Posted on the Black List Pub by Chinta Strausberg on February 6, 2015 at 9:49am in Chicago: Windy City & Mid-West News
~ By Chinta Strausberg ~
Sending a message to Gov.Bruce Rauner who last week canceled their contracts via e-mail, Lamar Jackson,youth service coordinator at the ARK of Saint Sabina, and scores of other youth late Thursday said contrary to what the governor says they are essential and urged him to restore those funds.
At a press conference held at Saint Sabina, Trevone Bosley, 16, the son of Pam and Tommie Bosley who lost one son, Terrell, to gun violence, opened the forum with a prayer. The youth had a message for Gov. Rauner who cut their social and after school programs because they were “non-essential.”
Father Michael L. Pfleger and Henry English, CEO, Black United Fund joined the youth. “I heard the Governor’s speech yesterday. He said he wanted to get money to increase prison guards.Governor, we’re trying to get money so we can decrease prison guards. We are trying to be preventative so you don’t have to hire more guards. Help us on the front end, and we’ll save you money on the back end,” Pfleger said.
English agreed saying he is inspired by the students. “Our youth are our most important resource. If we don’t stand up for them, they won’t know how to stand up for themselves. If we don’t protect and teach them how to be strong individuals, then our future won’t look so bright. When the funding is cut on our youth, that is cutting off the investment in our community, and we will not stand still and allow this investment to be cut off. We will stand with our youth…stand as long as it takes.” The youth agreed.
“The governor called our funds non-essential, but day care and after school programs are essential. We are essential,” Jackson said. “We are important. Instead of looking for money to fund prisons fund programs to prevent people from going to prison. That is all we want,” said Jackson.
“We don’t want to fight the governor, but we will hold him to a standard and accountable that he made a vow an and an oath to take care all of the people of the state of Illinois, and we are just as much people of Illinois than anybody else. We are the future of Illinois. He should be able to fund us more than anybody,” said Jackson.
Asante Hamilton, 18, a senior at Kenwood Academy and vice president of the Brave Youth Leaders, said, “All we do is go around the community to try and decrease the violence, help with self-awareness and try to make a difference in the community.”
Saint Sabina’s anti-violence and after school programs have literally saved the lives of youth including those who were once gang leaders but thanks to the programs are now Peacemakers for the Auburn Gresham community where police say violence is now down 86 percent.
One of those students who credited the program with turning her life around is Camiella Williams, 27, a community activist and dean of students at an alternative high school. “These violence prevention programs basically saved my life here at Saint Sabina.
“Less than 10-years ago, I was hopeless, violent and gang-affiliated living in Auburn Gresham,” said Williams. “I knew something had to change.” That is why she enrolled into the I-Care program which thought me self-respect, community involvement and how to carry myself respectfully.”
“All my friends were being killed and violence was everywhere I turned,” Williams said. “They were 15 and16-years old at the time. That did something to me. Either you be killed or killed. That is how it was.”
“If it weren’t for a program of Saint Sabina, I don’t know where I would be. Please restore our funding. It is not wasted spending. It is an investment into our future. It saved my life and other children standing behind me,” said Williams.
Today, Williams is a senior attending Governor State University majoring in criminology. She wants to be a lawyer.
Once a member of Black United Fund, Rakyle Johnson, 22, a junior at the Academy of Arts, held up a picture about creativity and imagination. “That program gave me hope…. I want to show there is more to life that what you are seeing.” Johnson said his drawings help people to “go beyond the boundaries” of their communities.
Jessica Chatonda, 25, was a member of the Black United Fund. After graduating from college, she worked with the program and developed a passion for working with non-profits and helping youth turn their lives around. “The program gave me so much” which is why she continues to work with the program which works with 13 organizations and 100 youth. She said the cuts in funding “will be devastating to them.”
Rauner gave this statement. “Unfortunately, Governor Quinn signed a budget that is unbalanced by $1.5 billion. The administration is taking action to manage the inherited budget hole and is working with the legislature to find responsible solutions.”