I never wanted to be in that life.”
He has created a better life at St. Laurence — with the love and care of some amazing people.
Whether Spearment could have outrun the trouble that plagues Englewood is another matter.
The fact that he’s at St. Laurence is improbable — some might suggest it’s an act of God.
Spearment’s local church, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, offered him the chance of a lifetime four years ago.
The church, according to the Rev. David Kelly asked him to choose a private high school to attend away from the violence of Englewood.
“Kendell was part of our summer program,” Kelly said. “We saw a young man who could have gone the wrong way and be influenced by the streets. If we didn’t do anything, he might have followed the same path as his brothers. But we also saw a young man who had tremendous potential.”
The hope was a private school would provide a safe haven, allowing Spearment to flourish academically and athletically.
“The church allowed me to get me out of the environment I was in,” Spearment said. “Coming to St. Laurence changed my life.”
In more ways than just having a safe school to attend.
Getting to and from school, living in one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, would have been challenging.
No one knows that better than Spearment.
One of his older brothers, Korry Rogers, was fatally shot on Sept. 4, 2016 at age 19. His death was ruled a homicide.
That date used to be a day of celebration — it’s also Kendell’s birthday. Now it’s a day of mourning.
“It hurts me on that day,” Spearment said. “My brother always wanted me to do the right thing. He was happy I was at St. Laurence.”
Another older brother, Kerry Rogers is incarcerated for murder. He’s serving a 38-year sentence at Menard Correctional Center.
“He tells me to keep my grades up and to keep doing what I’m doing,” Spearment said of Kerry. “To never follow the wrong path.”
Roshonda Booker and her family made certain Spearment avoided that path. Booker is a teacher at Arthur A. Libby Elementary School in Chicago. She taught Kendell, Korry and Kerry.
Booker knew for Kendell to thrive, he couldn’t call Englewood home.
Roshonda and David Booker graciously accepted Spearment into their home. Roshonda’s two sons, Justin and Christian, attended St. Laurence. She believed the school would be a good fit.
“In eighth grade, I thought Kendell would be a target if he stayed in Englewood,” Booker said. “People wanted to get back at him for what his brother (Kerry) did.
“Kendell was different. You saw the potential in him. He just needed a chance. He needed to be shown something different.”
What the Bookers showed Spearment was family structure and discipline. And, yes, love. Things he desperately needed.
“We try to teach him like our other two children to be good people, to honor your word, be respectful to others and to be a gentlemen,” Booker said. “Kendell continues to grow as a person. I’m very proud of him.”
St. Laurence coach Harold Blackmon is proud of the person Spearment has become.
“The Bookers allowed Kendell to experience life outside of Englewood,” Blackmon said. “They’re amazing people. Kendell has been through a lot in life. That he shows up with a smile on his face every day is nothing short of amazing.”
Spearment has much to smile about these days. His grades are in good standing, and he has been getting feelers to play college football.
“A few Division II schools have shown interest,” Blackmon said. “He’s going to play football somewhere. He’s a hard worker and our best tackler.”
Spearment is beyond thankful to those who have put him on this path to success. He wants to study criminal justice and enjoy a career in law enforcement — like David Booker, who works at the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
“The Bookers have done so much for me,” Spearment said. “They’re like a mother and father to me. Coach Blackmon is an awesome person. It’s because of all of them and the church that I’m in this position.
“I’ve learned what’s right and what’s wrong. I’ve learned to help each other out, to be a leader. I want to go on and do great things.”
‘The Long Term’ uses art to connect Stateville prisoners to the outside world
A READER article by Marissa De La Cerda
Art by Eric Anderson courtesy of Prison And Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP)
When people think of prisoners, they often think of people who committed horrible crimes and deserve to rot away in jail. They’re less likely to think about the emotional, familial, and social consequences of long-term sentences, some as lengthy as 70 or 80 years.
The Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP) seeks to connect prisoners at Stateville Correctional Center, near Joliet, to the outside world by offering humanities courses in which inmates work with artists and scholars to create projects that educate the public on topics that normally stay behind prison walls. In this case, the topic is long-term sentencing.
“The Long Term,” the latest exhibition created by PNAP, utilizes different media to raise awareness about long-term sentencing policies and the effects they have on inmates. “This has been a two-year project where we think about long-term sentencing,” says Sarah Ross, codirector of arts and exhibitions for PNAP. “We encouraged the teachers to come up with assignments in their classes surrounding the impact of long-term sentencing, focusing not only on the sentencing policy itself but the effects it has on people.”
