In the wake of the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict and the unprecedented closing of 50 Chicago Public Schools, Rev. Michael Stinson felt the need to accelerate his efforts to secure the unoccupied building at 3355 W. Jackson Blvd. to provide youth services and mentoring.
"It's better to raise boys and girls than to repair men and women," said Stinson as he marched around the building one Sunday evening, accompanied by Exodus Drum and Burgle Corp Director Jerome Altman and drummer Julian Peavy.
Stinson, pastor of the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, formerly located in Englewood, said he is relocating to the West Side because God told him the work is on the West Side. Stinson plans to march around the building every day for 30 days, expecting the miracles like those depicted in Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 30, the biblical account of the walls of Jericho falling after the people marched around for seven days.
"We've got to work with our children, especially our young black men, to honor the legacy of Trayvon Martin and to prevent the murder of other innocent black boys at the hands of whites claiming self defense," Stinson said. "We have to mentor them and teach them through relevant programming and topics such as what to do if approached by the police. We need to teach them how to behave in school and what's appropriate. We've got to teach them how to treat their mothers and fathers," he added.
Working with a coalition of West Side pastors, churches, and organizations, Stinson believes it is essential to teach "African-American children to be responsible community members and that the community has a standard and culture which they will inherit and be entrusted as guardians."
When asked why this building, Stinson replied, "This building is critical because it's a historical space. It was initially a supermarket, then it became a nonprofit youth center, and when the center closed about four years ago, it left a huge gap in this community for kids."
In the wake of all that's happening, Stinson said, it doesn't make sense to have this center closed. He believes we can do better.
"With 50 schools closing and violence rising, it's important right now to have this center reopened," he said. "We have to create a safe haven for the students who have to go to schools outside of their community."
Stinson has been working to acquire this building for more than 18 months. "Miracles happen when you hear God," he said. "We believe any action that's positive will prick the hearts and consciousness of people who have resources and can partner with us and help us to get it open and be the kind of space for children to dwell, celebrate, and thrive in."
The core program, according to Stinson, will be an interfaith, non-denominational, high-impact, high-energy Sunday school for kids held after school during the week. The program will feature music, games, prizes, toys, praise dancing, and more.
"Then we will settle the children down and teach them a relevant message to become better citizens when they grow older," Stinson said.
"We want our children to experience being boys and girls."