Don’t Stand Back and Watch

Groups working to end violence featured in media campaign

Effort to get minority press to tell success stories

By La Risa Lynch

Filmmaker Derek Grace was tired of seeing reports of another teen shot dominate the 10 p.m. news. So he picked up his camera to film a different side of the violence plaguing south and west side communities.

He wanted to show stories of community groups and ordinary citizens working to combat violence that has claimed so many young lives. Grace contends it only takes on person to  make a difference in their community.

The result is a documentary called “On the Frontline: Taking Back Our Streets” that features people making that difference to become heroes in the ‘hood.

His efforts are part of an ongoing campaign to highlight positive works in Black and Latino communities against gang and gun violence. The “We are not alone-No Estamos Solos” is a campaign to unite Chicago’s Black and Latino communities and their news media.

The goal is to get the minority press to cover and write stories on organizations and individuals effecting change often with limited or no funds  to end youth violence. The Back of the Yards Council and the Community Media Workshop’s Ethnic Media Project are leading this an anti-violence campaign.

The groups hosted a meeting in the Bronzeville community Tuesday, June 28. The event was held at the Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd.

The meeting highlighted success stories of community groups in their efforts to combat violence. Often these stories take a backseat to news coverage of gang shootings.

“Too often the only stories we encounter show only one part of the picture and leave people hopeless and heartbroken,” said Steve Franklin, CMW’s ethnic media project director. “By telling stories of the work done in the two communities, the effort will remind [us] of the strength that comes when communities work together.”

DeAnna McCreary, founder of TrueStar Project, didn’t wait for the media to find her youth mentoring program. She decided to create her own vehicle to tell success stories of everyday youth beating the odds. TrueStar is a glossy 52 page magazine, where students write their own stories and even sell advertisements. The project has grown since it began to include a radio broadcast. McCreary said negative stereotypes about youth that gets recycled in the media can be reversed if young people are allowed to tell their own stories.

Another filmmaker, Tiarra Epps, 21, an Illinois Institute of Art student majoring in digital filmmaking, also discussed how stereotypes can divide, not just communities, but people. Friends, she said, decided to part ways with her after learning she lived in Englewood. She produced a documentary also to break the cycle of negative stereotyping.

Andrea Guzman, a youth advocate for Enlance, a Latino community group, urged greater community involvement in addressing youth violence. If the community is united, she said change can happen, especially for youth who often seem lost in the system.

Adrianna Cardona, editor of The Gate, a publication of the Back of the Yards Council, stressed partnerships with diverse community groups. She said those alliance are needed to address youth violence in her racially mixed community. Cardona noted that her group works to improve relations and build bridges between Blacks and Latinos.

While the “We are not alone-No Estamos Solos” campaign has gained support from citywide anti-violence programs and local media, Jeanette Foreman, an attorney and long-time community activist, urged those attending the meeting to get involved.

Urban griots can submit their own stories, poems, videos and audio to the campaign’s website: alone or Facebook page: Facebook/wearenotalone.

Foreman said the effort is to help create momentum to get people to come out of the shadows to share their good works. These stories, she added show solutions rather than hopelessness.

Blogger Marcie Hill, who publishes, an online community resource for the South Side, also encouraged others to get involved. “I hope the attendees actually get engaged to make things happen.”



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