Strides for Peace has always been guided by the belief that we all have a stake in ending gun violence, and when we value and honor our interconnectedness and humanity, real change is possible, lives can be changed and even saved. This has never been more apparent than this past year as we have struggled to address the pandemic and face the ongoing legacy of racism and inequity.
The value and importance of community organizations and grassroots leaders has also never been more apparent. They step into the breach of our greatest challenges, often without a safety net, but with love for and the trust of their communities. They serve our city relentlessly, and we believe they are one of Chicago’s greatest assets. We have much to learn from them.
Such a lesson came this very difficult month, in the wake of the tragic death of Adam Toledo, as well as that of three other teenagers: Lydia Jiminez, Ramiro Morales and Jorge Cruz. In the midst of heartbreak, anger, fear and pain, New Life Centers, along with other community organizations, brought the Little Village community together, holding a “Peace Walk With Adam,” to open a pathway to healing and change. The walk ended at a large mural painted in the alley where Adam died, proclaiming this simple truth: We Need Each Other.
And the next day, like the day before, New Life Centers,, like many other community organizations throughout our city, got back to work, providing food to families, offering positive choices to young people with academic, arts, athletics and mentoring, step out onto the streets to stop the violence before someone gets hurt or the police are called. Their hearts hurting, they keep them open. The problems vast, they don’t turn away. Or, as Matt DeMateo, New Life’s executive director says, they “love on” on those in pain and give reasons to hope, dreams to reach for, something to believe in.
Community organizations may not be able to part the seas – nobody can. But they calm the waters, provide a lifeboat, help people on the receiving end of our country’s deepest challenges get to shore. They do some of the most important courageous work there is. We need them.
This week, at the end of this really hard month, the Little Village Sluggers won an important game — they needed that. We all do.
To volunteer at New Life Center’s food pantry or to learn more about their work, please visit https://newlifecenters.org/covid-response/