Monthly Archives: June 2011

St. Sabina Community March & Rally

Saint Sabina Community March and Rally

Last year I had the opportunity to participate in this end-of-the-school-year community march & rally.  It was a moving and empowering experience.  I hope that someday soon we have no need for these sort of events but, until that day, lets get out in the streets and pray and act for peace.

The kick-off starts at Saint Sabina Church at 7pm.  Friday, June 17th, 2011.

Let’s increase the peace Chicago!


Homeless Youth Advocacy Group Finds Its Own Voice – In Poetry

Slamming On Concrete is a book of poetry by homeless youth in Chicago

Slamming on Concrete is a moving collection of poems written by homeless youth in Chicago which gives voice to their struggles, hopes, dreams and experiences. Youth from H.E.L.L.O. (which stands for Homeless Experts Living Life’s Obstacles) performed with poetry and and African drum-circle at the 2011 Congress.

Since 2005, H.E.L.L.O. has been a place in Chicago for homeless youth to find their voice.  The group gathers weekly at the Broadway Youth Center to write letters to legislators, to create art and poetry, and to share their experiences in a safe space.

The youth and young adults from H.E.L.L.O. work to educate the public, policymakers, and the media about issues affecting homeless and unaccompanied youth. They participate in a variety of activities, including poetry readings, press conferences, rallies, as well as staging an annual arts showcase.

This collection of poems is the first for the youth advocacy group and SCUPE’s very own Cynthia Milsap served as co-editor of the collection along with Rev. Tom Behrens, founder of the Night Ministry.

H.E.L.L.O. was founded by two formerly homeless young people who are now professionals and continue to work with the group.  It is co-sponsored by the Night Ministry, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the Lakeview Action Coalition.

The book is available through and all proceeds go to the group.

Empowering Students to Confront Violence

In the aftermath of the shooting of a peer, young people in Evanston, IL came to Sharon Weeks and asked,

“What are we supposed to do?
Who is going to speak for us?”

Evanston IL anti-violence march and rally

When Sharon Weeks signed up for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry as a part of SCUPE’s class for seminary students she didn’t know what she was getting herself into.  Come Thursday morning she would be one of the 300 Congress attendees at an anti-violence rally in front of the Illinois state building.

Sharon describes the rally as transformative:

“I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself… It was already something that I stood for and believe, in and to see so many other people feeling that same way… I was exhilarated!”

Anti-violence march and rally in Evanston ILA couple days later, when students from Evanston Township High School came to Sharon, she told them of her experience of public witnessing against violence at the Congress and they jumped on the idea.

Within minutes the students were busy creating signs and t-shirts, calling and texting friends, and planning for the march.  For Sharon it was clear that the students saw the march as “a way they could get the community to pitch in and understand that they don’t want to be target”

The march proved to be a great success in gathering the community around youth violence. In a few short days, students had mobilized a large cadre of support.  Along with strong participation from students and community members also in attendance were:  the Mayor of Evanston, the Evanston School District Superintendent, teachers, business owners, police officers, several aldermen, and the President and Dean of Students of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

The group plans to continue the work of strategically confronting, addressing, and educating the community on youth violence by organizing forums, workshops, classes for parents, and by including students at area Middle Schools and Alternative Schools in the anti-violence efforts.

Evanston IL students and communty march for peaceSharon Weeks is the sponsor for two of the youth groups that sponsored the march: the Evanston Township High School chapter of the NAACP and the Youth Works Committee for the city of Evanston.

When young people came to her looking for their voice Sharon Weeks told them, “Speak for yourself and tell people how you’re feeling” – and then she gave them the tools to do just that.

For Sharon Weeks, being a part of empowering young people is part of being open in faith to God’s moving. When asked about her role, Sharon simply replies: “God, this is you.”

2011 Congress Attendees Continue to Advocate for Peace

When the cameras were turned towards Rev. Philip Blackwell at Governor Quinn’s press conference with the Illinois Anti-Violence Commission, the question on his mind was, “how did I get here?”

Phil Blackwell of Chicago Temple at Gov. Quinn's anti-violence

In May, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn convened a press conference to hear statements from the Commission regarding Illinois H.B. 148.  The bill, dubiously named “the Family and Personal Protection Act”, would have allowed individuals with permits to carry concealed, loaded firearms in public places like restaurants, restrooms, playgrounds, hospitals, malls, banks, and on public transportation.

After the public action at the 2011 Congress, on issues regarding gun violence and the availability of handguns, SCUPE was pleased to hear that the Commission unanimously opposed the current conceal and carry legislation.  The Governor also came out strong against handgun proliferation saying he would stand with the majority of Illinois residents who oppose concealed carry and veto this bill should it find its way to his desk.

