Community puts focus on anti-violence efforts on Chicago’s West Side

By Kevin Beese For Chronicle Media

Holding a picture of her slain daughter, Ashake Banks of Chicago’s West Side talks with other women at the Wear Orange anti-gun-violence event Saturday at the Harold Washington Playlot Park in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. (Photos by Kevin Beese/For Chronicle Media)

Community puts focus on anti-violence efforts on Chicago’s West Side

Clutching a photo of her daughter who was shot and killed selling candy outside her house nearly five years ago, Ashake Banks said it is often a struggle for her just to get through the day.

The resident of Chicago’s West Side spent Saturday afternoon participating in anti-gun-violence festivities at the Harold Washington Playlot Park in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. She wore an orange T-shirt, hoping no other mother has to go through what she has gone through the last five years.

Zion Davis gets a snake painted onto his face during Saturday’s Wear Orange event.

The park was a sea of orange as individuals wore the safety vest color to send a message that the violence has to end.

Wear Orange began in 2015, two years after 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in the city, just a week after performing with her school’s marching band at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Banks said she gets through each day with the help of other mothers who have lost children to gun violence.

“I have been blessed,” Banks said. “There has been so much support since Day 1.”

Banks’ daughter, Heaven Sutton, was killed June 27, 2012. when two gang members opened fire into a crowd of people on the West Side. Heaven was 7 years old at the time of her death.

Hip hop artist Marcus Alexander performs his song “Moments of Silence” during the Wear Orange event.

“We will be celebrating five years of her being up in heaven,”  Banks said of the upcoming anniversary of Heaven’s murder.

She said stemming the violence plaguing the city has to be approached on multiple levels.

“I really don’t know what the solution is,” Banks said. “The police are doing what they can. Superintendent Eddie Johnson is doing all he can do. Parents need to be more involved and caring, paying attention to what their children are doing.”

Genie Hernandez of Berwyn also lost a child five years ago. Her son, Lino Diaz, 30, was shot multiple times in Cicero when leaving for work in the early morning hours of May 4, 2012. He spent 21 days in the hospital before dying on May 25.

“It’s very powerful,” Hernandez said of the hundreds of people who showed up in orange Saturday. “It tells me that I am not alone out here. It shows me that we at the tipping point for local efforts, that there is an awareness and desire to stop the violence.”

Musicians from the 63rd Street Beach Drum Circle perform during the Wear Orange event.

Choking up while talking, a day after the five-year anniversary of burying her son, Hernandez said it was a “very emotional time” for her.

She said that there is power in numbers and everyone must be part of the solution.

“We all have to act to halt violence in our communities. We all just can’t want better neighborhoods,” Hernandez said. “We have to act to make communities safe. It will take a village to push out the violence and make a change.”

At the event, Marcus Alexander, a hip hop artist, sang his song “Moments of Silence,” inspired by the July shooting death of his stepbrother, Hector Badillo Jr., in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood.

With lyrics of “Broken people lead to a broken nation” and “We need change in our brains,” Alexander performed his powerful work before attendees at the event.

“I believe in the power and influence of music,” said Alexander, who said he only performs songs with a positive message.”We have to work to educate people. In my view, you can make an impact with positive music.”

Representatives of Strides for Peace talk with an attendee at the Wear Orange event.

Alexander said something must be done to stem Chicago’s violence, which has because an international issue.

Toika Brown of County Club Hills watched as her daughter got five hearts painted on her face and a tiger temporary tattoo placed on her left arm. Brown said they had come to the Hyde Park area to help her boyfriend’s grandmother with shopping. She heard about the Wear Orange event and came over to check out the activities.

Brown said something has to be done to stem the violence plaguing the Chicago area.

“An event like this is so important. It gives hope for things getting better,” Brown said. “It’s scary. Kids can’t even go outside to play in some areas.”



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