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



Summer Invasion: "Like Jesus"


Pastor Announces Church Gun Buy-back

Peace Marchers from the Faith Community of St. Sabina flood the streets in summer 2021  during Friday evening marches through the neighborhood to seek an end to the gun violence in their neighborhood.

By Samantha Latson

STANDING OUTSIDE THE FAITH Community of St. Sabina, the Rev. Michael L. Pfleger Father announced Thursday a gun buyback to fight violence plaguing Chicago’s streets and amid his church’s ongoing annual “Friday Night Peace March,” which kicked off at the start of the summer. 

In the wake of three mass shootings, Pfleger expressed frustration and outrage during a press conference. 

“Last night, we had three mass shootings in Chicago, two on the West Side, and one on a party bus in Old Town,” said Pfleger. “Chicago is out of control, gun violence is killing our children, and blood is running through our streets.”

The gun buyback will begin next week (starting on Monday, July 26) and continue, Pfleger said, until the $25,000 provided by a donor for this purpose had been exhausted.


"If we can have a state of emergency because of flooding, we ought to have a state of emergency because  because of dying." 
-Rev. Michael L. Pfleger


Column: Big Lessons From My Little Internship

By Samantha Latson

Samantha Latson
I CAN STILL SEE HUMAN palms covering the ground during prayer on a hot summer night shortly after a crowd stops at a street corner in Auburn Gresham at 8 p.m. It marks the spot where, just hours earlier before the march, a shooting took place. These are my summer reminisces.

 The group—men, women and children—followed Father Michael L. Pfleger’s lead. They kneel and place their palms where blood had been shed. “Peace, peace, peace,” the crowd of dozens shout in unison, commanding the streets and all within earshot to yield to their prayer for change.

Months later, with summer well ended and the first snow of winter already fallen, the marcher’s voices and chants still fill my head. Their hope. Their journey through some of Chicago’s deadliest streets in their fight to turn the cycle of violence around. I still see them, hear them clearly. And I doubt that I will ever forget.



"I learned that beyond the stereotypical stories that plague Black communities there are vibrant complex stories of daily life."



Father Michael L. Pfleger leads Peace Marchers in prayer at corner where two people were shot. 

Tears For Marquise

Pallbearers carry the casket of Marquise Richardson to an idling hearse.
By John W. Fountain

TEARS. THE PIANO PLAYED HAUNTINGLY, the soloist’s voice floating above the tears and sorrow inside this airy sanctuary on a somber Wednesday morning. Tears for Marquise. Tears for all Chicago children shot or slain. Agony and rivers of bitter tears.

Endless tears over the gunfire that crackles across this bleeding city, claiming the innocent and young with no relenting. That steals our children almost from the cradle. 

That now rings with numbing normalcy and largely is reduced to the weekend newspaper round-up. That robs us all of hope and humanity, leaving a trail of carnage wrought by evil.

A Grieving Mother Finds Purpose Over Pain

Members of "Purpose Over Pain" gather outside of St. Sabina for the 2021 Summer Peace March.
By Samantha Latson

Genell Taylor marched through South Side streets with members and supporters of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, chanting and clutching a portrait of her 14-year-old son. Taylor, 56, had only recently lost her son Tyrese Taylor to gun violence. 

Despite her grief, or perhaps partly to help her deal with it, she found it important to plant her feet on Chicago’s streets, comforted by other mothers present who know what it means to walk in her shoes. 

“I just want to honor my baby because he was murdered,” Taylor said, standing outside the rectory at St. Sabina on a summer night in June after a Peace march.

Taylor’s son was murdered just days earlier, according to police, fatally shot on June 10, outside their North Lawndale home on the city’s West Side.  

She said that as a mother she had strived to do what any good parent hopes to achieve: To raise her son and to shield him from hurt, harm and danger. 

