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'It Takes Really Deep, Deep Work': An Englewood Community Group Fights The Tide Of Violence Against Children

CHICAGO (CBS) --  It is a list no community wants to be at the top of.

It's about the number of children shot in Chicago. And now leaders in the worst affected neighborhood are reacting to data uncovered by CBS 2. One group deeply affected by the problem spoke to CBS 2's Steven Graves.

"It gets me emotional just thinking about it."

And paintings around Asiaha Butler's office show you why. Ones of hopeful children and another of kids with angel wings.

"It breaks your spirit. Just to know someone's future was taken."

As co-founder of community group R.A.G.E. - Resident Association of Greater Englewood - Butler has worked boots on the ground for many years with youth.

And last year was tough. CBS 2 found Englewood lead Chicago in the number of children shot. Out of 276 victims citywide, 35 youth 16 and under were hit or killed by a bullet. Most were teenagers.

And the trauma becoming all too real for this group when a one-month-old was shot just a block from their office here over the summer.

"Everybody was hysterical, and I was hysterical."

Miraculously, Terriana Smith survived a graze wound to the head as she was in a car. It was another devastating shooting when four-year-old Makayla McKay was shot when another child got access to an unsecure gun.

"It takes you aback. But we, unfortunately, have highest stats for a lot of things: For abandonment, for the most vacant lots, for inadequate healthcare," Butler said.

Butler said those ills spill into gun violence.

"It takes really deep, deep work."

She said the pandemic slowed down that work. But some good did came out of that time. She established a program called Re-Up last year. It helps promote home ownership, small businesses and community revitalization. It's an approach to focus on healing.

"Healing is really important for us and that can be an event outside with some African drums and the sound of laughter."

A team effort, she said, is happening with many organizations. Her goal: Changing the narrative from "Stop the Violence" to "Promoting Peace."

"You don't feel that you're trying to fight something. But you're more so standing up for what you believe in," Butler said.

A push to keep going, if not only for the youngest, brightest futures. Englewood is now one of 37 Chicago neighborhoods eligible for $150 million in new grant money. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced the funds to fight violence and support youth services on Thursday.

 

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