‘I Just Hope There Are Enough Of Us’

After two summers successfully quelling violence on one block in Englewood, Tamar Manasseh is trying to spark a movement across Chicago.

For two years, a group led by mothers has spent every day of summer break sitting on the corner of 75th and Stewart in Englewood. They barbeque. They play games. And they dance. All in an effort to curb violence.

And now they want others to use their model.

“When people see stuff about murders on the news, I know that all of those murders could have been prevented,” said Tamar Manasseh, the group’s founder. “If the gunmen knew someone was watching them, the trigger never would’ve been pulled.”

Last year, when 4,331 people were shot in Chicago and homicide total reached levels not seen since the mid-1990s, the area around 75th and Stewart saw a decrease in shootings, according to city data.

Manasseh and her group, Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), want others to follow their crime-prevention model. Last month, when Chicago Public Schools was on spring break, MASK set up their charcoal grills at corners in the Englewood, South Chicago and West Garfield Park communities.

“It’s not about being able to stop violence today and save everybody here. It’s to teach the people in the neighborhood how to do that,” Manasseh said.

Rev. Corey Brooks, head of the New Beginnings Church of Chicago in a historically violent area at 66th and King, said getting people to “conversate and connect and spend time together ... is helpful.”

But Brooks said getting people out of their homes is only part of the solution. He stressed that it is also important to call police and report criminal activity.

“One of the issues in our neighborhood is that people are so disconnected and they don’t feel accountable to one another, and they don’t feel any reason to say anything,” Brooks said.

Overall, Manasseh said, the group got positive feedback at the three corners they visited, but she isn’t certain the residents are committed enough to have a lasting impact on those corners.

“Sitting on a corner for four or five hours everyday is not for everybody. I just hope it’s for enough of us.”

Andrew Gill is a digital producer for WBEZ. Follow him @andrewgill.

This story is part of WBEZ's Every Other Hour project. Find more stories here.

Criminal justice reporting and investigative journalism at WBEZ is supported in part by Doris and Howard Conant, The Joyce Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.