Residents of Gary and East Chicago on Sunday marched in protest of the violence plaguing their communities and rallied for opportunities for the children who live in them.
In Gary, the Unicratic Action Committee sponsored a youth rally, Saving Our Selves, in a vacant lot at the east corner of 23rd and Broadway avenues, next to the site of a soon-to-be community organization center.
The main objective of the rally was to develop strategic plans that will help minimize violence in the community and provide a chance for youths to voice their concerns and suggestions on how to bring positive change.
“We need a face-lift in our communities,” said Litisha Harris, rally organizer and president of Human Development CDC, which will open an “action” office next month next to the lot where the rally was held. Its mission is to provide developmental projects, education, training and building initiatives in helping people “reach their greatest potential.”
“We need a change,” Harris said. “We need something different. We want to take action. It’s one thing to have a rally and then everyone goes home. We want to take action and involve our youth and make them involved in everything we’re doing.”
Harris said communities are essential in keeping youths from participating in violent behavior.
“This negative energy – where can we channel it in a positive way?” Harris said.
In reference to the Trayvon Martin verdict, Harris said that white-on-black crime is happening but black-on-black crime has been going on in the communities.
“We can’t come together,” she said. “We can’t love one another.”
Speakers included Damian Smith, president of the Unicratic Action Committee, who said there is a vital need for job training for young people and there is a computer literacy problem with those under the age of 35.
Another speaker, Bentley Ellis, a Gary Housing Authority commissioner, said a lot of money has been squandered to make residents self-sufficient.
“Issues aren’t being looked at to help them,” he said.
Ellis said there are some serious issues and concerns, some of it political, but local youths shouldn’t struggle and suffer because of them.
“If they say in two weeks that (community organization) building is going to be open, it should be flooded,” he said.”
East Chicago’s March and Youth Rally in response to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict in Florida and violence in Northwest Indiana was sponsored by the Twin City Ministerial Alliance. Participants marched from East Chicago Fire Station #2 down Martin Luther King Drive to Mount Herman Baptist Church for a rally that kicked off with a speech from Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
“Our desire is to capture the energy that is sweeping America as it relates to our young people and the Zimmerman verdict,” Grant said. “Our challenge is not to stop this today but to keep this movement going in East Chicago and make it a virus in Chicago, make it a virus in Gary, make it a virus in Whiting, make it a virus in Merrillville — all the way to the state Capitol.”
Pastor Cedric Howard of Goodwill Baptist Church in East Chicago said the march and rally was not only in response to the Trayvon Martin case but also to educate the community that Indiana, like Florida, has the stand your ground law.
“We have Trayvon Martins in our own community,” Howard said. “We have George Zimmermans in our own community. There is a lot of black-on-black crime in our own community. This rally gives our public a voice without being violent.”
Audrey Chubb, of Gary, took part in the march to also bring awareness to the stand your ground law.
“Indiana is one of the few states that have that law,” she said.
Jade Hill, 22, of Chicago, said the East Chicago march and rally marked the first time she got involved in an anti-violence movement.
“It feels good to be a part of and it’s definitely needed,” she said.