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A year ago, the organization’s that serve Evanston’s youth united in response to escalating violence in our community to launch the “My City, Your City, Our City” Safe Summer Initiative.
We employed young people to select and approve the activities. We centered their voices. We paid them for their wisdom and energy. Collectively, we then hosted six BLOCK (“Bringing Love to Our City and Kids”) parties and four community-wide events (“First Fridays”). We opened up Fleetwood-Jourdain Center and Robert Crown Community Center to provide safe, public spaces for youth to gather throughout the summer.
More than 500 young people regularly attended these events. We held 79 consecutive days and nights of programming. Due, in part to this effort, Evanston experienced 0 cases of gun-related, youth violence last summer.
As we prepare for this summer, we recognize the urgency and importance of coming together and providing safe, engaging spaces for youth.
Over the past several months, we’ve lost five youth to gun violence, countless other youth have experienced interpersonal, institutional, and communal violence, and three nooses recently dangled in a tree in front of our schools.
We are our the attorneys, case managers, coaches, counselors, healthcare providers and mentors to our youth. As their adults, we commit to get more proximate to our kids this summer.
We commit to centering their voices and their needs. And we, the white members of this coalition, commit to holding ourselves accountable for the scourge of white supremacy, which continues to infect everything from our institutions to our personal interactions.
Many in our community are asking right now ‘what can I do?’ We say: join us.
Answer our call to connect and get proximate.
Start by attending the First Friday event on from 6 – 9 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Mason Park. Wear orange in recognition of Gun Violence Prevention Day. Then, join us at one of the many other community events happening this summer:
- June 10 – Community Building Equity Summit, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Friday, Mason Park
- June 18 – Juneteenth Celebration, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, Robert Crown Community Center (Parade) and Ingraham Park (Concert)
- July 1 – First Friday, 5 – 9 p.m. in Mason Park
- August 2 – National Night Out, 4 – 9 p.m. Tuesday, Clark Street Beach – Arrington Lagoon
- August 5 – First Friday, 5-9 p.m. Mason Park
- August 13 – Back to School Event, 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Mason Park
Tell all the high schoolers in your lives to drop in from 6 – 9 p.m Monday – Friday at Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center; encourage high school and middle school youth to come by 6 – 9 p.m Mondays and Wednesdays to Fleetwood-Jordain beginning Monday, June 6th and Robert Crown on Fridays from 6-9 pm.
Not only are we again providing safe, public spaces and a full calendar of activities, but we are also working together to create youth-led communal systems of accountability where young people agree on shared values and ways we treat each other in public spaces. Rather than exclusion and shunning, we will support young people to acknowledge the harms they’ve caused and communally decide on how to repair those harms.
We know that when young people are connected to – and invested in – their community, they are far more likely to be their best selves. When they are heard, valued, and centered, they are highly motivated to remain in community. Connectedness keeps them and all of us safe.
James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy