No Money But the Program Keeps Serving the Kids

here’s a story from the North Lawndale Community News that was written by a contributor to the We Are Not Alone/No Estamos Solos campaign

 

By La Risa Lynch

Last year, Pastor Phil Jackson, of The House Development Corporations received a $15,000 grant to start a video editing and film production program to keep North Lawndale youth off the blocks and into positive art-focused activities.

The funding came from a special federal initiative to limit the impact of gang violence in high crime communities nationwide, including Chicago’s North Lawndale community.

This year those federal dollars are gone, but Pastor Phil, as Jackson is known on the streets, is still continuing on with the program. “We never ran the ministry waiting on money,” said Jackson, who operates a hip-hop youth ministry and a community arts center out of an abandoned firehouse.

 

“We’ve always done it without money because it is about impacting the lives of the young people.” Jackson’s organization was among seven North Lawndale community groups that shared in the federal funding last year.

Many of those organizations dug into their own pockets or got creative to come up with other resources to continue their programs this year. Organizations, Jackson said, almost have to because there is something bigger at stake.

the Rev. Phil Jackson

the Rev. Phil Jackson

“In North Lawndale there is one program for every 300 kids,” he said. “The options in North Lawndale to do other things that are creative are few.”

North Lawndale was selected for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).grant because of its high incarceration rates, teen violence and gang issues, explained Tracie Worthy, of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC). LCDC was the lead agency administering the sixmonth federal grant.

The grant funded a broad spectrum of antiviolence initiatives from mentoring programs to art projects and beautifications efforts. DOJ, Worthy said, wanted to fund agencies that supported youth, provided them with positive activities while giving back to the community. The goal, she added, was to minimize youth involvement in gang activity.

But Worthy, LCDC’s New Communities Program director, said she was not surprised that many of these programs continued on once the money ran out. “I think that is the reason why they were chosen because they were already committed to young people and will continue to work with or without money,” she said.

Even LCDC revised its B-Ball on the street program, a basketball tourney played in different neighborhood blocks throughout North Lawndale. Last year the program was opened to 8 to 14 year olds. This year the six-week program included older teens from 15 to 17 year olds. Funding for this year’s program came from State Farm Insurance and LISC/ Chicago, a community development program.

“[I]n communities like ours, resources can be far and few in between, but challenges are always present,” Worthy said. “So we have to try as much as we can to find resources and opportunities that would benefit our young people.”

Jackson believed young people will benefit from his video production programs. He saw it more than just sparking an interest in the arts, but creating a trade in filmmaking and editing skills to earn a few bucks. The program morphed into a video production business, Firehouse Media Group.

Students eventually created a project, called “The New Lawndale” to dismiss negative stereotypes about urban youth. The film shows students saying: “I’m not the dope dealer you see on the corner. I’m not this prostitute you see on the block.”

Jackson said the idea is to present a new image of North Lawndale youth. Jackson hopes to show the film as part of movie previews before the main feature at a local theater. “You got to find something that competes against the streets,” he said. “The streets only got fire hydrants on when it is hot [and] playing it with the police when they are wiling out ….

They only got stuff that is negative risk behaviors. What if you add some positive behaviors by learning a skill…?” Providing jobs is also crucial in keeping youth off the streets, says Dr. Betty Green of Lawndale AMACHI Mentoring Program (LAMP). That is exactly what last year’s grant allowed Green to do. The funding allowed Green to pay youth in the organization’s beautification program —something she hadn’t been able to do before. Kids got paid $7.50 an hour to clean vacant lots and plant flowers. This year, Green found additional resources to pay the kids $8.50 an hour. “All of our children want to work,” said Green, LAMP’s director. “It is just so difficult as young teenagers to find jobs.”

Cleaning up the community had a deeper meaning than just picking up trash and clearing weeds. The goal is to develop self-worth in youth and instill community pride about where they live. That is important because of troubled background many of the kids have, Green said. LAMP mentors children whose parents are incarcerated, on parole or on probation. Youth, she said, often blame themselves for their parents’ incarceration because the parent may have sold drugs to provide for their family. She said kids suffer emotional trauma and anger because the parents are not home and may act out in school. “We can’t get the parent out of prison, but we could mentor the child and get the child to understand … that the way out of this situation is through a good education,” Green said.


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