The Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday heard directly from residents, faith leaders and activists about just how to help curb gun violence in Chicago, which is besieged by shootings of young black males. Speakers at the town hall-style event, which was held at Hyde Park Academy High School, a short distance from President Barack Obama’s South Side residence, repeatedly offered up employment as a solution, DNAinfo Chicago reports.
As of Thursday, the city had recorded about 400 homicides of mostly black males, the Chicago Tribune reports. By contrast, more than 500 homicides were recorded last year.
Sharpton was joined by 12 panelists at the event, which was attended by about 300 people, DNAinfo reports. The meeting was part of several that the civil rights leader and MSNBC host plans to hold before Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is observed on Jan. 20. After that, he will develop a model plan for cities across America.
“When you give a person a job, you give them a purpose to stay out of trouble and a goal to work toward,” panelist Diane Latiker—founder and executive director of Kids Off the Block, a nonprofit youth-development group on the South Side—said, according to DNAinfo. “Our young people need this, especially during these hard times. If you wake up in the morning with nothing to do, you will go out and find something to occupy your time, and usually, for youths, it’s violence.”
Other panelists included the Rev. Janette Wilson, a senior adviser for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Minister Jeffrey Muhammad of the Nation of Islam; Maureen Forte, president of the Chicago chapter of the National Action Network; Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and chairman of the state’s Violence Prevention Taskforce; and the Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
As The Root previously reported, Sharpton took up residence on the West Side in November and began hosting the town halls as part of an effort to find solutions to the city’s outsize homicide rate among young black males.
“If it works here in Chicago, it will work anywhere there is a gun-violence problem,” Sharpton said. “A gun-violence plan in Chicago will serve as a model for other cities to follow.”
Read more at DNAinfo Chicago.