The exhibition includes a 13-minute hand-drawn animation made by artists who are serving long-term sentences. In the video, the artists combine personal narratives and research to describe the severity and impact of long-term sentencing, for example, the loss of connection to family members and friends and the struggle of raising kids from inside prison walls. The video also takes notice of the hardships that inmates face after being released, such as struggling to reconnect with family after years away.
Other pieces in the exhibition include video interviews with inmates about the effects of long-term sentencing and another with a mother about raising a son who’s serving a life sentence. The interviews offer more insight into how inmates are affected by these sentences, whether it be positive, like the bonds formed in prison, or negative, like the structural inequities faced after prison when struggling to find housing or employment.
Damon Locks, a visual artist and codirector of art and exhibitions for PNAP, says that though long-term sentencing policies are discussed in the media, the effects on the inmates and their families need to be addressed too. “A lot of people don’t think about how long-term sentencing creates a long-term struggle for freedom and a long-term loss in communities.”
The exhibit opened at the Washington Park Arts Incubator on Friday, September 21, and inspired a discussion among visitors about the reality of long-term sentencing and the importance of education to keep the inmates feeling connected to the community.
“One of the drivers behind this is trying to build knowledge about things that usually stay behind a wall,” says Ross. “Our project is trying to use art as a way to ask questions and build knowledge about things that keep us so segregated.”
The fall air is upon us.That can only mean one thing – the PBMR Fall Fundraiser!
So we are inviting you to join us on October 14th for an 11:30 Mass followed by a Taco Fiesta! We are inviting our friends, supporters and community families hoping to build deeper relationships while sharing our PBMR stories, our good news as well as our needs.
We are continuing the theme of Restoring Family and one of the ways you can partner in restoring the families within our community is through supporting our rehab project.We recently purchased a house on 51st street right across from the Center and are looking to restore it to the beauty, no doubt, it once had.It had been abandoned for years, but now we have the opportunity to create something new at 1246 W. 51st St.
Our plan is to offer short-term emergency housing to those facing homelessness.Day after day we see the need. Added to our excitement is the opportunity for our youth to work side by side with skilled laborers who will mentor and train them in construction skills (electrical, plumbing, etc.) – a classroom of sorts.
I am convinced, more now than ever, that family is at the center of any community.If we are going to support our youth and work for a safer and healthier community, we have to tend to the needs of the family.We cannot do everything, but we can do something.We can be the “neighbor in the hood”.
Of course, we cannot do this alone.We are asking for your generous support. If you are able, please join us on the 14th of October for this Fall Fundraiser. It will be a great time.You will see our youth demonstrating their silk-screening skills or in their carpentry shop; you will see our beautiful vegetable garden or you can sit in our Peace Garden.AND you will also see our newly purchased house in whatever stage of rehabbing it may be on October 14th.
“Restoring Family” is about walking alongside and offering a shoulder when necessary.It is about creating an environment of beauty where families can thrive and their children can grow up in safety, knowing they are loved, have the basics and are protected.
Thanks for your ongoing support.We hope you will be able to join us on Sunday, October 14th.
“Restoring human dignity through hospitality, hope, and healing.”
from the Director
PBMR continues to strive to better serve our youth and families. School has started, so we have begun our after school schedule for those young people. Other young people are involved in daytime programs that keep the place filled with energy. We have a number involved in the job readiness program: wood shop, screen-printing, and the community garden. The education lab is busy with youth and adults working on their high school diploma or GED. Below you will see some of the new things happening here at Precious Blood.
MAKING IMPRESSIONS SCREEN PRINTING
Making Impressions (MI) is a screen printing program that teaches youth the value of work through meaningful employment. MI offers a simulated work environment that includes soft skill development, coaching, and weekly performance reviews. All of this is done through a restorative lens.
Customers are not only able to order quality shirts at a reasonable price, but they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their purchase is providing opportunities for the community.If you are interested in having some shirts made please visit: https://pbmr.org/making-impressions-screen-printing/
NEW ADDITION TO OUR FAMILY
We are excited to welcome Karlyn Boens, who is the coordinator for the young women’s program. She continues the work of Leah Landry who recently moved to Washington DC. Of course, none of this work could be done without faithful donors and supporters. We are deeply grateful for all the support given to PBMR. Don’t forget to register for our upcoming Fall Fundraiser on October 14th. You can read more about it and follow the link to register or donate. Thanks for all your support and willingness to journey along with us. I know that together we can make a real difference.
