|STOP THE VIOLENCE—Children join their families in a march for peace to West Park.
At the 3rd Annual Community Unity Gathering on Aug. 15, the North Side Old Timers continued their mission of uniting young people from the North Side’s 19 different neighborhoods. During the daylong event there were no reported incidents of violence on the entire North Side.
“If you step back and take a look at it, this year there was no violence on the North Side at all. That had to promote the power of nonviolence,” said Allen Turner, NSOT president. “People are reluctant about gathering like that and at first they didn’t know what to expect, but they saw we were able to gather that many people together at a time without one incident.”
The event, which drew between 8,000 and 9,000 people throughout the day, began with the Children’s Walk. Joined by adults, children walked to West Park carrying signs displaying anti-violence statements.
“Our mission is basically what part can we play to curb some of the violence happening in our neighborhood,” Turner said. “Our program is actually prevention more than stopping.”
To accomplish their mission of violence prevention, the NSOT hosts a variety of youth-oriented activities throughout the year such as ice-skating and a Halloween candy giveaway. Their hope is to reach children before they develop violent behaviors.
“Our objective is to see if we can introduce children from the 19 neighborhoods so when they grow up they won’t be fighting,” Turner said. “We’ve been doing this for three years now and the kids are actually starting to know each other and get used to each other and actually looking for each other.”
Frequently people from opposing neighborhoods are the perpetrators of Black-on-Black crime, but smaller segments on the North Side have been warring for years. Allen said the size of the North Side has created this territorial attitude where people feel they have ownership over individual streets and blocks.
“I think it’s just something that developed over a period of years and I don’t think they even know why,” Allen said. “It’s just a territorial thing and they feel like they have to protect it too. It’s a bunch of nonsense that’s been perpetuated.”