24 Apr 2019

A Journey Toward Justice: Eliminating Gun Violence

The urgent and many-faceted topic of gun violence - and how to prevent it - was the focus of a Loyola University program on Monday, April 15, that brought together leaders of the Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) and other nonprofits, professors, and students from Loyola and Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets at ALSO, offered a personal story and a message about how violence prevention works at the grassroots level. “It’s about mediating conflicts and building relationships,” he said. “It’s also about knowing that we can change and do positive things.”

“A Journey Toward Justice: Eliminating Gun Violence,” was held at the Philip H. Corboy Law Center of Loyola University’s Chicago School of Law. The event was presented by Loyola’s Curt and Rodin Center for Social Justice, which strengthens and further develops programs at the School of Law that advance fairness, equity, and justice in marginalized communities.

Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets for ALSO, speaking at April 15 Loyola University event on gun violence. To his left (right side of photo) is Mary Bird, Director of Public Service Programs, Loyola School of Law.

While there was a decline in adolescent firearm homicides in Chicago from 2016 to 2017, the rates are still “shockingly elevated,” according to the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which released data made available by the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System.

Participants at the event spoke about trauma-informed services, restorative justice and other topics related to gun violence. One strong current that ran through the event was that gun violence is a public health issue. Another - based on presentations by Matos and others - is that positive work is being done to prevent violence in our neighborhoods. A panel discussion on community responses to gun violence included three members of Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), an initiative that provides a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reducing violence and gang activity in nine Chicago communities. CP4P partners included Matos and ALSO as well as Rev. Autry L. Phillips, Executive Director of the Target Area Development Corp., and Rodney Phillips, Training Assistant of the Metropolitan Peace Academy, which trains street outreach professionals across the city.

Matos spoke about his journey – from being incarcerated at the age of 18 to heading the Safe Streets outreach program at ALSO – and how he and others working to prevent violence strive to “step up as leaders” and “model change” for young people in Chicago communities.

He also pointed to the importance of understanding the dynamics of violence in communities and emphasized that ALSO focuses on both street outreach and intimate partner violence. “We try to share our learnings in both areas,” he says. “We have noticed that a lot of times, violence is sparked around a relationship.”

Another important part of preventing violence, Matos and others said, is making sure that leaders with roots in communities hit hard by violence “get into rooms where decisions are made.” One example, Matos says, is that he sits on a small working group with area police district commanders to address issues related to violence.

The event began with a question-and-answer session between former Fenger High School Principal Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, which promotes youth equity, and author Alex Kotlowitz, who has written extensively about violence in Chicago. Kotlowitz’s most recent book, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, which was released in March, chronicles the impact of gun violence on people and neighborhoods in the city.

From left to right:
Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets for ALSO; Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, and Rodney Phillips, Training Assistant, Metropolitan Peace Academy

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who was introduced by Illinois State Senator Jackie Collins, concluded the event by reaffirming the need for continued efforts to stop gun violence. Stratton is heading state’s new Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative, which is expected to look at criminal sentencing, education, and poverty in Illinois. “Our message,” she said, “is that we are committed to ensuring that all communities are healthy and safe.”

For more information, contact Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets at the Alliance of Local Service Organizations, jmatos@also-chicago.org

Recap:

Gun violence – and how to prevent it - was the focus of a Loyola University program on Monday, April 15 that brought together leaders from the Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) and other nonprofits, professors and students from Loyola and the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton.

Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets at ALSO, offered a personal story and a message about how violence prevention works at the grassroots level. “It’s about mediating conflicts and building relationships,” he said. “It’s also about knowing that we can change and do positive things.”

Matos pointed to the importance of understanding the dynamics of violence in communities and emphasized that ALSO focuses on both street outreach and intimate partner violence. “We try to share our learnings in both areas,” he says. “We have noticed that a lot of times, violence is sparked around a relationship.”

DONATE TODAY!

ALSO is an organization committed to ending violence in homes and communities nationwide. Your contribution will help us live out our mission to develop, promote, and implement model programs in order to build a movement for peace and safety in the coming year.

With your support, we will:

  • Continue providing jobs for in-risk youth through our 10-10-10 job training program.
  • Provide bystander intervention training for youth and community members, giving people the skills to know how to increase safety in high risk situations.
  • Explore and reveal the relationship between intimate partner and community violence to create programming that will reduce both.

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