On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending what can best be described as an anti-violence rally that was organized by Pastor John F. Hannah who presides over New Life Covenant Church and with support from about 50 other non-profit organizations.
It was a beautiful sight to see.
Asked to wear red in honor of lost loved ones, hundreds of people were on both sides of the street I was on (79th and Vernon) holding hands, praying, and eventually laid down in the middle of the streets for about 10 minutes holding pictures of their slain loved ones in complete silence, blocking any all traffic on 79th street.
A powerful moment that day was, however it must not stop there.
As a young woman whose love for God grows more and more each day, I KNOW the power of prayer. Prayer changes things, keeps you sane and let's God know that you want to hear from him.
Chicago is a beautiful city, but even beautiful things have an ugly side to them. This year alone has seen one too many deaths, and even as I write this I know more have and will occur. The violence across this city transcends any type of understanding, and many are left feeling hopeless, depressed, and looking for a way out.
Many don't understand the point of Saturday’s event. They feel that prayer is pointless when the shooting epidemic just gets worse and worse, communities continue to be impoverished and resources continue to get depleted.
Regardless of how you feel about it, remember that even the Bible says “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17) meaning, that we cannot pray for anything without putting in the work behind it to sustain those prayers.
So as I prayed with a group of my friends on Saturday that the violence in Chicago will cease, I also prayed about what I, what WE can do to impact these communities in a positive way?
I prayed that adequate mental health services will be put into these communities to better assist those who may suffer from serious mental health issues.
I prayed that people will have more access to jobs and education opportunities, so they can feel economically and intellectually independent.
I prayed that people who have the tools and skills to better these communities come in and mentor the youth (which is half the battle) and expose them to positive things in life, whether it is by fostering their creativity, listening to their problems, or simply giving them things to do after school.
Speaking of after school, I prayed that the programs already in place to uplift the youth and the communities they come from will be properly and fully funded so that those in charge can adequately do their jobs. Nothing is worse than having a program that can change things for the better, and it suddenly disappears because they don't have the funds to keep their doors open.
I prayed about the high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence that plagues these communities, which is something that is not talked about enough but happens everyday.
I prayed for those who may not see the value in the next person, so that's why it's so easy to shoot and kill another person.
I also prayed for the conditions that lead people to often kill one another, whether it is the lack of parental support in the home, bad schooling, mental health issues, lack of employment, political corruption, etc.
Lastly, I prayed for the families of those who ever had to experience the lost of a loved one. But I pray that their loss inspires them to DO something, whether it is create an after school program, mentor the youth, or start a support circle for other people who have experienced a loss.
Photo by: Cody Mack
I challenge these churches to get out of their comfort zones. Historically, the BLACK church has always been at the forefront of all political and social activism when it comes to African-Americans. It shouldn't change just because we are in the 21st century. The rally was beautiful on Saturday, but I believe we NEED to take it a step further.
We need pastors, prophets, bishops, evangelists, and whatever other fancy title these people hold to get into these streets and do more than tell someone “I’m praying for you.”
Tell them you want to mentor them.
Tell these people who own non-profit organizations that you want to give them a space in your church so they will have a facility to hold their programs.
Gather church and community members and go into the communities and clean them up, plant gardens, hold block parties, etc.
Why not make “Prayer on the 9” a weekly thing?
The possibilities are endless if we get from behind the church pews and the pulpits.
More than anything, don't stop praying. But don't just stop at praying either.
Were you at the event on Saturday? How did it make you feel?
What do you think can be done to end the gun violence in Chicago?
What do you think the responsibility of the church is to help end the violence?
Kia Smith is a proud Chicagoan, struggling college student, and word aficionado. Catch more of her thoughts atkiasmithwrites.com and follow her on Twitter @KiaSmithWrites