For three individuals, exposure to gun violence has inspired them to create change in their communities. A pastor dedicated to helping families cope with the loss of a loved one, an ex-con hoping to keep young men and women off the streets by giving them work opportunities and education, and a boxer wants to right the wrongs that he contributed to when he was younger by providing a place for mental health for those who live through violence.
More than 50 friends and family members have gathered, forming a prayer circle in a parking lot on the corner of 93rd and South Halsted streets, in Washington Heights. In front of a convenience store, a lone balloon blows in the wind — a memorial to a man who was shot to death inside on Aug. 18 at 2:30 p.m., when two gunmen entered the convenience store and began firing. Oyedele Olupitan was 42.
A group of drummers play traditional African music on djembes and the chatter of people greeting and catching up fills the air. Some are dressed in traditional African attire and a man waves the Ghanaian flag on the outskirts. The music quiets and Pastor Donavon Price walks into the center and begins to pray.