KANKAKEE — If the Kankakee community fails to come together and work to address deadly violence, the situation will only continue to bring pain and sadness.
That message was hammered home repeatedly on Friday evening at an organized community rally to address the violence here.
More than 100 people came together at Kankakee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park for a rally following last week’s shooting death of 15-year-old Davarion Jones.
One point that echoed throughout the hour-long rally was that working together can help start putting an end to these shootings and killings.
Jones was shot and killed in front of his family’s home in the 1100 block of East Merchant Avenue last Tuesday.
It is the seventh homicide in Kankakee County this year.
“A lot of different people are doing a lot of different things. A lot of different people are having a significant impact in the lives of a few children,” said Aaron Clark, who is in charge of the Kankakee School District’s Student Violence Prevention program.
A pastor, Clark also is in charge of the Youth For Christ’s Kankakee Life Center.
But, he said, there must be coordination among the many people who are working through various programs to help deal with violence, drugs, gangs and other social issues claiming the community’s youth.
He said the community must bear one another’s burdens.
“The issue is we need to bring our efforts together,” he stressed. “As I say that, I know it is not easy bringing organizations together. It can be messy. But the mess only gets worse if we don’t work together. Children need us.”
MURDER INVESTIGATION UPDATE
Regarding last week’s murder, Kankakee Police Chief Robin Passwater said people have been talking to police.
“But there are four or five who saw what happened that we need to talk to,” Passwater said to those in attendance.
Davarion’s mother, Teri Beard, attended the rally.
She did not address the gathering, but stood next to a poster-sized picture of her son.
Clark was one of a dozen people to speak during the rally, which was attended by elected officials, ministers and residents from the community.
CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING
“They need us to know their names,” Clark said. “They need us to know why they got kicked out of school. They need us to know they are angry. They don’t need to be told they need to do what is right. They know what to do is right. A lot of times they don’t know how.”
Clark then dealt with issues many children have with at-home issues.
“Because they have been up all night, because there has been chaos in the house. Momma and his daddy or her daddy fighting, or daddy has been dealing drugs in the house. Because mommy is mad at her daddy or at his daddy.
“And that child has to take care of his or her siblings. They need us to know, I’m getting bad grades and I’m [upset] because teachers don’t understand my problems. There is no one outside the classroom to try to do anything.”
Clark concluded: “The school district is working hard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is not their job. Their job is to educate. The community’s job is to support the community.”
“Until we get to the family dynamics, we will not get to a solution,” Pastor Tyler Prude said. “We have to find out the problems in the homes. Then we’ll get to a solution.”
Mayor Chris Curtis spoke about Kankakee United, a program started by his predecessor, Chasity Wells-Armstrong.
“That is a program that is reaching out into the community, into the homes, into the schools,” Curtis said.
Kankakee United is a program that works with African-American males younger than the age of 24.
“He is not talking about it. He is doing something with it,” Clark added.
Curtis said he has been in talks with Kankakee Valley Park District and Kankakee School District about partnering with programs.
Clark said the school district has 12 programs for youth and adults. One is an empowerment program that is used countywide.
The shooting occurred in Alderwoman Cherry Malone-Marshall’s 1st Ward. Malone-Marshall said the gun violence has crept into other wards in the city.
“Gangs and unruly people deal with children to do their dirty work. Open your hearts to our young people. We need to grab them when they are young. We cannot wait until the age when someone can use them.”
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said it is disheartening that people who witnessed the shooting won’t come forward.
“They are beholden to some no snitch narrative,” Rowe said. “If we don’t clean it up now, we’ll be at another one of these. And another one of these. And another one of these. People get away if the rest of us stay silent.
“So are you standing with the victim, standing with the victim’s family, standing with the community; or are you standing by a cold-hearted killer? This is sickening. Some of us are not shocked by this, because it has happened before,” he said.