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!
On May 5th, Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children (CRIIC), out of Precious Blood left for a trip to Menard Prison 365 miles away. This is the 4th annual trip – and allows family members to visit their loved ones. The families stayed at the Retreat Center with the Adorers of the Precious Blood (ASC) in Ruma (20 miles from the prison) and visited Menard on May 6th & 7th. Without the Sisters sponsoring the trip and the bus sponsored by Bluhm legal clinic most of these families would not be able to visit. One of the visitors stated she hadn’t been able to visit her Uncle in over 9 years!
CRIIC is made up of family members who have a loved one sentenced to Life in Prison for crimes they were convicted of before their 18th Birthday. 30 family members were able to visit 17 inmates, all of the Moms said they couldn’t have wished for a better Mothers Day Gift.
Communities and Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children