Local Teens Fight Violence with C.R.I.M.E.
Story by Scarlett Stoppa, Photos by Adam Christopher Snow - September 14, 2010
There are many schools of thought on what needs to change in Chicago to transform the cultures of violence that are recklessly killing our African American and Hispanic youth. Barack Obama, before he was elected president, called absent fathers to step up to their familial responsibilities.
Mayor Daley, believing part of the solution rests in gun control, took his handgun ban all the way to the Supreme Court, lost, and fired back with an ordinance that will also see its day in court.
Even Mike Tyson, a complicated example of the ways a violent childhood and a teen mentorship can come together to shape a man, has weighed in on the debate, sharing his view that the youth energy wasted on drugs and killing should be redirected to “something positive.”
High profile figures speaking up and taking (well-researched) action on the issues certainly helps matters, but the youth themselves, when empowered to brainstorm, strategize, create, and articulate, are an incredibly powerful vehicle for change. The Illinois Violence Prevention Authority likely believed in this power when they offered a mini-grant for a violence prevention program in which the youth led all aspects of the program, from grant-writing to implementation to evaluation.
Enter: The C.R.I.M.E. Teens.
C is for Compassion. Desiree Tellis, in her poem “Trailing Behind,” inspires her readers to see the potential in those that we find most difficult to help, bear, or forgive. “In the front of the tracks I envision someone succeeding / Someone leaving those tracks left behind / Taking a new path, takin’ a new way.” Desiree is 17, a high school senior with people skills and a “good work ethic.” And she is one of several talented teens that Dr. Jeffery Bulanda recruited to create the winning violence prevention program.
“Without any adult prompting,” said Dr. Bulanda, Program Director for the Empowering Counseling Center (ECC) serving the Bronzeville community, “[the teens] saw that to prevent violence, they had to work to develop pro-social skills and values among youth at risk for being violent.” It didn’t take them long to identify the right values to both form the deliciously ironic acronym C.R.I.M.E. and a foundation upon which to build their program for peace.