A new mural in Humboldt Park sets a lofty goal for a city that just had its most violent month on record in nearly 20 years: “0 Shots, 0 Killed Today in Chicago.”
The stark message, which appears on a 20-foot by 20-foot black wall in bright white letters, is part of a project called ‘Today Is Tomorrow,’ created by students at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School.
“I thought of the idea after seeing crime statistics at the bottom of the TV screen every day,” said Ivan Valenzuela, one of the students who conceived and painted the mural. “I thought, ‘let’s put our own statistic out there.’”
Valenzuela said he doesn’t expect those responsible for Chicago’s rising homicide rates to see the mural and drop their guns. But he hopes that by putting a concise, direct message in a public space, people might think twice.
“I want them to think about what they’re doing,” he said. “The choice of having that statistic up there, and to think if you want it to be a dream or a reality. Any effect it has or any emotional attachment people have with it — that’s all in their hands.”
According to Danette Sokacich, principal of the high school, the mural was created using a grant from the Cook County Justice Advisory Council that was earmarked for student use in creating anti-violence campaigns.
But the students involved decided to concentrate on creating a reality Chicago might one day achieve, rather than the one it has today.
“So (this is) instead of focusing on peace messaging and ‘stop the violence’ type of messaging and coming up with an idea that has a more longstanding influence,” she said. “They wanted the message to act like a mantra with the thought that if you see something enough, it becomes real.”
Even for students who haven’t been directly impacted by gun violence, Sokacich said she sees the mural as an opportunity to engage young people in productive work that has a positive outcome. She said that work will continue with a Today Is Tomorrow social media campaign and the development of an elementary school outreach program in which high schoolers will act as “peace ambassadors.”
Sokacich said one of the most inspiring parts of the Today Is Tomorrow “0 Shots, 0 Killed Today In Chicago” mural is that even after being up for nearly a month, it hasn’t been defaced, which is rare for Chicago street art.
“I think that shows even in a community with a lot of violence in it, it’s a respected message,” Sokacich said. “I think the community wants to keep it safe.”
Max Green reports for the WBEZ news desk. Follow him @maxraphaelgreen.