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?”
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!”
A 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.
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.”