In the Spotlight: Alpha Phi Alpha: A Voice Against Violence

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by Sydney Paul, contributing writer for the University Community Service Center Newsletter

Currently, the United States ranks fifth in the world for the most murders recorded. For total criminal activity, the country tops the list, according to Statistics like these can be attributed to drug use, poverty or poor education and though they might not be covered extensively on a national scale, the reality hits home for many on a local level. reports that the city of Chicago's homicide rate is more than two times the national average, while the city remains infamously nicknamed as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.

The South Side of Chicago is familiar with the presence of criminal activity, where most crimes in the city occur. Fortunately, the University of Chicago Police Department has done a good job at suppressing the presence of criminal activity in the area. In addition, some students have decided to contribute to the fight against crime through community collaboration and involvement.

Saturday, May 1st, members of the Woodlawn community raised their voices against crime in the neighborhood through a march hosted by many community leaders and organizations including Alderman Willie Cochran, the Apostolic Church of God, the University of Chicago Police Department, and UChicago's Alpha Phi Alpha chapter. The walk, dubbed the Community March Against Violence, began at 9:30 am as Woodlawn residents gathered wearing white t-shirts in solidarity. Starting from 63rd and Dorchester, the march traveled west to Evans Drive and circled back. The march sought to wake up the neighborhood, literally and figuratively, and call for a change against violence.

Before the march began, a short assembly was held as community leaders welcomed participants. Alderman Cochran, mentioned that he noticed a difference and much needed change in the composition of the marchers compared to other community walks this year. Though there were many older Woodlawn residents, overall the participants--many of whom were students from Chicago's surrounding universities--were younger than usual. "You are the ones that will generate change," said Alderman Cochran.

Led by the chapter's president Jared White, a 3rd year in the college, Alpha Phi Alpha began a Stop the Violence Tour by visiting schools within the community and conducting seminars that encouraged students to be stand up against crime in their neighborhoods. One of the fraternity's main goals is "to foster an attitude of intolerance towards violent crimes and the culture of fear that is overwhelming in many areas of Chicago's South Side," said White. To some of the fraternity brothers who are from the South Side, the issue of violence is particularly salient and they feel that it needs to be addressed. Their tour eventually led to hosting this march, which tied together the community, young and old, for a unified cause.

This sense of community showcased by the marchers hit a chord with the rest of the neighborhood. As the march progressed, the strong presence of the participants encouraged many residents to come out of their homes and join the walk, while others chanted from their balconies and front steps. The march informed the community that there are outlets where they can safely and proudly voice their opinion against the ongoing violence in Chicago. Organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha, The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) and the New Communities Program (NCP), which also hosted the march, provide a safe and welcoming environment where the community can participate in the effort to generate change.

Fortunately, Jared White and the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha plan on making the March Against Violence an annual event. This way strong momentum will be built and the community's voice can become stronger. Without the younger generation's participation, the already uphill battle will become harder. UChicago students should follow the example of the fraternity and the numerous other community outreach RSOs on campus. "Search out the student organizations that are working to improve the University's surrounding community and give active support, whether that be through publicizing events, lending financial support, or physically attending some of these events," said White.

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