A plan was announced in Chicago at the South Side YMCA on Stony Island Avenue on Friday, aimed at reducing gun violence with a very powerful weapon: Jobs. A group of elected officials, community and spiritual leaders, led by Congresswoman Robin Kelly laid out the proposed plan. Joining Congresswoman Kelly in the announcement were members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, four powerful female members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and officials from Chicago’s Southland. In addition to Kelly, the Illinois delegation included Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. The four powerful female members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).
The plan, branded as the “UP Initiative” — which is short for “Urban Progress” — builds on the recommendation of the “2014 Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America”, and brings together a broad, diverse coalition from Congress and civic leaders at every level of government to develop a comprehensive strategy of urban reinvestment in Chicago and across the country. The Initiative seeks to increase access to employment, quality education and training, and improved community-police relations, with the goal of creating safe, stable, self-sustaining communities.
In the announcement, Rep. Kelly said, “The Initiative seeks to increase access to employment, quality education and training, and improved community-police relations, with the goal of creating safe, stable, self-sustaining communities. Given the escalating gun violence, coupled with the severe deficit of economic development existing in scores of urban communities, the UP Initiative is a critical step in proactively engaging families, the business sector, members of law enforcement, and Congressional leaders.”
Rep. Kelly added, “Meaningful change can only occur through cooperative effort. It’s going to take all of us — our churches, public officials, community activists, police, academic institutions and you – invested community stakeholders to help safeguard and transform our neighborhoods.”
Rep. Kelly emphasized in addressing the issue of gun violence: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” This is the overriding theme and goal of this unique collaboration initiated by the hard working and focused Congresswoman from the 2nd Illinois Congressional District, Rep. Kelly. “The UP Initiative” is a new collaborative effort between Members of Congress and community partners to reduce gun violence and increase economic opportunity.
“Today’s union of groups is a critical first step in proactively engaging families, our business sector, law enforcement, and this Congress,” Rep. Kelly said. “Meaningful change can only occur through cooperative effort. It’s going to take all of us — our churches, public officials, community activists, police and academic institutions—to lift our communities UP from poverty and violence. Collectively, and through committed coordination, we can create a solid framework for building safe and thriving communities.”
“It’s no secret that violence in cities across America is linked to education access and lack of jobs and community investment. That’s why the UP Initiative is a call to action to address these issues head on and bring opportunity to youth in Chicago and across the country,” said Rep. Kelly. “Mayor Emanuel has laid out a funding mechanism that could help this initiative, and so more many others around the United States. His approach to this topic is the exact type of thinking we need.”
The Friday launch included a Congressional tour of three community-based organizations that have successfully implemented progressive programs and strategies to reduce violence in their areas: South Side YMCA, Kids off the Block, and Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who offered his support for the UP Initiative and called on Congress to pass bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, He said Congress should seize the opportunity to invest billions of dollars in projected savings from this type of legislation into struggling urban communities.
“As a nation we stand at a crossroads where the very next move we make determines the future of our children and the futures of their children,” said Mayor Emanuel. “That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan sentencing reform bill, and invest in the communities where resources are needed the most. I am working with Congresswoman Kelly to push for passage of this legislation and take action to redefine our collective future.”
The diverse coalition represented at the press conference includes families who demand change, Members Congress who are ready to act on gun legislation today, clergy, law enforcement and community leaders.
Mayor Emanuel favors bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, investing billions of dollars in projected savings from this type of legislation into struggling urban communities. The Mayor federal bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, which can take meaningful steps to reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
Evidence shows that investing in neighborhoods most impacted by mass incarceration works to prevent violence, create economic opportunities, and widen the path to the middle-class. From neighborhood economic development and job creation to youth mentoring, afterschool and summer jobs programs, support services for those returning from incarceration are effective at advancing neighborhood safety and overall quality of life.
“The best minds came together today to address this singular most important issue of urban violence facing our city and our nation. We must unite and generate a solid will toward fixing the issue of urban violence,” said Congressman Rush. “We cannot never hire enough police officers or build enough prisons to address the pandemic of gun violence. For this reason, I welcome Mayor Emanuel’s funding approach to invest in our underserved communities, and will continue to advocate for badly-needed criminal justice reform measures in Congress.”
“Gun violence hurts far too many families across Illinois and, whether it’s in Chicago, Rockford or Peoria, we must do more,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “To overcome this challenge and help our next generation reach their full potential, we need to invest in our schools, expand job training programs and make higher education more accessible and affordable.”