Things That Matter

Two Mothers Fighting To Get Rid Of Gun Violence Were Shot And Killed In Their Own Chicago Neighborhood

Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire spent Friday, July 26 on the corner of 75th Street and Stewart Avenue in Chicago’s South Side, where the women, joined by their children, handed out food to other mothers, talked with youth about violence and kept an eye out on neighborhood children playing in the area. Members of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), an anti-violence group, the women spent many days in the park helping their community. 

But on this evening, the moms were shot and killed on the very corner they long tried to make safer.

The two women, who had finished up for the day and were walking to a store to get food for their families, were shot on a sidewalk around 10 p.m. 

Witnesses say a blue SUV drove up to the mothers and fired several shots. Grant, 26, and Stoudemire, 36, were hit several times in the chest and died at a nearby hospital. There is an ongoing investigation, but Chicago law enforcement have not yet arrested anyone.

“We have no evidence that we can point to that suggests the women were the intended targets,” police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed News. “We also have no evidence to the contrary.”

In a later statement, Guglielmi added that the shots were meant for a man who is associated with a local street gang and recently got out of prison. However, the unidentified 58-year-old man, who was hit in the arm in the shooting, is not cooperating with police.

Still, Tamar Manasseh, who founded MASK in 2015, said she’s not willing to accept that Grant, a mother of four, and Stoudemire, who had three children, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“They killed mothers on a corner where mothers sit every day,” Manasseh said during a press conference Sunday. “You don’t have mothers killed in a place that is sacred to mothers and not take that as a message.”

According to the MASK website, the group formed “as a way to put eyes on the streets, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends rather than enemies.” Together, the moms work to build stronger communities by focusing on violence prevention, food insecurity and housing. They also ensure community members have access to city services, opportunities for education and professional skills growth, and economic development.

A few years ago, volunteers also helped clean up a “dirty and filthy” site at the Englewood intersection and turned it into a space where kids could play safely daily. There, the children have supervision and activities, like learning to dance and eating dinner together, that teach them how to be productive members of society.

The site, she continued, was created to be a space where mothers could watch over their kids and ensure the safety and betterment of their lives.

“Chantell,” whose fourth and youngest child just turned 1 year old, “was one of those mothers,” Manasseh said. “She was a dedicated mother. Every day, Chantell brought her kids here. Every day. By now, I should have seen Chantell at least three or four times at this point of the day. I will never see her again.” 

Manasseh shared that Stoudemire wasn’t just a concerned mom but also a leader who helped everyone. 

“I will never see Andrea again,” she said. “Andrea was a mother’s mother. She mothered other mothers.”

Manasseh, who called the deaths “terrifying” and “heartbreaking,” says she has not slept much because she has been thinking about what more she and her group can do to stamp out violence in their community. 

More people are fatally shot in Chicago than in any other city in the US. During the weekend in which the two women died, 48 other people were shot in the city. Nine of them were killed, including a three-year-old child, reports CBS Chicago

Though homicides have decreased in the city in recent years and will likely continue to drop again this year, police statistics show there have been 281 in 2019 as of July 28.

 Manasseh stresses these numbers are unacceptable.

“For mothers to be killed in a place where mothers go to seek safety and sisterhood, I take that as a personal threat,” she said. “Because when you come for one of us, you better believe they came for all of us.”

The group has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $5,000 for a reward for information in the case. By Friday morning, it had raised more than $29,000.

“The murder of a woman brought us to our corner on 75th & Stewart so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of more moms drive us away,” the fundraising page says. “We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children families tonight, deserve justice.”

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Retired Detective Rafael Tovar Recalls Working John Wayne Gacy Case In New Peacock Docuseries

Entertainment

Retired Detective Rafael Tovar Recalls Working John Wayne Gacy Case In New Peacock Docuseries

John Wayne Gacy shocked the world with is violent and terrifying crimes. The serial killer operated in the Chicago suburbs and killed at least 33 people. “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” digs deep into the story that true crime enthusiasts think they know.

Peacock is releasing a new true-crime docuseries “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise.”

NBC News Studios is bringing a new true-crime docuseries to the streaming world with “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise.” The documentary promises to take even those who know the story of John Wayne Gacy through parts of the case and serial killer that few know.

The docuseries relies on interviews from law enforcement, neighbors, victims, and family members affected by the murders. Retired Detective Rafael Tovar and Executive Producer Alexa Danner spoke with mitú about working the the case and creating the docuseries.

Tovar was the first Spanish-speaking police officer in the Chicago suburbs in 1970. Eight years later, Tovar was helping to unravel the horrific murders committed by John Wayne Gacy.

“It was a phase into the case because when we first started, we were working on a missing person report for one person, never figuring that it was going to turn out to be what it turned out to be,” Tovar recalls about the case. “It was something new every day until we started digging that’s when everything broke loose, and it became the case of a lifetime for a police officer.”

The former Des Plaines detective remembers the moment that case was going to be much more than anticipated. Around December 21, when the officers executed a second warrant on John Wayne Gacy’s suburban home, Tovar and other authorities made gruesome discoveries. Tovar remembers digging under the house with an evidence technician when they discover three left femurs. The bones were too decayed to belong to the last victim, Robert Piest.

