CHICAGO (CBS) — Summer can be a dangerous time for kids, especially those in neighborhoods plagued by crime and gang activity.
So a “peace summit” was held Friday for more than 1,000 school kids.
As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, the goal was to get through to the students before gang members do.
Music filled the air Friday in Logan Square, but kids who live there and in neighboring Humboldt Park are used to hearing different sounds.
“You hear gunshots, fighting, group fights, gang fights,” said 14-year-old Patricia Petties.
Trying to prevent that kind of violence is why more than 1,000 students, in the 6th through 8th grades, were invited to the peace summit to talk about the reality of gangs and guns. Some of the speakers were former gang members themselves.
Asked how they can counter the appeal that many kids see in gang life, CeaseFire member Roger Cadena, a former gang member, said, “The gang life it’s a lie. They paint a pretty picture of a fantasy world that you have everything, but they have no idea what the consequences are.”
That’s why organizers did their best to bring kids face to face with those consequences by sharing their stories.
Cadena said the group tries to explain to kids how gangs can ruin their lives.
“A lot of it is through our experiences of being incarcerated, being shot, being stabbed,” he said.
They also shared the stories of mothers who have lost their children to violence.
“Just seeing the parents up there talk about their children, just seeing how it hurts other people,” Petties said. “If they see that, maybe they’ll stop doing the violence and killing people. Kids stop killing kids.”
For those who needed even more of reality check, there was a display of a coffin with a mirror inside. For many it was a wakeup call.
“If you mess around with gangs, that’s where you’ll probably end up, or you’ll end up with those guys in jail,” said 13-year-old Andre Needham.
“That really hit me because my sister used to be in a gang and when I look in a mirror, I could have went that path if it wasn’t for my sister getting out,” said 14-year-old Joshua Gonzalez.
CeaseFire Illinois is currently in the process of organizing eight more peace summits. They said they will continue to focus their efforts and resources on communities where there is high crime and heavy gang activity.