FOX 32 NEWS - What do tribal warriors from Kenya have in common with residents of Chicago’s South Side? Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says there are a lot of parallels.
Duncan has started a non-profit group aimed at impacting Chicago’s growing violence problem.
A group of almost 30 Chicago men sat mesmerized, listening to the story of two Massai warriors who have traveled from Kenya to talk about what it means to become a man in their tribe and how community is everything.
The group of men are part of the ‘Pullman Pilot Training Program.’ Some are victims of violence, some are ex-cons, and many are high school dropouts. They all have one thing in common, though, and that is the desire to turn their lives around.
And they're doing it with the help of Duncan.
"Our guys’ journey has been extremely difficult. The journey of the Massai warrior to become a warrior is extremely difficult, but you can get through that and you can give back,” Duncan said.
Duncan came up with the idea to bring these warriors to Chicago after spending the summer in Kenya and learning about their community.
After his time with the Obama administration, he knew he wanted to come back home and make a difference. So, he started Chicago CRED: Creating Real Economic Destiny.
"The level of violence is obviously catastrophic,” Duncan said.
His goal is to replace guns with jobs, to forget the feds or the National Guard and focus on community and the people who commit the crimes.
"We can't arrest our way out of this. Mass incarceration has been a disaster,” Duncan said.
So, Duncan and Chicago CRED are putting these men to work by joining forces with several Chicago non-profits and encouraging companies to give these men a chance.
Many of them are now involved in beautification efforts in the city's historic Pullman area.
"What brought me to this program was a life of violence. Trying to find something new…trying to find a better life for myself,” Curtis Toler said. "This is my first job. They helped me get my GED."
Curtis Toler is a community change leader.
"Some of these guys say 15 dollar an hour, I will stop shooting people. That's something to think about, have we turned our backs on these young men,” Toler said.
Just like the Massai Warriors, Duncan and Chicago CRED believe it takes a community coming together to make change.
"We want to help stop the violence, but I'm not the one that's shooting. They are going to lead the community where we need to go,” Duncan said.
The goal of Chicago CRED is to expand its program to more communities on the South and West sides.