Chicagoans hope music will inspire youth to put the guns down

Chicago’s Interim Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was on patrol Tuesday night in the city's 8th District on the Southwest Side. His first priority, on his first full day on the job, is stopping the massive surge in violence.

Maybe no neighborhood has felt the impact of the deadly wave of shootings more than Austin on the city's West Side, with one man killed overnight, a 13-year-old boy recently shot in the back and three police officers shot and wounded two weeks ago.

Even with these alarming shooting statistics and such a grim situation in Chicago and in the austin neighborhood, there is still hope coming from Austin natives, using the power of music.

“I’m just scared of losing my daughter period,” said mother Shantel Lewis.

That fear cuts down on the playtime options for Lewis and her daughter, Heaven.

“I do not allow her to sit on the front porch and play, you go to the backyard and that's not even safe anymore,” Lewis said.

Violence across Chicago is breaking records this year compared to this time last year. The number of shootings is nearly double and there’s an 80 percent increase in homicides.

In the West Side neighborhood of Austin, the story is no different. Records show that 2015 saw 53 homicides, and so far this year, 19 people have died in Austin.

“Idle time comes with trouble - if you don't have anything to do it's going to give you the opportunity to find trouble to get in to,” said music manager Terran Thomas.

Thomas is an Austin native and rap artist manager. He and his artists try to spread positivity. 

“I realized the gift that I have, I got to use it, started doing shows, it was cool and I improved it, started Lex Rex with this good energy movement,” Thomas said.

Artist Valentino focuses on anti-violence messages and showcases other artists that do the same in a series called "Empowerment Through Music." - only non-violent music allowed.

They are hoping this music will inspire the youth to put the guns down.

“It’s too late, we need to do some proactive measures as opposed to the reactive I think, you know,” Thomas said.

Lewis agrees that to change the culture, it has to start at the ground level.

“They have to get in touch with these kids and talk to these kids,” Lewis said.

The Empowerment Through Music series is this Thursday night at the Music Garage at 345 N. Loomis.

Also, at that location, they offer kids under the age of 18 to record positive music. This group is giving the youth something to do other than engage in violence.