“Hearts Up, Guns Down”

(The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

(The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

The rain didn’t keep Back of the Yards youth, local artists, neighborhood leaders, law enforcement and the mayor from coming together for the 3rd Annual Faith and Action Summer Kickoff at Davis Square Park Friday, May 27.

Children doodled with crayons and markers at a creative play station installed just behind the artists while they watched intently as seven female artists painted a massive 40-foot mural in just one day. The artists shared their craft and individual flair with youth, allowing them to make their own mark on the mural. At the end of the evening, the panels were separated so that they can be put on display in neighborhood organizations to amplify the mural’s message, “Hearts up, Guns Down.”

Gloria Talamantes is a member of Mujeres Mutantes, an all-female arts collective in residency at The Port Ministries. Talamantes was one of the artists who participated in the event and helped develop the theme for the mural.

(The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

(The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

“I felt like, ‘OK, if we’re putting the guns down, what are we bringing up, you know?”’she said. “How are we going to help [youth] bring something positive, up?” Inside the field house gymnasium, 9th District Police officers played basketball with neighborhood youth. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an appearance at the event and spoke briefly about the budget crisis in Springfield and the violence on the city’s streets before taking a few questions from reporters.

“This is the example of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said in the press conference. “Law enforcement playing basketball with kids and painting murals, and it’s happening in 150 places across the city on the South Side, the West Side, the Southwest Side. It’s an example of what I think, actually, is the best way to fight gun violence.” He added that this year’s Faith and Action campaign cultivated the largest citywide participation yet, as various neighborhood and religious groups organized activities with law enforcement across the city.

The mayor then went outside to check out the mural and mingle with attendees, which included neighborhood youth and families. By that time, the mural was near completion with a simple, yet hopeful message for peace and love instead of violence, set to the backdrop of the Chicago skyline.

After receiving permission from the artists, Mayor Emanuel, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), 9th District Cmdr. Daniel Godsel and BYNC President and CEO Craig Chico signed each colorfully painted panel, a rather symbolic gesture, which seemed to elevate the power of the mural’s message.

The event was organized by the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, The Port Ministries, the 9th Police District, and the Chicago Park District as a part of the city’s annual Faith and Action Summer Campaign Kick-off.