CHICAGO (CBS) — The astounding number of shootings and homicides in Chicago last month prompted elected officials and community leaders to call for a series of town hall meetings in neighborhoods hit hardest by gun violence.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was among those calling on all levels of government to attack the poverty, education, drug, and joblessness problems on the South and West Sides as a way to reduce the killing.
“We are facing a crisis of third-world proportions. We deserve better,” he said.
Jackson was joined by a coalition of aldermen, county commissioners, lawmakers, and community activists to announce nine town hall meetings, starting Sept. 13, in what they called “endangered communities,” which have the highest levels of poverty, joblessness and violence.
The announcement was held at the Quincy Street Cultural Center, in the 5500 block of West Quincy Street, the same block where 16-year-old Elijah Sims was shot while out with friends Monday night. Elijah died the next day, one day shy of his 17th birthday.
Elijah’s mother, Sharita Galloway, stood with the community leaders as they discussed their plans for the town hall meetings. She asked anyone who might know anything about her son’s murder to come forward.
“No mother should ever feel the way that I feel. If you want to help me, say something. I want them to go to jail, and I want them to think about it every day – what they did to my son,” she said. “If you seen something, please say something. Nobody has to even know that you told. It’s confidential; but, please, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
Galloway said her son wanted to be a nurse, and would have been a great one.
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin said the first town hall would be held in the West Garfield Park neighborhood on Sept. 13. He said community has a per capita income of less than $11,000, an unemployment rate of 25.2%, and a poverty rate of more than 40%.
“We have a state of emergency. We have a crisis, but today we come together to say we’re going to do something about it,” Boykin said.
Boykin called on state lawmakers to pass tougher sentencing laws for people convicted of having illegal guns. He’s pushing a bill that would not allow anyone convicted of possessing an illegal gun to be sentenced to probation.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said she is outraged at the violence and the conditions of many neighborhoods.
“This is worser than back in slavery days. It is. It is. At least we had food on the table and was getting good guidance,” she said.