In the last two weeks, hundreds of churchgoers on the West Side have taken to the streets to express their frustrations over the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
Churches in North Lawndale and Austin hosted peaceful marches the last two Sundays following their morning church services.
“We just want to stand up for justice and let people know that black lives really do matter,” said protester Shardai Gossett, who was among those at a Dec. 7, march in North Lawndale.
The Rev. Wayne Gordon of Lawndale Community Church led the march, which began at 3860 W. Ogden heading north, effectively closing the street as hundreds showed up to sing and pray.
While expressing outrage over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the protesters also conveyed hope for improved future relations between African Americans and the police.
Angela Gordon, a preschool teacher in Little Italy, has encouraged her students to work with the police. At the protest, she expressed hope that Chicago’s black community can develop healthy, long-term partnerships with law enforcement.
“I was with a little boy and he was like ‘I don’t want to work with the police,’ and I was like, ‘yes, we need to work together,'” she said.
Joseph Atkins, associate pastor at LawndaleCommunityChurch, maintained an optimistic attitude that was common among the protesters.
“I’m believing in hope,” he said. “I’m rejoicing in hope, and believing that our relationships with the African-American community with law enforcement. I’m hopeful of that, and I’m just being patient.”
West Side/Oak Park march
On Dec. 14, pastors from Austin joined west suburban community clergy in a peaceful “solidarity walk” in Oak Park in response to the Brown and Garner decisions.
Their “Black Lives Matter” walk took place at Oak Park’s ScovillePark Sunday morning.
“I am honored to lock arms with faith communities of diverse racial and ethnic back grounds for such a worthy cause,” said Rev. Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bible Church, in a statement.
Systemic change, Acree added, “occurs when the church speaks up. The church is the conscience of a nation.”
Congregations at the Dec. 14, march included those from the West Side, Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest. The walk was also meant to draw attention to “fixing systemic institutionalized racism that is prevalent all over the country,” Acree said.
“We can’t be sidetracked by a few bad police. We must concentrate on the bigger problem, America’s deepest moral sin, and that’s racism.”
Terry Dean contributed to this story.