Church Launches Summer Invasion

Faith vs. Violence: And They March

Father Michael L. Pfleger, Senior Pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina points the way
 forward as the South Side Catholic church kicks off its summer-long "Friday Night Peace Walk" 

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

By John W. Fountain

Against the raging tide, against the forces of evil--as the golden evening sunlight on the first Friday of summer yields to darkness and shadows in Auburn Gresham, where the streetlights illuminate this faithful trail of prayer warriors--they march.

Led by a young Black man, hoisting a giant cross, emblazoned with “Demand Justice” on one side and “Stop Shooting” on the other, they march. West on 79th Street and beyond, through this South Side business thoroughfare and turning down tree-lined streets, they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 

“I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…” 

Chicago: A Tale of Two Cities

By John W. Fountain

Let me say it again: Chicago is pretty and Chicago is ugly. Even on her most beautiful of days. And this is her glaring dichotomy for me as a native son who stands with a foot in each world. Chicago stirs within me both love and hate.

I love Chicago. And I hate her. She is a tale of two cities, two-faced. 

She is a glistening skyscraper-lit city on a shimmering sailboat-dotted Great Lake, the epitome of picture postcard beauty. 

She is a bloody city, where wanton gunfire rips Black and brown babies from their families, leaving a trail of blood, tears and carnage on streets littered with shell casings. 



"I love the Chi. But it’s complicated."



The Chicago I know is the city of succulent deep-dish pizza, Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Lollapalooza. Of safe neighborhoods in some parts, where children frolic freely in the summer sun. 

It is a Chicago of unsafe neighborhoods in other parts, where irreverent unsavory young men with automatic weapons and disregard for human life gun down children while they jump rope, make mud pies, wait in a McDonald’s drive-thru, or play in a bouncy house. A soul-less city of mounting child autopsies.

Chicago shines. Chicago bleeds. Chicago soars. Chicago falls. 

She uplifts. And she crushes. She is angelic and devilish, bipolar even. She is the meadow. She is the ghetto.

She is a Ferris wheel-twinkling safe zone. And she is a muzzle-flashing war zone. 

Chicago is good. Chicago is bad.    

Even when I am relishing her skyline and cultural gems, her scents and sounds of the seasons--even when the lake and city are white-frosted over--I am reminded that my love for her runs deep to my bones. The city intoxicates me.

But I am sobered by the portrait of Chicago’s dark side--by the faces and travail of those who dwell in her land of the forgotten beyond the Magnificent Mile, on Chicago’s insignificant isles, where poverty and gun violence rise assuredly each morning like the sun. 

“The American Millstone,” some have called them who dwell on the other side. “The Truly Disadvantaged.” “The Permanent Underclass.” 

I was once one of them. 

I am still one of them--my zip code eternally 60623, no matter where life or my choices take me. And my pen and heart are forever wed to that part of Chicago where I grew up and lived for more than two decades.

My writing as a journalist for more than 30 years, and as a freelance columnist for this newspaper for the last 12 years can attest to that, and also to my love for Bigger Thomas’ town. I love the Chi. But it’s complicated.

And inasmuch as I might ever be tempted to close my eyes to the grim realities that compose life for those who dwell beyond Chicago’s safe neighborhoods and her tourist thoroughfare, I cannot. No matter how much Chicago shimmers, I cannot. 

No matter who says that Chicago’s beauty and hope outshine or outweigh her goriness and bleakness, or that fewer shootings and murders or per capita violence stats make Chicago not America’s bloodiest city, I cannot. I’ve heard such rumblings lately.

But I know the truth: That in Englewood Chicago, and East and West Garfield Chicago, and Austin Chicago and Lawndale and Auburn Gresham Chicago bullets fly, the children die, and all the pie-in-the-sky platitudes over the city’s beauty ring hollow.

The number that matters most is one. If it is your loved one who is murdered or shot, that is one too many, and the impact on one’s psyche and soul immeasurable.

I know. 

Chicago is pretty. She is ugly to the bone and always my love-hate home.