NEW HOUSE NEW OPPORTUNITIES
We have acquired a 2-unit building across the street and will begin rehabbing soon. It is right across the street from the community garden and has sat vacant for as long as I can remember. Once again, the young people will work alongside contractors and laborers to be mentored in work ethics and learn the trades – a hands-on classroom. This project will strengthen our growing workforce development efforts. The Mother Brunner Family Center, which is housed in the first building we rehabbed, now has the support of Catholic Charities working to ensure mothers and families have greater access to resources.
Dear friends, our fall fundraiser is a Taco Fiesta, money raised will go toward renovating the new house we have acquired in order to offer emergency housing service to the community. As always, we appreciate all your love and support. We hope to see you there.
11:30am outdoor Mass followed by a taco lunch
Tickets are $50/ person. If you wish to make a donation to our fundraiser event or buy tickets to attend, write a check to the following address :
PBMR Attn: Spring Fundraiser 5114 S. Elizabeth St. Chicago, IL 60609
“Restoring human dignity through hospitality, hope, and healing.”
From the Director
Shawn, who recently graduated with his culinary certificate, has been using his skills around the Center. He has been preparing the food for the mothers’ circles, young men’s circle and a host of other gatherings. I could really get used to his cooking.
The woodshop is busy creating talking pieces and other items that we use for the peacemaking circle. We are about to begin the silk screening of t-shirts, etc. We will let you know and, hopefully, we can create some shirts for you.
We had a great turnout for our barbecue/fundraiser on October 1st. The weather was perfect and it was a great turnout. We started with a Mass and ended with great food and good conversation. Thanks for all who came out and supported us.
Fr. David Kelly, C.PP.S. PBMR Executive Director and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Chaplain
We welcome Christine Weil to our staff as of last week. She comes with a great deal of experience in restorative justice and working with youth who are court involved. It is great to have her as a part of the Precious Blood family.
We thank you for your support and all the energy and time you offer PBMR. We are truly grateful.
Back of the Yards Day of the Dead Celebration at PBMR
We are fortunate to have an Eagle Scout from St. John of the Cross Parish of Western Springs whose project it is to build us five low tunnels for our Precious Blood Community Garden. The low tunnels will help to extend the season for the crops, which in turn will provide more food for those who come for our harvest day each week. There are about 25 families that consistently come every Wednesday for the food donations from Trader Joe’s. In addition they come to the garden for FRESH greens that they can pick. They now have to wait for the carrots, red beets and turnips to get a little bigger. Last week we picked 25 pounds of peppers so they would not freeze. It was a great harvest day for us. We gave out 50 pounds of food all totaled last week. To date we have harvested 2930 pounds of food. Last year’s total was 1600+ pounds. God is so good to us. We are so grateful to our young Eagle Scout George whose project was to provide the seeds and seedlings for our spring crop. The extra seeds we sowed for our fall crop. Mary H., Sharrow C., Bela M.
PBMR and Loyola Academy Art Project
The Visual Arts students from PBMR’s Art on 51st and art students from Loyola Academy are coming together to share their points of view on Social Justice and how it directly affects their communities. Each side will take a close look at some issues and share their views through paintings. There will be two parts to the creation of these paintings. Each group will start a canvas and the other group will finish it with their response to the first group session. Once the first session is completed, the paintings will be exchanged for additional responses. Brandon PowellAfter the final exchange the students from Art on 51st will visit Loyola Academy to share their portion of the work and meet the students at Loyola Academy. It is anticipated that both groups will continue the dialog either by creating more works of art or finding other means of keeping the “conversation” going. So far, the first part of this project had proven to be enlightening for the students at PBMR. The students are scheduled to meet on November 14, 2017.
On October 14th, the Board of Directors and the PBMR Staff gathered at the Dominican University for our first retreat to begin a process of strategic planning for the the future. It was a great opportunity to get to know one another and share stories of success as well as the challenges we face in our ministry. It was a wonderful gathering that energized and inspired us all as we move forward in meeting the ever-expanding needs of our population!
Tuesday, November 28th, PBMR will be launching our #GIVINGTUESDAY campaign. We need your help to make this end-of-the year effort a big success.How can you help: a. Host a “Getting to know PBMR” party at your home/parish. b. Spread the word of our #GIVINGTUESDAY efforts through your various social media (facebook, e-mail, tweeter, snapchat, youtube, etc.) c. Be a PBMR ambassador by telling our success stories and referring persons to our website who have not been introduced to PBMR.If you want to help with this effort or have questions, please e-mail Sr. Donna at email@example.com.
