Drums echoed down East Court Street, piercing through Kankakee stronger than a gunshot. It wasn't a war cry. It was a demand for peace.
About 80 Kankakee High School students marched through the city's downtown Wednesday morning to speak out against violence. It was part of Kankakee school district's first Peace Day, in which students from all of its schools walked through neighborhoods in protest.
City Life, an affiliate of Youth of Christ, drove high schoolers to several Kankakee parks. A student or community member gave a speech, encouraging the youth to help reform the community.
"Everybody deserves chances to live a normal life," junior Bryan Mendez said at Washington Park. "Kids should be able to play outside without their mothers worrying about them getting shot. No mother should have to worry about burying their child."
City police have said a group of about 10 teenagers are responsible for more than 20 shootings dating back to last fall. Several teens have been shooting victims in recent months, including two 16-year-olds who were shot last weekend.
That has given the city an unfavorable reputation, and several young community members, who are too familiar with violence, want to change that.
Tremaine Burks, a junior, once had a gun drawn to his face near Washington Park. The rash of violence has caused him to fear the community at times. He walked for his friends.
"This all needs to stop," Burks said. "My friends are getting shot. … These are all teens that go to our school. We need to work together. Just let us get our education. Let's work as one."
Aviana Lozano, also a junior, got involved with the peace movement after her sister's friend, A.J. Jones, was shot to death last summer. She shared a poem she wrote, explaining that peaceful people make a safe community. She felt the peace walk gave her a voice.
"It made me realize we can change the community," she said. "It doesn't have to be someone older than me. It can be kids my age."
Freshman Josh Reisinger said the violence distracts him at school and considered the walk the first step toward overcoming those obstacles.
"I get depressed from it sometimes, and I can't help it," he said. "This [walk] encourages me not to worry about it. I also think this should probably help change this city. It's just the beginning."
The school district planned Peace Day this month to show kids there are safe places they can be during the summer.
"I want them to go into a safe environment," Superintendent Genevra Walters said. "We're not going to have these kids for three months. During that time, we want to make sure they're safe, so they can come back mentally and physically healthy."