September 21, 2016

Using the power of peace to combat Chicago’s gun violence

Chicago native Razia Hutchins started student marches to restore hope in her neighborhood

Razia Hutchins helped organize the first I Am For Peace march when she was a sophomore in high school. Now in her second year at the University of Missouri, Hutchins still fights for peace in her Chicago neighborhood.

Editor's Note

Razia Hutchins helped to start I Am For Peace marches in 2013, during her sophomore year at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago. With the help of fellow student organizers Maurice Young and Janeya Cunningham, about 500 students marched in that first year. Today, thousands of teachers, students, and allies participate. Gun violence has continued to plague Chicago. So far this year, there have been 3,122 shooting victims in the city, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2015, there were 2,988.

I go to sleep to the sound of gunshots and sirens. I come from a Mother’s pain after hearing her child was slaughtered in the streets like they were nothing. In my neighborhood, people do not dream. Dreaming is worthless because we don’t know if we will even see tomorrow. I am from Chicago, where gun violence hits my neighborhood like a plague.

Going to school was like going to a funeral. Almost every day there was someone who knew someone who was killed the night before. My environment was so sad and gloomy, it was affecting my education and more importantly, my spirit. My friends and I were coming to school mentally unstable. Our environment was a war zone.

As gun violence began to hit closer to home, we would sit in class and discuss if we were “next.” It came to a point where I didn’t want to wonder anymore. I would not let a bullet control my faith any longer.

This prompted me to start the “I Am For Peace” movement during my sophomore year of high school, because the youth in Chicago, including myself, nearly lost hope in the future. Throughout the movement, I began to see hope coming back into our lives. We started to believe that we could dream beyond tomorrow.

The movement started as peace marches on the last day of school in hopes for a safe summer and for all students to return unharmed. The marches began to grow, involving thousands of people from across the nation. There is also a documentary showcasing the peace march and includes Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson.

Gun violence was not only killing people but also the culture of Chicago. Although we did not put an end to the violence in the streets of Chicago, I know I made a difference. People still come up to me and say how I inspired them to start their own organization, or how they even turned in their illegal gun to a police station. Gun violence will not end tomorrow, or next week, but we all have to start somewhere if we want to see change.

Razia Hutchins

Organizer of I Am For Peace

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