Cookouts, cocoa and free hugs: Chicago mom challenges gun violence one neighborhood at a time
01/15/2016 3:05 pm PST
Crime Watch Daily visited Chicago to meet up with a group of courageous moms who are trying to take back their city one neighborhood at a time.
The city of Chicago saw 2,986 shooting victims in 2015; 442 were killed.
Bullets fly almost daily in the Windy City, mostly on the west and south sides of the city. Many victims were innocent children.
But amid the violence and tragedy, one brave Chicago mother is stepping out and saying "Enough!" Outraged with what's going on in areas of her own hometown, she's on a mission. And you don't want to mess with a mom on a mission.
"It's to take our streets back. It's to better the lives of the people who live in our neighborhoods," said Tamar.
In the summer months, when temperatures and tempers are at their highest, Tamar and about 15 volunteers hold cookouts, give free hugs and walk the neighborhoods -- not in bulletproof vests, but in their hot-pink shirts.
"I tell people all the time when they ask me, Aren't I afraid to be out on the street corner doing what I do? I'm more afraid of what will happen if I'm not out there," said Tamar Manasseh.
Tamar says kids in the toughest neighborhoods are not being loved, cared for or parented, and she wants to bring that back, old-school style.
"I grew up with a mother who sat on the porch while I played. I grew up with a grandmother who would watch me walk to the corner store," said Tamar. "Kids were looked after once upon a time, and they need that. And we don't give that to them anymore. But what we at MASK do, we brought that back.
"Sometimes you have to parent your neighbor's kids, and sometimes your neighbors have to parent your kids," said Tamar.
Tamar says although she hasn't personally lost a loved one to gun violence, the devastating effects are never more than a few blocks away.
For 64 days last summer, the efforts made by the volunteers at MASK proved to be an especially powerful force in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood.
And Last Fourth of July weekend, while many parts of Chicago were in a war zone -- 55 people were shot and 10 died -- the MASK army of moms patrolled and hugged their way into a violence-free, peaceful weekend.
In the fall and winter months, MASK recruits so they're ready to go come spring and summer.
On one particular day we visited, Tamar and her crew were giving out free hugs and cocoa in the hopes of signing up new volunteers.
Tamar says saving children's lives can begin with care, concern and a cup of coffee.
Tamar's passion is inspiring to so many people.
"I just don't even have the words to describe how proud of her I am, and I'm proud of what she's doing," said Tamar's mother, Everloyce McCullough. "She's bringing out the best in so many other people. This is just so rewarding."
Tamar says gun violence is not just a Chicago problem, and she hopes the MASK movement will catch on in cities all across the country. She says it will take men and women young and old to join the fight.
"Everyone has to be involved in the fight against gun violence. Everyone has to be involved in the fight to save lives," said Tamar.
"Everything always seems so complicated. This is not complicated. It's a lawn chair, some hot cocoa and some cookies, and you can change the world with that," said Tamar. "It's that simple."
MASK is volunteer- and donation-driven, or it comes right out of Tamar's own pocket.
Tamar says it's a small price to pay when she sees kids who never had goals now working and planning for their futures.