The return of children to school last month marked the end of the Summer Food Service Program for this year. Funded by the Illinois State Board of Education, the program extends the anti-hunger programming offered in the public schools through the summer months. Over a 47 day period, an army of volunteers serve breakfast and lunch to children throughout the Chicago Housing Authority. At its height in the mid-1990’s, the program budget was $7 million. There were 224 sites at which 1,500 volunteers daily served 18,000 breakfasts and 27,000 – 30,000 lunches. As the dismantling of Chicago public housing has advanced in recent years, the scope of the program has diminished. Yet it remains an extraordinary administrative and logistical achievement: a glimpse of what is possible, when resources are made available for residents to provide services to their neighbors. Take a look.
For five years—from January, 1994 to December, 1998—a group of citizens gathered on the corner of 35th and State at twilight on the first Sunday of each month to read the names of those lost to violence on the South Side. Initiated by Rev. Susan Johnson of Hyde Park Union Church, Dr. Sokoni Karanja of Centers for New Horizons, and myself, Vigil Against Violence was at once an expression of resistance and an occasion for reflection. It was, as one regular participant put it, a way of “making oneself available to the problem.”
Sustained from month to month and year to year by the moral passion and clarity of purpose of Rev. Johnson, and nourished by the sense of fellowship that developed among the core group of participants, the vigils were simple occasions: a few words of introduction by a member of the community, the reading of the names, and sometimes a little music.
On this first Sunday of the month of October in a year when Chicago may again lead the nation’s cities in homicides as it did last year, The View remembers Vigil Against Violence in a photo essay by Patricia Evans composed of images drawn from the posters we created each month to announce the next vigil.