Today is National Stop the Violence Day. It is no coincidence that National Stop the Violence Day falls on the week of Thanksgiving. These two special days remind us to spread love and put aside our differences. Unfortunately, Chicago’s youth is at high risk with record breaking shootings every week. 

What is National Stop the Violence Day? Traditionally radio and TV stations have implored gangs to cease all gun fire for one day. While poignant for the moment, youth violence is tragically an everyday occurrence. At least one student is innocently killed each week in the Chicago streets. Police have decentralized many of the gangs by removing the leaders but their efforts are not enough. Chicago communities must step up and create long term solutions. Highlighted below are a few strong non-traditional efforts that are making a positive impact!

The North Lawndale Boxing League: Boxing Out Negativity

Coach Derek Brown, former gang member, passionately wants to clean up gang leadership from the Chicago streets. In 2014, Brown created Boxing Out Negativity for teens which strives to teach life skills such as self-control, teamwork, respect, courage,  leadership, and integrity. Focusing their energy in a positive manner empowers their brains to make good choices and set themselves up for success in life.  According to their website, “We enroll youth ages 8 to 16. Enrollment is free, but students have to “pay” in completing their school required homework, obeying the coach, and general positivity. Currently, we barely have the resources to serve around 17 to 20 students.” Boxing Out Negativity is always grateful for donations to help fund more equipment, bigger space and location on PayPal.

Arne Duncan Bridges the Gap Between Chicago’s Youth and CEOs

The former U.S. Education Secretary and former CEO of the Chicago Schools, Arne Duncan, visits the “shooters” in Cook County Jail to determine how to decrease Chicago’s gun violence. According to Chicago Tribune article, “The fundamental answer, Duncan says, is jobs. Recently, speaking at Chicago Ideas Week in October, Duncan excitedly shared his thoughts on while the police have done a great job removing the gang leaders, gangs are now decentralized and have branched out to bigger problems. These young people deal with all sort of social, emotional issues and traumas. Duncan and his team (often former gang members) offer $15 /hour to entice these guys away from this lifestyle. Money is the rational reason to make a living in a legal trade. As a city, Chicago must offer people a reason to choose a different lifestyle.

The program will expand over the next 2-3 months into other Chicago neighborhoods. However, long term he is appealing to businesses to provide these men with job opportunities in the private sector. Big businesses willingly donate money to fund this program. The harder ask is for altruism. In truth, CEOs and young gang members share similar skills already. Duncan’s mission is to connect both worlds. Entrepreneurs need to step up and think differently. Listen to his most recent speech at Chicago Ideas Week.

Positive Change for Chicago's Youth - Frank G. Karkazis

(Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Violence ends when traumas are healed and the cycle stops. Let’s stand together and stop these senseless deaths. Imagine a Chicago where the youth can play freely. Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood and to have the opportunity to earn a legal living.

Frank G Karkazis - Northbrook Patch