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Church's New Stained Glass Honors Young 'Martyrs' Of Chicago Violence

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Sankofa Peace Window

Scaffolding is seen in front of a new stained glass window inside New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s West Side. The glass includes images of young people killed by violence. (Photo by Marley Arechiga, WBEZ)

A West Side congregation is mixing art and spirituality to help heal a community impacted by violence.

New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in the West Garfield Park neighborhood has completed a stained glass window memorializing five Chicago youths who were killed in the past 12 years.

The window, which is 25 feet in diameter, features the likenesses of Laquan McDonald, Derrion Albert, Hadiya Pendleton, Blair Holt and Demetrius Griffin. It also harkens back to the Civil Rights movement with the images of four girls killed in an Alabama church bombing in 1963.

The girls and the “urban violence martyrs,” as the Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Pilgrim called them Tuesday, appear in bright clothing and surround a Christ-like figure at the window’s center. In stark contrast to the muted colors of the church’s older iconography, the new stained glass window beams with vivid and warm colors.

The “martyrs” were selected by the church’s youth group and the stained glass was designed by Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, based in La Porte, Indiana. The church paid $120,000 for the window, which is the third installment in a decades-long effort to create stained glass depicting pivotal moments in African-American history.

A rendering of the Sankofa Peace Window at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church shows images of five Chicago youths who died violently. (Marley Arechiga/WBEZ)

The other two windows feature symbols of the Great Migration from the south to the north, and Maafa, a Swahili word that has been used to describe the African slave trade.

One of the youths depicted in the new stained glass—Demetrius Griffin—was a member of the church’s youth group. His burned remains were found on the 5500 block of West Cortez in 2016 and had to be identified using dental records. He was 15 years old. Of the slain Chicago youths represented in the stained glass, his is the only case that remains unsolved.

His family joined Hatch at the church Tuesday to announce an increase in reward money to $15,000 from $10,000 leading to the capture of his killer or killers.

“My family is in shambles,” Rochelle Sykes, Demetrius’s aunt, said. “We don’t get calls from the police saying ‘Ok, we’re still working actively on this case.’ We have to call them.”

The Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church on the West Side was also at New Mount Pilgrim on Tuesday, and said he hopes the stained glass will be an inspiration to prevent violence.

“Hopefully this memorial will motivate us to do something about our plight.” he said.

The Sankofa Peace Window, named for a word in the Twi language of Ghana that Hatch said means “remembering the past in order to move forward,” will be unveiled Sunday, February 24 during dedication services at 8 a.m and 11 a.m.

Marley Arechiga is a news intern for WBEZ. Follow her@marleyarechiga.

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