Shooting Down Violence


Congressional Black Caucus at Anti-Violence Summit in Chicago 2013 with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.-podium & Il Reps. Robin Kelly, Maxine Waters (DC), Danny Davis, Bobby Rush, et. al. Photo by Brenda Martin

Violence in Chicago has drawn national attention as many express concern over the grave gun violence, generally, and the mounting gun violence that has taken the lives of youth, specifically.  To address this growing concern, the national Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) with such leaders as Rep. Bobby Rush-former Black Panther, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.-Founder of Rainbow Push Coalition, Reps. Robin Kelly and Danny Davis-both IL and others organized a National Emergency Anti-Violence Summit recently held at Chicago State University.


CBC’s Anti-Violence Summit with Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain teen, Hadiya Pendleton, in Chicago

It humbled me to meet Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of the slain teen, Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago within weeks after performing with the King College Prep High School Band at President Obama’s inauguration in the nation’s capital. As CBS Chicago surmised, ” Police believe Pendleton was the unintended target of a shooter who fired into a crowd, believing he was shooting at rival gang members at Harsh Park on the South Side. Pendleton was with her volleyball team at the time of the shooting, authorities said.”

In chatting with Ms. Cowley-Pendleton, I became increasingly aware of  the ignitive inner strength of some mothers despite the depth of pain.  I was disappointed to find that not all of her interactions with the public over the death of her daughter, were positive ones.  In my hurt for her pain and mothers like her, before even asking permission, I instinctively just kissed her on the cheek and hugged her again.  While the pain of her daughter’s death still lingers, Cowley-Pendleton told MSNBC at the Summit, she is faced with yet another challenge: raising an 11-year-old black boy in America.  “There is a concern there,” she said, of her own son, Nathaniel, facing down stereotypes and prejudices so many African-American men and boys face, sometimes with deadly consequences.  “It is my responsibility to do what I can to lessen that confusion by the time he becomes of age,” Cowley-Pendleton said. “That gives me what, five good years, maybe four, to try to make a change. I’m doing what I can and mourning at the same time.”  Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “Everyday our officers are on the street going after gangs, guns and drugs, and we will continue to do so to make this a safer city.”

 Loading Up Education & Economics


Rep. Sheila Jackson-Tx, Bren Martin, Rep. Bobby Rush-Il


CBC Rep. Danny Davis-Il


Rev. Jesse Jackson at Press Interview Photo by Brenda Martin

It blessed me and other leaders to participate in the conversation regarding school safety and anti-bullying strategies.  We had opportunities to present our concerns and solutions. One of my suggestions – which became part of the final initiatives to be recommended to congress and acted upon by the leaders – involved increasing support for Parent/Family Engagement in Education.  This would involve training parents/families to  better envision how they can be more engaged while better understanding more of the issues confronting their students, administrators and schools. I also strongly recommended more parents/families, including dads/uncles, and community supporters to become a part of their schools Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or request one if there isn’t one there. Experts also offered outreach to increase skills in managing emotional needs and challenges of students.  Other initiatives involved increasing economic growth in urban areas especially where violence is more pervasive. Rev. Jesse Jackson poignantly responded one-on-one to my question to him about needed intervention,  “We need Jobs, jobs, jobs!”  According to Austin Talks, “The lack of gainful employment, basic social services, mental health facilities and other supports are directly related to poverty, which is a precursor to inner-city violence. Ending the cycle of poverty is the only chance of saving our students and their community.”

The involvement by the youth at this summit and the school/community leaders who brought them impressed me very much!   Some high schoolers helped to lead the discussion in our break-out session.  Other elementary/middle schoolers conducted interviews and made their voices heard and their presence felt.


Michael Skolnik moderates the Summit’s Town Hall

Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons, moderated the Summit’s Town Hall.  He selected my question, along with some others to share with the panel, which was my concern over “immediate intervention” to help protect the lives of our children and residents while we implement the more long term solutions of economic empowerment and education engagement.  I wondered if the panel or audience thought military intervention might be needed to aid the police departments. There were crowed murmurs of no, so no formal discussion erupted.

Driving Home the Point

I drove from Kentucky to attend this summit in my hometown because like many, I am grief stricken by the devastating loss of life.  The concern over the loss of lives in this country is not a misplaced emotion.  However, some contend that when you look at the number of murders in Chicago relative to its large size, Chicago falls short of actually being the murder capital that it is informally touted to being.  One reporter believes, “The key is to take the number of murders, multiply by 100,000 and then divide by the population. That gives you the standard expression of the homicide rate: murders per 100,000.”  According to Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star, “Turns out it’s a dangerous place, but not even in the top 20 most deadly cities. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn crunched preliminary FBI data on homicides, noting Chicago was safer than, among others places, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Kansas City, Montgomery, Memphis and Richmond.”  That said, whether your city is perceived to be the most dangerous – as in Chicago, or one of the safest – as in Sandy Hook, whether a child is killed on the streets or in a classroom, America aches. We all deserve to be safe and to feel safe in this great land of ours, because after all, “There is no place like home.”

About Bren Martin

Brenda is an education advocate and has been an active leader in the schools, church and community. She is a National PTA Social Media Ambassador and was a Panelist on NBC's Education Nation in New York City, "Stepping Up: The Power of a Parent Advocate," for Parenting Magazine. Brenda was honored by the U. S. Department of Education and the White House as a “Champion of Change” for educational advocacy. She is Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress-Kentucky delegate and a recipient of Knowledge Universe-KinderCare’s Education Achievement Award! (See Parenting Magazine’s, “The Power and Potential of Parent Advocates,“ and one of Brenda’s articles, “Changing Us, Changes Them.“) Some of her services include: District PTA President and State PTA Board; Education Commissioner's Steering Committee for Teacher Effectiveness. She is a former regional President, Gifted Education; Summer Camp Creator/Director; Church Youth Director; Vacation Bible School Director; Prichard Committee’s Commonwealth of Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) Fellow; School Based Decision Making; Employability Skills Consultant to prison & colleges; Television Special host and more. Also, Follow Brenda on Twitter @bdrumartin. Disclaimer: Use sites, blogs, information or links at your own risk.
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5 Responses to Shooting Down Violence

  1. Pingback: Debate and Switch's Blog

  2. Evangelist Gore, thank you for the encouraging remarks! You are a gifted and anointed woman of God and I am honored that you took the time to share your thoughts with us. Feel free to share more about your prison ministry. When I am in Chicago, I would be willing to share more dialog with you on your television show. You might also enjoy reading my article, The School-to-Prison Pipeline ( Also, Readers can click on your name to learn more about your site.


  3. My name is Emmanuel Barbee and I am a new urban author of the book “The Solution For Black America: Reclaiming, Rebuilding, And Restoring The Urban Ghettos In America” Second Edition. I wrote my book in order to generate capital/seed money to offer incentives to thirty talented individuals within the state of Illinois or beyond who have read my book and agree with what I am trying to do in Urban America. My Book is available on


    • Geneva Gore says:

      MY name is Evang. Geneva Eskridge-Gore. I am heavily involved in the prison ministry. I do believe that if we enforce education is our community it will affect change.
      Thank you for shining the light on the darkness that seems to be announced but yet ignored at the same time. Keep doing what you’re doing as an advocate for education and for change in the African American communities. I really enjoyed this article.


  4. theptafairy says:

    Thank you for writing this article Bren Martin! 😀


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