On April 3, the Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) Hyde Park/Kenwood branch held its second organizational meeting in preparation for its summer anti-violence campaign at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
MASK was founded last year in Englewood as rumors of retaliation shootings arose after 34-year-old Lucille Barnes was shot and killed in June. A group of neighborhood mothers with the aim of keeping their children safe patrolled the area and kept watch in folding-chairs on street corners in bright-pink MASK T-shirts.
Twelve residents of Hyde Park and Kenwood gathered to hear more about MASK and to participate in preparing for the summer patrols. The residents included undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Chicago, a mother from the Laboratory School, and people working in downtown Chicago.
The event began with a brief status update followed by an explanation by the founder Tamar Manasseh on the aims and activities of MASK. Then the group broke into smaller sections to brainstorm ideas for gaining recognition and recruiting additional volunteers for the upcoming summer patrols.
“My theory is young people…don’t like to be seen doing things they shouldn’t be doing…. So I figure, if we went into the area where [Barnes] was killed and we set up a barbecue grill and set up lawn chairs and basically turned it into an outdoor living room, nothing would happen,” Manasseh said.
After MASK’s initial success in reducing violence at the corner it staked out in Englewood last summer, the group is seeking to mobilize additional groups of volunteers in Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods for the upcoming summer, which the Chicago Police Department (CPD) expects to be particularly violent in Chicago.
According to the CPD, the number of shootings in the first three months of the year increased from 359 in 2015 to 677 in 2016, which marks an 88.5 percent increase. Manasseh strongly emphasized the preemptive nature of MASK and her belief that the areas that need the most attention are the ones people most avoid.
“We are all about revision, what we can stop from happening. If you know that there is a chance that there is something that will be happening right there, that’s where you want to be, because it will not happen if you are there,” Manasseh said.