The beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, caught on video Sept. 24, continues to affect communities throughout Chicago and the nation.
West Side pastors today announced an effort to try to bring something positive out of that tragedy and, at the same time, recognizing an important man in Derrion’s life.
The LEADER’s Network of West Side pastors announced that 20 of its member churches will launch new mentoring programs for youth, or strengthen existing programs, by partnering with community service organizations. The pastors were joined by members of Austin Safety Net Works, an anti-violence youth advocacy group, as well as other community activists. About a dozen pastors hosted a press conference this morning at Rising Sun Baptist Church, 820 N. Central.
In addition, they presented the first ever Joseph Award to Derrion’s grandfather, Joseph Walker, and also to Willie Williams III, father of Willie Williams Jr., the 17-year-old high school basketball star shot to death in 2006. The 20 pastors, this coming Sunday, will also devote their sermons to stopping violence against the city’s youth.
“Children need options and other opportunities,” said Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller.
Williams and Walker will also visit a handful of the churches on Sunday, starting with Acree’s congregation. In accepting the award – named after Joseph, husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus – Walker talked about how his grandson continues to inspire him.
“It’s a hard time for me right now, but I’m trying to uphold myself from what I learned from Derrion,” he said. “Derrion had a purpose. What happened to him woke up the world.”
Walker also wanted to share the award with Derrion’s late grandmother, Phyllis Golliday. Williams, who works as a youth counselor at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 2600 W. Jackson, encouraged the community to work together to save its kids.
“It’s about helping one another,” said Williams, who started a foundation in his son’s name shortly after his death. “What the ministers are doing is so important, but we need to spread this to everyone. If we can get every person to mentor these kids, that’s the only cure.”
Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Church, 4301 W. Washington in East Garfield, explained that the mentorship programs will vary by church, including the age levels of the participating youth. He noted that state funding for such community initiatives has become scarce in recent years.
“We’re not going to wait on more resources but strengthen what we have,” he said.
Concerning the awards and the honorees, Hatch said, “These fathers represent fatherhood at its best.”