CHICAGO—It’s become a familiar tragedy with youth as victims of the city’s senseless violence and a slow response rate by authorities. Over Labor Day weekend in Chicago, out of 64 people shot, eight were juveniles. According to the University of Chicago, homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24. About 53 percent of homicides in Chicago go unsolved, reported the Englewood District police station.
Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef of the Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice (CACFJ) said, enough is enough! He is taking matters into his own hands to make sure victims and families are not forgotten with the #SaveOurChildren project.
“At this point, we’re saying zero tolerance,” he told The Final Call. “We want to have it big as possible for people to think twice about using those weapons that murder little children.”
In 2012, Rabbi Yosef’s nephew Joshua Davis was murdered, and the case remains without arrests or convictions. In conjunction with the dozens of other unsolved or cold cases Rabbi Yosef gathered families and continues to speak on their behalf to keep the focus on the youth victims.
Together with other organizations such as the Black Lives Matter Chicago and the Tikkun Chai International Humanitarianism Project, the Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice wants to shed light on the many unsolved homicide cases especially involving youth.
A Sept. 10 press conference outside Chicago Police Headquarters with organizers was very well received, said Rabbi Yosef. “We talked about the clearance rate which is still not satisfactory. We talked about reform, and to hire liaison detectives, so they’re going to be like the floaters that work with the families. We talked about witness protection reform; we’re getting complaints from families that have witnesses but are afraid to come forward because we have had cases where identities were revealed. … This was about building a relationship with the families and police and officials. We just don’t want to see a case just go cold.”
He also pointed out that putting more police on the streets will not work. “The philosophy of the police and mayor is to put more police in the streets and that’s not going to solve the violence. Take that money and give it to these grassroot organizations that will give these children something to do,” said Rabbi Yosef.
Among many mothers of young victims, Catalina Andrade knows all too well the pain and anguish associated with losing a loved one to violence. She is supportive of the efforts of Rabbi Yosef. “I think it’s good because sometimes you can think that nothing is being done. For me, it’s been a year and it’s hard to wake up knowing your child is gone.”
Her son Miguel Angel Rios, 18, was murdered last year. “He was a really smart, young man. It’s just hard to hear about our children being murdered. … He was just a hard-working young man, and it just hurts that when he goes on the wrong street at the wrong time, they just took his life. I hope they just bring closure to the family. I would like to put all of this out there and help other mothers. I know there’s nothing that’s going to bring my son back but at least I know they’re not going to murder another,” she said.
The #SaveOurChildren project and Rabbi Yosef has been a positive support and resource, she explained. “He’s been a good support to me and I talk to him and really see that he tries to help families out. He always tells me we’re going to fight for Miguel’s justice.”
Celeste Campbell, mother of six, also praised the efforts. “I saw him (Rabbi Yosef) doing a lot of things on Facebook. Unfortunately, my son was murdered November 20, 2016. … My hopes is to just bring light to the children, because my personal opinion is that these children are missing love,” she said.
Ms. Campbell said that by parents being more protective of their children, it’s possible to prevent further homicides. “I just want to say to children, we want to let them know it’s hope, there’s hope out there. I know Rabbi said they’ll be doing something else in December, so I told him to put me on. I would suggest to other parents to remember back in the day it took a village to raise a child, and if you don’t let a child know they’re doing something wrong, they’re going to continue on that path.”
For more information on the #SaveOurChildren project, visit www.tikkunchai.org