Activists work to restore community on Chicago's 'most dangerous block'

- It's the middle of January on a rainy Monday, yet that didn't stop these South Side activists from setting up a tent and grill on the West Side so they can pass out s’mores on the most dangerous block in Chicago.

"We wanna bring that sense of community,” said Tamar Manasseh from Mothers Against Senseless Violence. “That you can live here. Not just survive here, but live here."

At first glance, the 4400 block of West Monroe Street looks like any other Chicago street.  Look closer and you see the bullets holes, the broken windows, the barred doors, boarded-up vacants, and trash in the street.

What you don't see very much of, are the people who live here ...  They stay indoors.

"It's kind of an unwritten rule, you don't point and you don't tell. You don't tell and you can sleep at night. No one is gonna bother you."

People were afraid to talk to us--the one who did, wouldn't put his face on camera.  He knows that the gangs who run their heroin and drug business could be watching.

"They don't want to tell on their nephews or brothers,” he said. “They know who is selling and who is not. Just because you're paying rent, you still losing. The kids can't go outside, you are still losing. Playing inside, not outside, still losing."

Of course the biggest losers are children who live with fear everyday.

"Why is a 12-year-old worried about not sitting by the window so I won't be shot. Let's rearrange the furniture so my bed is not by the window and I don't wake up,” said Marseil Jackson from Jackson Action Coalition.

Jackson, a community activist, knows the block well. Not only did he live here, but he tried to set up a community garden on the corner.  It failed because people were too afraid to tend the soil for fear of being shot.  Now, he runs a community center two blocks away.

“We need to put the onus on our elected officials,” Jackson said. We need to hold them accountable and we need to hold ourselves accountable in order to take control of our community.

Residents said they want change, but activists said change comes with power. Money gets you the power. But money is a concept that is foreign to so many here.

Jackson is working to change that. The first steps are underway with a pop-up tent that, at the very least, gets people outside talking to one another.

"There is still a lot of life,” Jackson said. “There is still a lot of love there is still a community wants to be built here."

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

More Stories You May Be Interested In - includes Advertiser Stories