Photo courtesy of Pastor John F. Hannah

It’s obvious that Chicago’s youth are fed up.

When the Chicago Board of Education announced its plans to close schools in Englewood, students organized classroom walkouts and protests at board meetings. When Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his plans for a $95-million police training academy in West Garfield Park, dozens of youth flocked to City Hall to voice their discontent during council meetings.

Their Black and Brown faces are at the forefront of the fight for justice and equality each time their communities are slighted by the city’s political machine. Despite their efforts, however, Chicago’s youth still feel unseen and unheard.

On Saturday, New Life Covenant SE Church’s senior pastor, John F. Hannah, used his 7th annual “Prayer on the 9” anti-violence event in Chatham to give a platform to kids and teenagers wanting to speak out against Chicago’s gun problem.

Hannah took a step back to let young leaders take the reins. He called this year’s special program, “March & Prayer for our Lives,” and 19-year-old Trevon Bosley was among the young people who spoke before the march.

“It is important to be heard because this is a daily problem that us young people face,” Bosley said a few days before the event. The South Side native spoke at the student-led “March for our Lives” demonstration in Washington DC in March.

“The school shootings and violence, this happens every day and we have someone taken from us all the time because of gun violence,” he continued.

Photo courtesy of Pastor John F. Hannah

Gun violence is a painful but important topic for Bosley. He lost his older brother Terrell Bosley, a popular bass player in Chicago’s church community, to gunfire in the parking lot of Lights of Zion Ministries in 2006. The elder Bosley was an 18-year-old freshman at Olive Harvey College at the time.

To cope with his brother’s death, Bosley became a peacemaker. He’s a member of BRAVE Youth Leaders, an anti-violence youth program based out of St. Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. It was through BRAVE that Bosley ended up speaking at the “March for our Lives” event – survivors of the Parkland shooting in Florida reached out to BRAVE to add Chicago’s youth to the national conversation around gun violence.

Photo of John F. Hannah // Courtesy of Hannah

“We are not content with the violence and people do want things to change,” Bosley said. He’s responding to outsiders who think Black Chicagoans don’t care about the violence in their neighborhoods. “Also, [we want to] show the youth that we support each other. Youth need this type of support.”

Hannah couldn’t agree more. After seeing how the world stopped to pay attention to young voices at “March for our Lives,” Hannah saw the endless possibilities in uplifting the youth.

“Let me back the adults up out of the way and then let me push the young people out and let the youth of Chicago basically say, ‘enough is enough,’” Hannah said.

According to Hannah, the concerns of Black Chicago are overlooked at times because the community is so divided: West Side vs. South Side, the Black church vs. activists, among other things. So many times, Hannah adds, it feels as if adult leaders – especially in the church and activism communities – are out to build their personal brands instead of truly serving the people.

It is this intra-communal tension and distrust, Hannah says, that holds Black people back. He recalls a conversation he had with Apostolic Church of God’s Bishop Arthur Brazier before he died in 2010. Brazier talked about the time he and other religious leaders attended a meeting with civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Before Dr. King came in the room, different [people] were standing up, arguing, fussing about certain things,” Brazier said, according to Hannah. “But the moment that Dr. King stepped in that room, all the arguing ceased. Everybody’s personal agenda went to the side.”

Unity is one of the many crucial elements missing from today’s Black community, Hannah said.

“Unfortunately, nobody’s willing to stand behind one person. Everybody’s building their own platform and gathering their individual armies behind these platforms, which shows massive division amongst us,” Hannah said.

That’s why Hannah believes the youth is the only way to unify Black Chicago.

“If anything I notice when I talk to the youth is their innocence,” Hannah said. “There’s no motive behind it. There’s no platform that they’re trying to build for themselves. They basically just want somebody to hear their voice, and see their tears and basically allow them to state how they feel.”

After this year’s “March & Pray for our Lives,” Hannah hopes that the Black community can come together to support youth voices and rid the city of political evils.

“I had one of my kids tell me that basically as long as we kill each other, then there’s no need for justice. That’s not acceptable,” Hannah explained.

“What are the gun laws in this city? Which of our politicians are supported by the National Rifle Association? Why are our police not doing their homework to solve these Black-on-Black crimes in our community?” he continued. “You watch the show on A&E called “The First 48”. They can catch a murderer in 48 hours. It is what it is.”