East Chicago marches for an end to violence
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 1, 2014 10:32PM
More than 150 people marched up Olcott Avenue toward Greater First Church International Friday evening, hoping their rally will stem the violence that's hit the city. | Michelle L. Quinn/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2014 6:06AM
EAST CHICAGO — Among the many people who gathered at Greater First Church International on Friday night, tired of the violent crime that’s plaguing the city, were Nalida Dejesus and Lakia Major.
The two friends, 26 and 28 respectively, were victims of violence 18 months ago on the very street on which the church sits. They were going out one November evening and were turning the corner onto the street in a car when shots rang out and hit them.
Their shooters have yet to be found and brought to justice.
As they sat in the church watching Bishop Tavis Grant call for the city to unite against the violence and crime, they had one thought — the march and rally for peace, which began at city hall and ended at the church and brought out at least 150 people, needed to be much bigger.
“Crime has gotten so much worse here, and it has taken too many kids,” Dejesus said somberly. “We wanted to do the very same thing a year ago We need to make it known that this has to be stopped.”
Amid the celebration of the goodness of the city’s people, there were stories of sadness. Diana Colon, a well-loved teacher at East Chicago Central High School, recalled the life of her son, Miguel Colon, who was shot and killed in 2010.
Miguel, or “Migzz,” as he was called, was 19 and expecting his first child when he was shot down on Deodar Street. A friendly, articulate young man who was taking classes at Purdue Northwest when he was 16, Miguel had made his friends more important to him than his schooling, and “smart” didn’t equate to “wise” at the time.
When he was killed, his body was “left on the street for two hours” so police could investigate the crime, his mother said.
“A mother one became a mother of none,” she said. “When I went back to school, I kept looking at the kids and wondering, ‘which one of these babies did this?’ It turns out one of my students was involved.”
But she never turned her back on East Chicago.
“I pour my love into my students,” Diana Colon said. “Life is not a video game. Violence is real.”
Grant called upon the people of the city and the churches to make sure that children have the appropriate resources for their needs. He also called for a “murderer registry” similar to the registry for sex offenders.
Further, he said his church and others will be involved in a movement in which parents will pick up their kids from school so they can meet and get to know the school principals — opening lines of communication in case a student gets in trouble.
“I’m tired of burying young people,” Grant said, noting that he would be performing the funeral service for Kemmond Coleman, who was shot July 26. “I would rather spend the $5,000 to put you in school than to put you in the cemetery.”