“The John Wayne Gacy story has certainly been told multiple times over the year and I think that there is a sense that there’s a narrative out there that is known and accepted,” Alexa Danner, an executive producer on the docuseries says. “What we really found as we began to produce this documentary was that there are a lot of questions that remain about the case. There’s a lot of mystery still surrounding it.”

Danner promises that even those who think they know the John Wayne Gacy story well will learn new things about the crimes. “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” talks to people never interviewed before and takes a hard look at the case like never before.

The investigation into John Wayne Gacy changed law enforcement practices drastically. Procedures were adjusted to better assist with missing persons reports, especially children. Tovar also shared that John Wayne Gacy himself claimed to have had other victims.

“I was transferring him from our police lockup to the county lockup. Just in conversation, I asked him, ‘John. There are a lot of numbers going around. How many people did you kill?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ve said this, I’ve said that, but 45 sounds like a good number.’ So I asked him, ‘Well, where are they?’ He said, ‘No. That’s your job to find out,’” Tovar recalls about that conversation. “He was the type of guy that knew that you knew something or that you were going to find out, he’d be totally honest with you. If he didn’t think that you were going to find out, he liked to play mind games with you. I believe him. Everything else he told me was true, so I believe that there are more out there.”

The show will take people through Gacy’s life before the violent attacks he became known for after his arrest. It will show people the life he had in Iowa that might have been a warning sign of things to come. The docuseries explores lingering questions about his mother’s ignorance about her son’s dealings and questions about the real body count.

Danner recalls a psychiatric report done on Gacy after his arrest that should have given everyone pause.

“It essentially said that this man would not stop behaving like this. There’s no known way to stop his behavior or change it,” Danner says. “To look back ten years before he’s arrested for all of these killing and know that he was already being assessed that way or diagnosed that way is really troubling and horrible.”

“John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” will be available for streaming March 25 on Peacock.

READ: New Netflix Docuseries Explores The Summer The Night Stalker Terrorized Los Angeles

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The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Entertainment

The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

At the dawn of Black History Month the timely release of “Judas and the Black Messiah” echoed the cries of injustice following a summer of civil unrest. In what was considered the largest multicultural protest of the 21st century, the words of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton ferociously chanting “I AM…A REVOLUTIONARY!” continue to resonate.

The timely Civil Rights film, available to stream on HBO Max, follows the life and betrayal of The Illinois Black Panther Chairman (played by Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of a party member and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s captivating performance as the charismatic Hampton received widespread acclaim and his first Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.

For some audience members, this film will be their first introduction to Chairman Fred Hampton and an extension of the Black Panther Party. While the film is relatively accurate, the brief inclusion of the original Rainbow Coalition is pertinent to Hampton’s legacy. You can see its relation to the rise in multicultural youth-driven activism we see today.

In February 1969, Hampton and other Panther members met with Young Lords leader José “Cha-Cha” Jimenez after the Puerto Rican street organization shut themselves in the 18th District police station. The protest was calling attention to the police harassment of Latinx residents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

The Young Lords started as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1960. By 1968, the Young Lords became a Civil Rights organization. The Illinois chapter and Young Lords formed the original Rainbow Coalition in April 1969. Jimenez referred to the coalition as a “poor people’s army” in an interview with Southside Weekly. Shortly after, the coalition grew to include the Young Patriots Organization a white, southern working-class group from Northern Chicago.

The Rainbow Coalition fought against police brutality and institutional racism in Chicago while working to uplift their local communities. The organization, consisting of people in their teens and early 20s, offered free breakfast programs and child daycare centers funded by donations from local businesses.

“It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people,” Jimenez said in an interview with FightBack! News on the 50th anniversary of the coalition’s foundation.

“The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories,” he told FightBack! News. “Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle.”

Hampton and Jimenez were both sent to solitary confinement at Cook County Jail for their activism. In another incident noted in the film, Hampton was once sentenced after taking ice cream pops from an ice cream truck to pass out to neighborhood kids.

Supporters claim that it is a consequence of their street organizing and a threat to government authority for their Marxist-Leninist views.

The tension between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers failed to cease, and the FBI was closing in on silencing Hampton. On December 4, 1969, the Cook County’s State Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan conducted an overnight raid on Hampton’s apartment with a warrant to search for illegal weapons.

Police barraged into Hampton’s apartment shooting gunfire wounding several Black Panthers and killing Black Panther security chief Mark Clark. Hampton was asleep in his bedroom next to his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson (who now goes by Akua Njeri) when he was struck by the gunfire, killing him.

Hampton was 21 at the time of his death.

The assassination of Fred Hampton left Coalition members distraught and fearful for their own lives as leadership slowly diminished. By 1973, the Rainbow Coalition had officially disbanded.

The embodiment of radicalized thought, in a sea of young revolutionaries, adorning their berets of black and purple. The roars of unapologetic protest against racism persisted and the legacy of youth-driven advocacy for the unified equity of all peoples vehemently lives on.

“Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk,” Jimenez said to FightBack! News. “Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.”

READ: Filmmaker’s Short Documentary Shines A Light On Woman Who Fought For Cuban Revolution

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