(Credit: Alonzo Alcaraz)

West Side leaders know they face uphill battles in creating safer communities.

Violence that shakes their neighborhoods — including two mass shootings over the weekend — results from deeply rooted problems, they say. To quell that, first they have to tackle a history of neglect that has left residents without adequate health care, education, housing, jobs and other critical services for generations.

That’s what the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council is trying to resolve. Through outreach that promotes peace, fosters community and connects people with vital resources, community organizers said they’re chipping away at the problems that they hope will lead to less gun violence.

“These are symptoms. This is a result of instability and racism as a whole,” said Brittany Spralls, chair of the coalition’s public safety committee. “And it is an epidemic, and one of the ways we can go about solving these things is making things more equitable across the board around education, housing, arts and culture, greening spaces. The way we think about safety is having a healthy community.”

ChicagoTrees flourish at Douglass Park in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood on April 13, 2021. (Colin Boyle/Block Club)

The council, a coalition of residents and organizations, has been implementing community improvements laid out in the North Lawndale Quality of Life Plan. At a recent meeting, they said they’re gaining traction on some of their goals.

“We recognize that addressing crime in North Lawndale is not just about using the tool of criminal justice,” said Rodney Brown, chair of the neighborhood’s economic development committee. “We’ve got to talk about housing. We’ve got to talk about education. We’ve got to talk about jobs. All those things have to be part of the tools we use to address the crime issue.”

Members of the public safety committee plan outreach events throughout the summer to coordinate opportunities for anti-violence groups like UCAN and Lawndale Christian Legal Center to “meet people where they are to help them with the things they need,” Spralls said.

The coalition’s Light in the Night events build more community engagement in areas considered high-risk for crime. The Hoops in the Hood program gives young people positive activities to do in the summer. Members of the public safety committee also host peace circles and cookouts to build community connections.

“You’ll always see us out in the community at different parks … trying to address the issue of creating safe and peaceful spaces. We are also there to engage the community and loop them into different services available in North Lawndale and provide them with wraparound spaces,” Spralls said.

The One Lawndale Peace Party organized by the neighborhood’s arts and culture committee aims to build unity between North and South Lawndale so communities can work together to make both neighborhoods healthier, stronger and more peaceful.

The One Lawndale Peace Party is scheduled for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. July 31 at Douglass Park, 2950 W. 19th Street.

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