CHICAGO (AP) – The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday that he wants to put Chicago’s violence problem in the national spotlight and will spend a few months in the city working on the ground with other church and community leaders.
While the exact details of his plans are still in the works, the head of the National Action Network said he would rent an apartment and collaborate with the head of a prominent West Side church that’s been central to anti-violence efforts, including a recently launched series of day camps designed to keep children off the streets.
Sharpton was in Chicago on Sunday to speak at Greater St. John Bible Church and talk about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
“We don’t have all the answers, but we need to raise all the questions publicly and consistently,” Sharpton told The Associated Press. “Consistent attention forces a consistent change.”
Sharpton said the idea somewhat mimicked what Martin Luther King Jr. did in the mid-1960s as Chicago became a hub of the civil rights movement. King also rented an apartment in Chicago and led marches citywide. Sharpton has been working with King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III.
He said he’d like return in September and planned to do his regular television appearances in the city, including his MSNBC commentator gig.
Among those Sharpton said he’ll work with are the Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John, a church in Austin a West Side neighborhood that has had one of the highest rates of gun violence.
Chicago had more than 500 homicides in 2012, but there have been fewer this year. Still, anti-violence leaders are particularly vigilant in the summer, when the number of homicides typically goes up. Marches and rallies have been held by other prominent pastors and community leaders following several violent weekends this year.
Acree said the idea behind the day camps is to keep children busy and give them a place to go in the summer. He said the Rev. Jesse Jackson would likely join in the efforts.
“We need all hands on deck,” Acree said.
Dr. Gary Slutkin, founder and executive director of the Chicago anti-violence group Cure Violence, said Sharpton has been a long-time advocate of violence prevention and intervention efforts.
“In Chicago, or in any city, any visibility is of value if it brings the right responses, if it brings prevention and intervention responses,” Slutkin said.