Joliet native part of summit seeking solutions to new gang violence
BY BOB OKON email@example.com September 22, 2013 10:54PM
The Rev. Chuck Singleton | Submitted photo
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:20AM
Last week’s shooting of 13 people in a Chicago park was another sample of the new levels of gang violence.
Seeking new ways to fight the nation’s gang problem, community leaders from across the country are headed to Chicago for what is being called a National Unity Summit on Friday and Saturday.
Among those scheduled to speak at the summit is Pastor Charles Singleton, a Joliet native and son of the late Rev. Isaac Singleton, the longtime pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church.
A Herald-News interview with Singleton about the summit was conducted Wednesday, the day before the Chicago park shootings in which the victims included a 3-year-old boy. It is that kind of seemingly random violence that the people gathering for the summit are trying to stop.
“I don’t know if we’ll walk away with answers,” Singleton said. “I think we’ll walk away with a way of addressing it as a national issue.”
The summit is open to the public, and organizers are hoping young people will come. The event will be at House of Hope Baptist Church, 752 E. 114th St., where the Rev. James Meeks is pastor. Former and current gang members will participate in the summit, as will church, civic and business leaders.
Singleton, who is pastor of Loveland Church in Ontario, Calif., has followed in his father’s footsteps while also venturing out to other parts of the country. But, he noted, places across the country are facing the same problems of gang violence, which is why those looking for answers are holding a national summit.
“It’s now invaded not only the large urban areas but even what would be considered villages a few years ago,” Singleton said. “And it’s mainly spread through drugs.”
Fights over drug territories have led to unprecedented kinds of violence, Singleton said. He recounted what was told to him by a Chicago pastor at a Baptist church convention earlier this summer. There had been a sequence of shootings outside the church over time, Singleton said, until “the church was surrounded by shootings.” Then one night, the pastor heard gunfire outside the church and opened the door to see a man “shot right in front of his eyes.
“There was a time when church was sanctuary, when church was hallowed ground,” Singleton said. “That’s no longer the case.”
But the church in Chicago where the summit is held may prove the starting point for new efforts to reverse the trend of more violent gangs being active across the country. Singleton said he and others will look for new ways to not only support victims of gang violence but also efforts to stop the shootings.
The summit begins Friday with a prayer vigil from 6 to 9 p.m. An all-day session on Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include workshops and panel discussions.
For more information about the summit, call 815-744-5340.