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Meghan A. Dwyer/MEDILL

Black leaders gather outside Farragut Career Academy to call for an end to racial violence at the school and in the surrounding communities.

Black community leaders say Farragut violence is motivated by racial tensions, not gangs

by Meghan A. Dwyer
Sep 28, 2010

Meghan A. Dwyer/MEDILL

On South Christiana Avenue in Little Village, CeaseFire stickers and “Stop the Violence” posters are taped to shutters and windows.

On Saturday, on the same street, about 20 black community leaders, including self-described gang members and representatives from the Nation of Islam, came together to call for an end to racial violence at Farragut Career Academy and throughout the city’s streets.

“It’s always been deemed as gang violence and it’s not necessarily that,” said James Sterling, an anti-violence activist who got his GED in 1995 after being expelled from Farragut Career Academy.

 Jim Allen, a self-described leader of the Vice Lords, said that cultural differences between the black and Latino communities are the root cause of violence in the area.

“This is not gang related,” he said. “It’s just racial.”

But Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, an anti-violence group, had a different point of view. In a phone interview Tuesday, he said that while tensions between the Latino and black communities in Little Village have been building in the last few months, gang violence and black on black crimes are still the overarching concerns.

“It’s gang-related for sure,” Hardiman said. “But a lot of the incidents are isolated between individuals, and then the gangs get pulled into it.”

One trigger, Hardiman said, includes rival gang members stealing each others’ girlfriends.

Hardiman said some people call the problem a cultural one, but it’s more about misunderstandings and lack of respect among students in the school.

Allen and Sterling said they organized the meeting on Saturday morning to start an alliance in a community that needs peace.

Farragut Career Academy  is located in the 22nd Ward in Little Village, and borders the 24th Ward, which includes North and South Lawndale. In the past three months, 518 violent crimes have been committed in the area, including 138 in public places, according to statistics published by the Chicago Police Department.

Reginald Akkeem Berry, Sr., a representative of Saving Our Sons Ministries, an outreach center located within Missionary Baptist Church, said Saturday he wanted the Latino community and the African American community to unite against violence.

“I’m here to institute a petition to my Latino brothers to join arms with their African American brothers to say again, enough is enough,” Berry said.

Theresa Plascencia, principal of Farragut Career Academy, said she was not notified of the event on Saturday and had no comment.