Last week, I had the opportunity to check out the opening of Pullman Peace Park. After all, it was simply a few bus rides away, but it was an opportunity to learn about the work of Chicago CRED through the eyes of one of their participants.
It was an outing to the newly-opened Pullman Peace Park, a collaboration between Chicago CRED, FH Paschen (who donated construction supplies and noted for their work on the 95th Street Red Line Station) and the Chicago White Sox. It was also unique in that I got to meet Michael Reed (featured in the above video). It was a great opportunity to learn about a great organization doing work, follow up with another topic, but more importantly, meet someone whose life has been positively impacted by that work.
Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny) has a mission to achieve a transformative reduction in Chicago gun violence. Created in 2016 by the Emerson Collective, Chicago CRED believes that recruiting men who are at high-risk to become perpetrators or victims of gun violence and transitioning them to jobs in the legal economy (which pay equal or better than those in the illegal economy) is the best solution for ending gun violence in Chicago. Their approach assumes that most "jobs" in the illegal economy (involving drug and gang activity) pay only $11- 13 an hour, and Chicago CRED'S strategy (which is research-based) addresses the social, emotional and job readiness support of men by placing participants in permanent, full-time jobs with private employers at a targeted starting wage of $12-$15/hour.
But the best way to describe the impact of Chicago CRED is by talking to one of their participants. And last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Michael Reed. He's the individual featured in the above video.
It was a casual conversation - Michael had become involved with Chicago CRED simply through attending a presentation. It engaged him, but in his words, it "made him grow into a man." He took classes, worked with others, and then found himself hired by Paschen on the 95th Street Red Line Station project. (In fact, he was at Pullman Peace Park helping with demolition). Speaking with Michael Reed, his enthusiasm about his work with Paschen and his involvement with Chicago CRED was easily apparent.
We also remarked how his involvement with Chicago CRED speaks not only to breaking cycles, but also reinvesting in the community. Michael remarked that he knew many people who played the same roles because those roles were always prevalent. He appreciated his work on the 95th Street Red Line Station because it wasn't just about the work, but it gave back to the community. (As I live in Beverly, I also made similar remarks). It's "economic development" at the smallest level - a person who enjoyed and had gratitude for their work was helping support his community not just through taxes...but on a very hands-on basis.
It's moments like these that make me glad to write this blog. After all, I've been fortunate to help friends with their projects...but I also enjoy checking out programs that are making a differencce but often receive very little spotlight. Chicago CRED is one neighbor worth knowing.
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