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Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013
Volunteers Hit the Streets to Fight Gun Violence

By Victoria M. Walker
Howard University News Service

Tears run down the face of Howard ASB volunteer Jay Hawkins, a junior, as she and others who were similarly affected protest gun violence on a cold day in downtown Chicago.

CHICAGO (March 15, 2013) – The harsh Chicago wind whipped the faces of Howard University students volunteer as they made their way to Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The students, part of the university’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program in Chicago, carried posters and children’s toys.

They were here today and all this week to protest the gun violence that has plagued this city.  Last year, there were over 500 homicides in the nation’s third largest city.  But the students were also here to seek ways to solve the problem.

Their effort was punctuated by the murder of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins, who was shot five times on Monday, March 11, as her father changed her diaper in his van, according to several news outlets.  That Monday was the first day that the students began their work here.

As part the day’s protests, some students lay on the concrete to represent the lives lost. Some clutched toys, symbolizing the loss of a child.

Volunteers stood on benches to display posters of young people lost to gun violence. They bore names such as Blair Holt, Terrell Bosley and Hadiya Pendleton, the honors student who performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration and was shot and killed just days later by two men who mistook her and her friends for gang members.

And the demonstrators chanted.

“What do we want?” “Peace!” came the response.

“When do we want it?”  “Now!” the demonstrators demanded.

Danielle Mitchell, a graduating senior from Chicago, said she was here because the city needs help.

 “It’s everybody’s responsibility, not just people who live here,” Mitchell said.  “People all around the world [can help.]

“If we change just one person, or make one person think or reflect on what we’re doing, then it’s going to be a perpetual thing. People are going to talk to other people and help them realize how serious this problem is.”

During the protest, some people walking by stopped to take pictures or acknowledge their support. A few joined the demonstration.

As the protest drew to a close, the students and members of the community gathered around a bench and held hands. Some students had tears flowing down their faces. Pam Bosley, the mother of Terrell Bosley, a college student killed as he was coming out church, called for an end to gun and gang violence.

“Take a stand and save our children,” Bosley told the crowd. “We shouldn’t have 6-month-old babies being killed. Every [homicide] is not gang related.”

D’Auria Henry, a graduating senior and ASB Chicago site co-coordinator, explained the students aspirations and determination.

 “We will not stand by and watch as we lose a generation to gun violence,” Henry told the audience. “The African-American community is still a part of this city. Newtown is not the only one that matters.”

Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor at the Faith Community of St. Sabina, pleaded with residents of Chicago to come together to fight gun violence.

“How many children are we going to shake our heads at and say how sad we are without changing the climate of violence?” Pfleger asked.

Chicago ASB site coordinator D’Auria Henry, a senior, pleads with residents of Chicago to care about gun victims in all of the city's neighborhoods while another ASB volunteer holds a poster of a college student killed as he was coming out church.
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