Two of NLU’s star alumni, Liz Dozier and Jackie Samuel, Ph.D., appeared recently on television interviews about how to address the violence plaguing several Chicago communities. Dozier received NLU’s Reach Award, given to outstanding alumni, in 2015, and Samuels received it in 2016.
CNN’s Amara Walker interviewed Liz Dozier ’08, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Administration, on Aug. 29 to gain a better understanding of what can be done to reduce gun violence. Dozier spent six years as principal of Fenger High School on Chicago’s South Side before becoming managing director of Chicago Beyond, an action and advocacy organization.
“People aren’t born gang members,” Dozier said on the show. “It’s about a lack of hope and lack of access–these are the reasons people choose to join a gang as opposed to an after-school club or be invested in their education or other activities.”
She cited a figure of 45,000 Chicagoans between 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working.
Drawing on her experiences as principal at Fenger, in what she described as a tough neighborhood, she said, “It helped me to understand the complexity of what people face. We were able to make change–that inspired me to know that change is possible, growth is possible.”
Both social justice issues and economic issues come into play, she said.
She urged viewers to look beyond the surface level of the high number of guns in the city to the deeper issues. “That’s education, mental health, economic investment in communities,” she said, adding that that the city needs long-term, proactive solutions in these areas.
Jackie Samuel, who works to improve safety and quality of life in the South Chicago neighborhood, appeared on interviewer George Blaise’s “26 N. Halsted” show on WCIU-Channel 26.1 on Aug. 22.
“I think we need to start making people more accountable–we’ve been working with block clubs,” said Samuel, senior program director for Claretian Associates, an affordable housing developer committed to helping youth, seniors and families in South Chicago.
Claretian Associates is providing block club leaders with professional development and training in community-building.
“If a shooting happens on the block, block club people should be trained in psychological first aid. They should know what to do,” Samuel said.
Blocks can also benefit from having a “nosy neighbor,” who might annoy kids by telling them to keep off the grass or get home by the time the street lights come on, but who also plays a role in crime prevention.
“A lot of times people know who shot someone, and nobody’s saying anything,” Blaise commented.
United Way is helping the community devise a common agenda, Samuel said, and a survey of community members last summer found that 50 percent of 126 people surveyed had witnessed a shooting.
“We need to address the impact of violence on the community, so the common agenda now is to be a trauma-informed community,” Samuel shared. “It means we’re going to learn how trauma impacts us. Then we can learn different coping skills we can bring to the community.”
That might include bringing young people to the table, starting peace circles and having the challenging conversations needed to really address deep-rooted community issues.
“A lot of the shootings are about the beefs on social media,” Samuel explained, adding the community has to focus on developing youth to be more responsible, and understanding that what they put on Facebook or Snapchat makes an impact.
This fall, Samuel said, she will be helping develop a series to help young people identify their barriers, such as lack of education or employment, and how Claretian Associates can be of service to them. Several resources exist in the community, such as Sky Art, an arts center, and sports and other activities for children and youth.
“It’s about us as leaders getting to know youth, and them getting to know us so we can figure out how to get them more civically engaged,” she said.