The city of Chicago made alarming headlines last weekend when more than 70 people were shot and at least 12 killed during the bloodiest weekend of the year.
Over the weekend, members of rival gangs made the news, but not for reasons many might presume. The two gangs united to celebrate peace by building a new playground for the children who live in the North Pullman neighborhood where shootings had, until recently, been a common occurrence, WBBM-TV reported.
Last fall, the two gangs, which live within blocks of each other, called for a cease-fire to the turf war that had been going on for many years.
What's the story?
The rival gangs said they had grown weary of the violence that plagued the neighborhood and kept their children indoors.
"It was a lot of shooting going on," gang member Sherman Scullarck told WBBM. "Kids couldn't come outside — shooting back and forth."
In October, Scullarck helped broker the cease-fire between the two gangs.
“Several young men have been shot, some kill over a gang war that none of them even knew what they were fighting about,” Chicago Police detective Vivian Williams told WBBM.
Following the truce, Williams helped the gangs connect with Chicago CRED, an organization focused on reducing gun violence, which led to peace between them and the reward of a new playground.
“We’re working directly with the young men on the south and west sides most likely to shoot and be shot,” said Arne Duncan, one of the creators of Chicago CRED and former secretary of education under President Barack Obama. “They didn’t ask for anything for themselves. They said ‘Our kids have no place to play. Can you help us build a playground?’”
Together, the rival gang members, along with dozens of volunteers, and help from some corporate sponsors built a playground where the children of both gangs can play together and have hope for a better future.
What did the gang members say?
Eight months later, the children can go outside without fear.
“It’s peace going on now,” Scullarck told the news outlet. “They really could play — they don’t need to worry about anything."
Another gang member who asked WBBM not to use his identity said the last eight months has been "wonderful."
“You get to hang out, sit on the porch and not have to feel somebody’s jumping out of the car and start shooting," he added.
The playground will be a place where the kids can create friendships instead of war.
“The kids can have somewhere to play peacefully and both sides can come and enjoy themselves," said another gang member who asked to remain anonymous. "And be kids and not have to worry about dodging bullets and none of the nonsense. And they won't have to follow in none of our footsteps."