Story by Lindsay Welbers
Learn more about the event, courtesy of our partners at Community Media Workshop.
June 13, 2008 – Hoping to prevent a summer marred by gang violence, the third annual Healing the Hood street festival in Little Village has been moved up to June 14.
Mike Rodriguez, director of the Little Village Violence Prevention Collaborative , said organizers decided to hold the event this month rather in August because they want to get kids involved in their communities early in the summer, giving them alternatives to joining a gang.
“Folks wanted to set the stage for a peaceful summer with this event instead of ending (summer) with it,” Rodriguez said.
The New Communities Program worked with Rodriguez and his group to use a crime reduction strategy that they say, resulted in a 39 percent drop in gun violence and a 60 percent drop in homicides in the neighborhood between 2006 and 2007.
Two gangs divide the West Side neighborhood. The division runs so deep that children from the east side of the neighborhood cannot use the park on the west side for fear of violence and retaliation for crossing the border.
One of the New Community Program’s goals is to get a park on the east side of the neighborhood, in addition to reducing gang violence.
The street festival, presented by the Little Village Community Development Corp., takes place on the border between the territory the two gangs – the Latin Kings and 2Six – have staked out.
Organizers hope that by encouraging people to get involved in their communities through music, arts or sports that students will be encouraged to stay away from gangs and to help reduce gang-related violence.
“This year we have a specific arts component where young people will be decorating a Healing the Hood art piece to put in their window,” Rodriguez said.
Families will be encouraged to decorate a common emblem at the event and place it in the windows of their home to show that gang violence is not welcome in the community.
Event organizers this year hope to continue raising awareness year round by putting together a video in which event participants discuss their history with gang violence and how they hope to end it. The video will be featured on the Little Village Community Development Corp.’s Web site and on YouTube.
At noon June 14, several pastors of interdenominational faiths and former gang members will hold a vigil for those killed by gang violence in the past year.
City Life Public Southwest Side West Side
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