Case Management Youth Circle
On October 20th our Case Managers organized their first youth circle focused on “Goals”. They wanted to instill in them the importance of their goals, how to achieve these goals, and how to stay consistent. Their main purpose was to make this circle exciting for the youth. It was an enjoyable moment while still educational. The message to the youth included knowing that their goals are important. By keeping their goals they will develop the focus they need to get ahead and be successful.
Halloween came to PBMR. We had a pumpkin carving contest and many youth were excited to participate. Judges selected 3 winners, however everyone was proud of their designs. We finished the day with caramel apples made by the youth.
Alontae M., Pamela P., Brandon P., Steven J.
Steven J., Marijo G.
Br. Juan A.
We dressed up and had lots of laughs on Halloween, played games and had scary laughs with the young men.
September 2017 Highlights
“Restoring human dignity through hospitality, hope, and healing.”
From the Director
There is a quote that I like that says, “Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” There is little doubt in my mind that the world needs people who want to make a difference. Your support has enabled us to come alive and make a difference.
There has been so much happening here at PBMR: from the Megyn Kelly show to our first ever pig roast/fundraiser, from embarking on a new effort to stop the violence (Communities Partnering 4 Peace) to the completion of the house that was rehabbed by our youth. It is an exciting time and we want to share bits and pieces of it with you here in this newsletter.
Fr. David Kelly, C.PP.S. PBMR Executive Director and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Chaplain
Of course, our work is not over; we need your ongoing support to ensure that the momentum is kept alive. If you are able, please consider a gift.
Let me also say a word of thanks to all of you who make things “come alive” here at PBMR. So much of what we are able to do is done because of your commitment to standing alongside us and working to change the narrative. Thanks for the support and encouragement.
Sr. Donna’s Story on Megyn Kelly Today Show
In the premiere of Megyn Kelly TODAY, Megyn tells the uplifting story of Sister Donna Liette, a 77-year-old nun who decided to do something about the violence tearing apart her Chicago neighborhood. Sister Donna is joined live on the show by Father David Kelly of the Precious Blood
Behind the scene: Sr. Donna getting ready for the show.
Some Pictures From Our Pig Roast Fundraiser Event!
On the last Friday of every month PBMR is hosting a meeting with members of the Latino community from the Back of Yards community. The group came together around a meal to share stories about their homelands. Thanks to the passionate description of those in attendance, we were able to travel to Colombia, Guatemala, and several parts of Mexico all from the comfort of the RJ Café. Being able to share our life experiences as immigrants to the US allowed us to build community with those of different nationalities. These ties are critical to helping deal with the struggles of the immigrant community, especially now with the tough times that many families are facing in the current political climate on immigration. The group was excited about the next junta we will be having next month. (Hector Avitia, Precious Blood Volunteer)
Restorative Justice Forum
The Chatham Community Restorative Justice Forum was hosted by the following groups: Connected Chicago, Chicago Department of Public Health, Power – PAC, Chicago Police Department, Cook County Resource Section, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection, Circuit Court, Judge Sophia Hall, Circle & Cipher, and Nehemiah Trinity Rising. The forum was held on Saturday September 30th at Carter Temple CME Church in the Chatham neighborhood of Chicago’s southside, over 30 people were in attendance. The forum reviewed the use of restorative justice practices within schools, neighborhoods and as a means of building community relationships to address trauma, violence and public safety.
Thanks to the help of a generous friend, this month we launched our new website and our new logo! Check them out at www.pbmr.org. We are loving our new fresh look online and we hope you like it too.
Meet Our Staff: Orlando Mayorga
My name is Orlando Mayorga. I am the new mentor coordinator and CAVE (Community Anti Violence Education) director. I am very excited to be a member of the Precious Blood family, sharing my experience working with youth and formerly incarcerated people. I have been a facilitator in CAVE for six years, a program created and developed by incarcerated people for incarcerated people, to help men develop healthy and productive lifestyles through trauma-informed care.
Congratulations to Our Chef Shawn!
Shawn Reed recently obtained a Culinary Certificate from Kendall College of Culinary Arts. We are very proud of Shawn and we hope this program will be the beginning of his career as a Chef. Shawn is a former graduate of the PBMR culinary program and is our Chef in residence at the Precious Blood Center.
More Than a Sailboat Ride
Our mentoring team took our kids sailing with an organization called Carpe Ventus. This organization promote mentorship and explore the correlation between skills learned on the water and character needed to set their course in life and on the water – to thrive, not just get pushed around by the wind. Everyone really enjoyed the experience!
Restorative Justice through Community Gardening
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.
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.