Reporting by Joy White
The city of Chicago saw its deadliest January in over a decade in 2013, according to the Associated Press, amassing over 40 homicides. In response to the recent rash of killings, Mariame Kaba from Project Nia launched a project called Uproar Chicago. The goal? A community-curated audio collage about gun violence.
The project works like this: anyone can call the toll free number and leave a one-sentence voicemail message about their thoughts or feelings about gun violence in Chicago. The voicemails will be pieced together into a 3-5 minute collage.
Martin Macias, 23, is a student at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and is one of the developers of this project. But he also participated. He left a voicemail message about his own experience with gun violence.
“When I was younger, I was at my school with my dad, and someone pulled up with a gun and fired into a crowd of people on the playground,” said Macias. “Everyone was scared. It made me afraid of my community and it made me hate my community. Now after all these years, I really love my community. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said.
Born and raised in Chicago, Macias used to think that more police were the answer. As he’s gotten older, he said he realizes that it’s more complicated than that. “Having grown up, and having experienced abuse from law enforcement both as a journalist and as a community resident, I see that [the police] are struggling to prove that they can be effective in dealing with this issue,” said Macias. “Police are there to address the symptoms of a larger problem. Police can’t solve foreclosure, unemployment, or institutional racism.”
Veronica Morris-Moore, 20, is a youth organizer with FLY (Fearless Leading by Youth). She agrees with Macias that there are deeper issues that need to be addressed. “Violence is high, but what a lot of people aren’t talking about is the main root causes of violence in Chicago. People say it’s gun control, and other things - but it has a lot of do with poverty,” she said. She is involved in a push to establish an adult trauma center in the South Side of Chicago, an area with high rates of violence, so that victims of gun violence can be treated more immediately.
The recent killing of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who performed at President Obama’s inauguration a week before her death, caused outrage among Chicagoans. Morris-Moore said, “My life as a young black woman isn’t valued, so I don’t feel safe anywhere in the city.”
Macias is looking forward to hearing other people's stories about gun violence, and then sharing the audio collage with the world. “We don’t get to hear from everyday people in this city, unless they’re victims or cops or politicians,” he said.