BOTY celebrates community heroes

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Leslie’s Beauty Salon owner Ricardo Jimenez gives his remarks before being handed an award for providing aid to Officer Victoria Mendoza. (The Gate/Richards H.S. Photography Club)

Back of the Yards residents came together on Wednesday, Oct. 18 to celebrate heroes of the community.

Mauricio Hernandez, 19, was one of more than 15 youth in attendance at the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) Quarterly Council Meeting, where four 9th District police officers and Back of the Yards business owner Ricardo Jimenez were honored for their bravery in two separate incidents. Jimenez came to the aid of Officer Victoria Mendoza after she was shot in the line duty on July 21, 2017.

For Hernandez, the ceremony helped to paint a different picture of the police.

“Honestly, I appreciate the police officers’ service as they’re [often] the unspoken heroes. The officers are humans, and contrary to what the media portray them to be, they’re doing whatever possible to make the streets better,” said Hernandez.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Around the Clock reporting site, in New City, the community area which includes the Back of the Yards neighborhood, there have been 16 homicides in 2017.

In Back of the Yards, gun violence is often the focal point in the mainstream media, but the narrative begins to change when multi-generational members of the community come together.

Craig Chico, president, and CEO of BYNC welcomed more than 100 people who were in attendance at the lower level of the BYNC offices.

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BYNC staff and BOTY community residents during the BYNC Quarterly Council Meeting (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

“We’re asking them to be warriors and gladiators and at
the same time we are asking them to be social workers,” Chico said. “I am not saying they aren’t up for the challenge, but it is a difficult task and I think we can all recognize that,” he said.

When Mendoza was shot, her partner immediately called for backup. Meanwhile, owner of Leslie’s Beauty Salon, Ricardo Jimenez, came to her aid. Jimenez applied pressure on her wound and waited with her while paramedics arrived.

“I don’t feel that I did anything courageous, I am just here serving the community that I love working for and it’s an honor that they wanted to recognize me so I appreciate it,” Mendoza said.

After living and working in Back of the Yards for more than 27 years this is not the first time Jimenez has come to the aid of a person in the midst of a crisis. He was honored to receive an award but wishes the award resulted under different circumstances. “This affects everyone psychologically, morally and economically. Not everyone wants to come see us or visit our community because they hear and see the bad news. They don’t invest and we need to support each other and unite in order to make change.”

Jimenez loves his community and is proud of Mendoza’s service. “I told her, I know why you didn’t shoot back, it was because you thought about the safety of everyone around you. You could’ve shot back and you didn’t because you were thinking of everyone’s lives,” said Jimenez.

On Sept. 6, 2017, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) proposed a resolution that was adopted by the Chicago City Council to recognize Jimenez, Mendoza and her partner David Perez for their bravery in the emergency situation.

Hernandez, who is wise beyond his 19 years, points out that when he sees the news about police officers it’s mostly about the misconduct of the officers, especially regarding police brutality.

“My advice for others is to turn on the news [and] read multiple sources. You’ll find a lot of anything. Also educate yourself as much as possible because knowledge is power. And with that power you can change many social aspects and perceptions and misconceptions from people,” Hernandez said.

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(The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)

Former 9th District Commander Stephen Chung presented the awards to officers Mendoza, Perez, Leo Augle, and Colin Ryan for their courage in the line of duty this last summer.

The BYNC meetings are different than they were more than 20 years ago. The meetings were held at the lower level of St. Rose de Lima church hall. They took place every Wednesday from 7 to 9 PM.

The BYNC Quarterly Council meetings happen once every quarter throughout the year and host guest speakers on a variety of topics. For more information on BYNC Quarterly Council meetings, contact Jim Gonska, 773-523-4416.