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Anti-Violence Leader Wants Justice For Two South Side Moms Shot Dead

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MASK Founder On Deaths Of Two Activists And Mothers: 'People Are Tired Of Being Afraid'

Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings, on the corner of 75th and Stewart in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood in the summer of 2016. Two of the group’s activists were shot dead on that block on Friday, July 26, 2019.

Andrew Gill

On Friday night, four people were shot in the Gresham neighborhood — two of them fatally. 

The shooting happened at 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, a corner where the group Mothers (And Men) Against Senseless Killings, or MASK, has been gathering for years in an effort to stop shootings. The two women who were killed were Chantell Grant, 26, and Andrea Stoudemire, 35. Both volunteered with MASK, and they were both mothers.

Morning Shifttalks to the founder of MASK on how the group is seeking justice for the two women killed, their families and their neighborhood. 

What were Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire like?

Tamar Manasseh: They were amazing moms. They were great, great women.

Chantell was a younger mom, so she would come out every day and bring her kids to play and sit with us and participate and help serve meals. She was just a really hands-on mom and she was a mom who was willing to accept advice and give advice. And there’s not a lot of people that are like that, that you can have those kind of conversations with. But Chantell was definitely one of them.

Jenn White: And what about Andrea?

Manasseh: Andrea was fiercely protective of the other young women in the neighborhood. She didn’t want anybody doing anything wrong to them or treating them in ways women shouldn’t be treated. She was a really strong, strong person. Really strong.

On seeking justice for the two mothers killed, their families and neighborhood

Manasseh: People are tired of being afraid. We’re sick of being afraid.

We live in these communities and then we somehow are penalized and punished for living here. If you’re poor, you’re poor. But when women are killed, it’s not their fault. It’s not because they made bad decisions. It’s not they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s black men are getting killed and they’re poor. Black men live in homes with black women — with their mothers, with their aunts, with their sisters, with their cousins, with their wives, with their girlfriends.

Black women being murdered is no more their fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time than a woman being raped for wearing the wrong thing. It’s not their fault. It’s not our fault. And we see a lot of victim-blaming when that happens. And we’re tired of that. We want someone to do something.

On standing against fear, continuing the work of MASK

Manasseh: I’m not going to stop sitting on the corner. I’m not going to stop building our school. I’m not going to stop providing a safe place for our kids to play. I’m not going to stop providing meals every day. I’m not going to be intimidated, and I would really appreciate the support of the city and of the police at this time. And I want them to support us everywhere. 

I don’t think women should have to live in this city afraid, especially not poor black women. It’s hard out here for us.

White: Tamar, just listening to you, I can hear the hurt, I can hear the anger in your voice. And we know that when there’s a killing like this, the trauma isn’t just limited to family members or friends. There’s a ripple effect across the entire community. How are you and your neighbors taking care of yourself and of each other right now?

Manasseh: You know what, we’re still just trying to deal with it. Honestly, we are. I’m breaking out in hives, having anxiety attacks. But the work still has to get done. We’re still trying to figure out how to take care of each other at a time like this because we have never had a time like this. We’ve never had a time where two moms are killed right next to our space.

And just as I would want someone to look out for my kids if that was me, that’s what these mothers would’ve wanted. That’s the responsibility of every person in this city — to look out for other people’s kids, to mother and father other people’s kids when they can’t. We have to do that. People always talk about, ‘Oh, it takes a village.’ Well, it’s time for the village to step up.

White:What’s your message to elected officials in the city who maybe you feel like you haven’t been able to get the response you want from them or you just feel like the right moves aren’t being made right now?

Manasseh: My message is, I’ve been trying to talk to you about this for months. In April, I warned that this summer would be bloodier than any. And now, in this summer out of five years, two of our mothers have been murdered on our corner. So clearly this summer is worse, as I had predicted it would be in April. 

We’ve not been able to speak with anyone who makes any decisions about actual law enforcement in this city. We have ideas, but they didn’t want to hear them. And now, ignoring people who are out on the street every day, this is what it got us. So I’m really hoping now, maybe now, they’ll listen. Maybe now they’ll start working with us before more children have to lose their mothers.

GUEST:Tamar Manasseh, founder of MASK, Mothers (And Men) Against Senseless Killings 

LEARN MORE: Two Moms Who Volunteered With South Side Anti-Violence Group Shot Dead On Corner They Were Protecting(Block Club Chicago 7/29/19)

Mothers Against Senseless Killings Reclaims Corner Where 2 Women Were Shot Dead: ‘Spraying Bullets On Indefensible Women Is Total Cowardice’(Chicago Tribune 7/29/19)

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