The Children Smile

In Chicago, in 2022 alone, at least 687 murders were recorded by Chicago Police and 2,787 people were shot. The total over the last five years: 3,320 Murders; 15,751 people shot.

Each summer, the Faith Community of St. Sabina holds anti-violence march aimed at curbing the violence and bringing hope to a besieged community. Despite the gunfire that makes life on the South and West Side a tenuous proposition, the children smile. Video and Poem by John W. Fountain

A Son's Violent Death; A Father's Undying Love

Rodney White-El releases a dove at the funeral of his murdered son, Khalil White-El on the stairs of the Faith Community of St. Sabina on Chicago's South Side where services were held. (Photo: John w. Fountain)

By John W. Fountain

Rodney White-El with son Khalil and
the child's grandmother. (Photo: Provided)
Once upon a time, a father fell in love with a son. They united in love and spirit even before that late-autumn day nearly 19 years ago when the precious newborn boy squinted in the bright light, fresh from his mother’s womb as his father beamed with delight tinged with fear over the responsibility of raising the infant he cradled in his arms. Particularly in a world that can be cold, cruel and deadly to brown-skinned boys born on the other side of the tracks. 

But a good father can be a son’s compass. Even if fatherhood arrives devoid of a handbook. Even if the elements that can steal a son’s life hover sometimes like storm clouds even on some sunny days.

And a son can be the light that inspires a father to be a better man. That compels a man to be a better father than his father. To provide for, produce and protect a son with endless selfless devotion. To carry him in life, and also in death. And perhaps beyond. 

"I looked at him as my angel..."

Faith, Love & A Fragile Hope: Peace

Khalil White-EL, 18, was previously a member of The Faith Community of St. Sabina’s Brave Youth Program and most recently in the church’s Strong Futures Mentoring Program, where he was a mentee. He had recently landed a new job and was sharing his excitement about it with mentors Friday (August 19, at St. Sabina’s back-to-school Block Party held at Renaissance Park, at 1300 W. 79th Street, near the church. According to police, Khalil was fatally shot four days later on August 23, in an alley in the 8700 block of South Wabash Avenue, about three miles from St. Sabina.  (Photo: Provided)
By John W. Fountain

Peace. Into the night, the children smile. Their voices rise above the steady whir of bouncy house fans and the deep incurable pain that is not as easily detectable here, though its presence too is undeniable. Like the water that ripples in soft waves at a nearby park fountain. 

Like the mothers of murdered sons and daughters who don “Purpose Over Pain” T-shirts--decades of grief shared between them. Like the enthusiasm of Khalil White-EL, 18, who bubbles with excitement over his new job--his future as bright as his infectious smile. 

Peace. It flows here, on an August Friday night at Renaissance Park on West 79th Street. Drifting upon a premature autumn wind is a sense of the way life is supposed to be, even on this side of Chicago, where gunfire and murder confiscate childhood.

"Don’t we all bleed the same? Doesn’t every human soul carry the same worth?"

Faith Vs. Violence: The Journey Begins

FatFather Michael L. Pfleger, senior pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina leads the
way in the church’s annual weekly “Friday Night Peace Walks,” last summer.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By John W. Fountain

A CARAVAN OF HUMANITY. A PEOPLE OF faith. It idles on 78th Place near Racine Avenue in the warm evening sun one late-summer Friday in June. Music blares from a shiny green SUV outfitted with loud speakers that will lead them on their sojourn in the streets of the South Side of Chicago from the doorsteps of the Faith Community of St. Sabina. It is a spiritual showdown against the forces of darkness.

A bout for the soul of the city, maybe even the bold makings of a revolution that will not be televised. In one corner stands Faith. In the other: Violence. 

Which will win?

Two reporters set out last summer to chronicle their journey, covering every single march over 12 hot and muggy weeks in Chicago, through the elements, even as nightfall consumes the last light of day. Chronicling the hope and also the marchers' pain—through the glaring sun and summer rain that would take this caravan of faith to perilous street corners, where, just hours earlier, bullets reigned. Where the wounded had lain, felled by a shooter's deadly aim. 

Before summer’s end, this group of the faithful would come face to face with the Death Angel who came to claim even one of their own. And more than one mother would be welcomed into the unenviable club of being mother to a murdered son.

In the end, the summer’s violence would prove to be a foreshadow of one of the city’s deadliest years on record.

But might prayer and faith work in the fight to end violence?



“Church is the ‘huddle’ of the game...  No one comes to a game to see the huddle but look to see what they will do when they leave the huddle to build the Kingdom of God.” -Father Pfleger