Rev. Blackwell gave one of many moving testimonies at the press conference.  He expertly made the case that H.B. 148 would make Illinois Residents not safer, but more vulnerable.  He cited research from Harvard University which concludes that “in homes, cities, and states where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide”.

Blackwell, who had earlier spoken with the Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas as a part of the delegation of the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry, credited the Congress as the reason he was up in front of the cameras.  Referencing the critical influence of faith communities he stated, “We who lead religious communities see the impact of this violence since we are in the neighborhoods seven days a week – on the streets, in the shops, involved in people’s lives, often people in desperate situations. So, now we are alarmed that there are people in the Illinois Legislature who want to increase the presence of guns in our society by allowing people to carry them hidden and loaded wherever they go.  They say that it will make us safer the facts say otherwise.”

2011 Congress Anti-violence Vigil at Thompson Center

SCUPE and the delegates at its 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry thank Governor Quinn for responding to our public action and to majority view of citizens by opposing public policy that is contrary to the common good.  Due to the Governor’s stance, H.B. 148 is currently dead in the water, leaving Illinois and Wisconsin as the two states without conceal carry.

“Make War Illegal”, Says Global Church

International Ecumenical Peace ConvocationAbout 1000 representatives of churches from around the world gathered in Kingston, Jamaica, May 17-25 for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC). The event was a celebration of ten years of work by the World Council of Churches on the Decade to Overcome Violence.

The work of IEPC deepens the work of Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence that SCUPE addressed at the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry. We will use the insights of events such as the IEPC to position SCUPE to continue the work of peacemaking more vigorously.

Dr. Paul OestreicherIn his opening key note address Dr. Paul Oestreicher, a Quaker from New Zealand, reminded the churches of its own history in the movement to abolish slavery:

“Slavery surely was part of our DNA, necessary to every society’s economic survival. The churches were up to their necks in maintaining slavery… In the same way, today many Christians remain wedded to a society that cannot let go of the cult of the good soldier, or even the holy warrior. [William] Wilberforce and his determined friends triumphed against all odds [and] slavery was made illegal. Its defenders withered away. That needs to become the fate of war. If the churches of the world fail to embark on such a campaign, we will have nothing that is uniquely and specifically Christian to say on the subject of world peace.”

The final statement of the Convocation established the work of peace as central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ — meaning that Christians have no option but to engage in peace and peacemaking. Firmly establishing the link between justice and peace, it advocated that a vision for “just peace” replace justifications for “just war.” Confessing that Christians have often been complicit in systems of violence, injustice and militarism, it sought partners of other faiths to cooperate on peacemaking.

IEPC Jamaica 2011

Tarrus Riley performs at the IEPC.

As “followers of the one who came as a helpless infant, died on the cross, told us to lay aside our swords, taught us to love our enemies and resurrected from the dead,” churches are in a position to teach non-violence, they said. It also advocated total nuclear disarmament and control of the proliferation of small arms. Above all it said: “We are united in our aspiration that war should become illegal.”

More information on the IEPC here.

Please know that we deeply appreciate your partnership and investment in SCUPE, as we seek to strengthen our work on Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence particularly as it pertains to cities.

– Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana
SCUPE PresidentRev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana speaking at the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry

Elizardi Castro to perform at ALTE Fundraiser

Elizardi Castro at ALTE fundraiserPuerto Rican comedian Elizardi Castro will perform at a fundraiser for Advanced Latin@ Theological Education (ALTE) on Friday, June 17, 2011.  Elizardi will perform Ahora me toca a mi! (Now it’s my turn!) , which he both wrote and directed.

For some background information on Elizardi Castro, read the following article from the April 26th issue of the Sun-Times:

The evening takes place at the Nathan S. Davis School and will begin at 7:30pm.  A $15 donation is requested.

Nathan S. Davis School
3014 W. 39th Pl.
Chicago, IL 60632

For tickets call: ALTE at 773-252-3929

Position Open

Calling on any idealistic, socially aware, conscientious individuals:

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

I’ve just learned that there are a couple of opportunities for folks to get involved with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun ViolenceThe first position available is for a Communications Intern to help upgrade their social networking operations and media outreach.  This is an unpaid position and would be great for a college or graduate student looking for real world experience in communications.

Additionally, as the summer season approaches, we are working on developing an Action Team to work on policy and advocacy issues. This includes attending community events and peace marches on behalf of ICHV and distributing information.

If you or anyone you know would be interested, please contact Mark Walsh at the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (312.341.0939).