Prevention Force Family Center Peace Rally Jam
Seven-year-old Kailyn McIntire twirled the brand new hair extensions that she tied into her braids. “I have pink hair!” She squealed. McIntire won the hair accessories just minutes before in one of the many raffles offered at the Safe and Peaceful Community Rally.
The Peace Rally, organized by Prevention Force Family Center and Safe and Peaceful Communities took place in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago’s West side. On Saturday September 22nd, organizers filled tables with lanyards, buttons and bracelets advocating against bullying and for peace in their community.
Set in the parking lot of the South Austin Neighborhood Association, a raffle table stood nearby, offering everything from Disney games, pencil cases, kitchen items and stuffed animals. A small popcorn machine stands in the opposite corner along with a hot dog stand and a box of variety chips.
Kailyn attended the rally with her grandmother, Matina Williamson, a long time resident of the West Side and active community member. Williamson works to prevent domestic violence, helps the homeless, and is a member of a praise team at her church. “[I do] a lot of things to show them that there is love in the community...That’s what I’m about, total love,” Williamson said.
“What I love about the West Side...” Matina W. started, “[is that] we have a lot of places that we can go and really enjoy ourselves.” Her eldest granddaughter, Amare’ Williamson, nodded her head in agreement, “One thing that I love about the West Side is the food, there’s different types like Soul Food [and] anything else.”Amere’ W. continues, “I love that everytime you turn the corner you see someone that you know. The West Side of Chicago is like one huge family...”
That connectivity and warmth was apparent throughout the day, as activities continued with events like a live performance from a Michael Jackson impersonator, and speeches given by community members about why they love the West Side and the importance of keeping their community safe. “Even though I’m 13, I’m not allowed to go outside by myself alot just because there’s a lot of gangs...I feel uncomfortable...I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” Amere’ W. said.
The Austin community seems set on changing this narrative for the better, as the event closes out with a group rendition of “We are the World” by Michael Jackson. Karen Bates-Rivers, a long time West Side Resident and event volunteer, leads the group as she and several others clap and sing along to the acapella tune. “Never forget who you were supposed to be in community,” Rivers urges the crowd of joyful attendees.