Chicago City’s impressive overarching skyline and beautiful landscapes have helped it to secure a top spot in the World’s Best Cities list, but the local residents also know how their beautiful city struggles with violence and gun related crimes. These shooting incidents are a common occurrence taking place at the South Side of Chicago’s Downtown area and if you hear the news, you’ll know that the Englewood Community especially has suffered greatly in the past few years marred with similar incidents. And at this sensitive juncture, realizing the need of the hour, and to commemorate the Black History Month, the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence NFP, a first of its kind institution was launched at Englewood, IL on February 01, 2023.
The Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence NFP was conceptualized and initiated by Dr Vijay Prabhakar, fondly known as Dr VGP is a very highly acclaimed and a proven community leader who has always strived to bring social justice and equality across different ethnic and religious groups and is a big profounder of peace and harmony in the community. He is a Public Health Professional and a Graduate from Madras Medical College, 1982, MBBS, CPH, MPH, DD. He is also Chairman of GSA and Founder for AMEC Commission & MEATF community organizations.
Toni Preckwinkle is Cook County Board President and was the honorary guest at this glorious celebration. She cut the ribbon to open the mobile community food pantry, which will also provide services like meditation, yoga, music therapy, color therapy, basketball coaching, group therapy, mobile food trailer, mental health services, mediation – crisis intervention and wellness screenings to reduce Violence and Crimes. Additionally focus will be on getting City Vacant lands to be developed, Vocational Skill Development and 24-hour Crisis hotline are part of the Center’s mission.
Taking the stage, the Master of the Ceremony, Ambassador, Dr. Twin Green, Founder and President – The Link & Option Center, Inc., South Holland, Chairperson, the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence, Ambassador for the Citizens Alliance of Behavioral Health, declared that the Englewood community can now breathe! She added, “There have been so many opportunities, businesses and providers that have come to Englewood with the intent to do very, very well. Then the air will go out and deflate but not the Gandhi King Center for Nonviolence. The resources that are going to come to this community are not going to deflate. We’re going to give the people of Englewood the opportunity to stabilize, to be able to receive the civil and economic rights that they deserve to have.”
To begin the program, Inter – Faith Prayers were held, which included, Christian Prayer – by Chaplain Ylysses Ruff, Shepherd’s Hope; Islamic Prayer – by Brother Dion – Community Activist; Hindu Prayer – by Councilman Acharya Rohit Joshi, MEATF-7th CD-IL
Brian Anderson, Founder-CEO Shepherd’s Hope, was invited to deliver the Welcome Address. And the Opening Remarks were shared by Brother R-Raheen, Founding Director – Midwest Coalition to Stop Violence, Chicago. A solemn Tribute: was presented Christiana Gray 11-Year-Old Poet and Student – Calvin Christian Academy, South Holland.
There were several Keynote Speakers invited at the event: Dr. Sriam Sonty, Vice President, Gandhi Memorial Foundation, who presented Deep Insights Into The Gandhi-King Legacy; Donald Dew, CEO Habilitative Systems, Inc., presented Perspective of the Plague of Violence in Chicago’s Englewood Area and the Westside of Chicago, Zoey Ma, Outreach Director-Brigitte G. House of Hope Foundation-Tri-Taylor Area, Chicago, spoke on How Vacant Lots Breed Crime & Violence in the Community. Dr. Abha Agarwal, Chief Medical Office of Humboldt Park Health, spoke on How Health Inequity Contributes to Violence & Crime, Dr Zenobia Sowel, Chair Bethel Mennonite Community Church, spoke on Inadequate Affordable Housing & Food Insecurity Spikes Violence & Crime In Chicago, Blue Pachecco-Cornejo, Founder Coach 3-B Basketball by Blue, spoke on Engaging Neighborhood Students & Youth.
An impactful Presidential Address – Role of “The Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence” was delivered by Dr. Vijay G. Prabhakar, President-American Multiethnic Coalition, USA. He explained that the Action Speaks Louder Than the Words and now all the community work will definitely create a much needed harmony in the Englewood community and eventually other neighboring communities. He explained the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence strives to provide innovative resources to the community gatekeepers to reduce violence and promote peace in neighborhoods. He also acknowledged the generous contribution, a $10,000 Check to Shepherd’s Hope – by Neal Patel, CEO Medstar Laboratories.
Dr Prabhakar then called upon the Guest of Honor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkles, who was invited for her support of gun violence reduction programs and her deft handling of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted him to confer the title “the Iron Lady of America.”.
Regarding the choice of which individual should be chosen to launch the Gandhi King Center for Non Violence NFP, Dr VGP explained that, “We all decided we should have somebody who really believes and (walks the walk) of the principles of Gandhi and King, and that’s none other than the Iron Lady of America.”
Guest of Honor, Preckwinkle said nearly half of Cook County’s $8 billion budget goes toward health care, and that Cook County hospitals have some of the most well-regarded emergency room trauma centers in the country. “We train young people in the Navy for combat in our emergency room. The Navy sends young people to our emergency room to be trained so they will know what it’s like to treat combat wounds,” she said. “Now, we’re pleased that we’re able to help our military in this way. But it’s a tragedy that we have a hospital that’s equivalent to a military hospital where you’re treating gunshot wounds.”
Preckwinkle’s spokesman Nicholas Mathiowdis said that although Cook County did not directly provide funds for this nonviolence center, the county does want to support and uplift gun violence prevention programs. “The county has re-imagined the way we look at gun violence, instead of looking at it as a crime and law issue, we are looking at it as a public health crisis,” said Mathiowdis.
Cook County received $1 billion from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act and has laid out plans for spending it on health and wellness, economic development and criminal justice.
It is interesting to know that the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence NFP was launched in February, very close in heels with significance to both the leaders, Mahatma Gandhi ji’s Shraddhanjali which was on Jan 30, 2023 and Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day on Jan 16 2023, this year.
These two heroes with their message of Peace & Non-Violence are still relevant to our world today and we need them even more and they continue to inspire us with their strength and tenacity to endure and be brave to stand up against inequality and injustice violence and crime! Let us hope the Gandhi King Center for Non-Violence NFP helps reduce gun violence, not just in Englewood, but also in the adjoining neighboring communities and eventually brings peace to the City of Chicago, and all US and the entire World at large!