Pritzker’s meeting with West Side faith and community leaders left a lot to be desired • The TRiiBE

Their comments and questions ranged from the state’s witness protection program and the need for an assault weapons ban to how the governor would ensure community organizations receive the investments they need to violence prevention programs and whether there has been success elsewhere for gun buy-back programs.

A leader, Cherry, did not have a lap because of the weather. Afterward, Pritzker’s team gave The TRiiBE 10 minutes for a one-on-one interview before heading to their next meeting.

“I think the governor is sincere in whatever he wants to do. I wanted to make sure he understood that I think state laws make a difference when it comes to poverty alleviation and breaking the cycle of trauma that goes from generation to generation. So these things take money from the government, and I’m glad they got involved,” Rabbi Serotta said in a follow-up interview with THE TRiBE.

Pritzker in May announced $113 million in funding for community organizations working on violence prevention and disruption across the state. The money will be awarded to those who apply for a grant. The grant applications are part of a series of funding opportunities aimed at reducing gun violence. That same month, it also banned the sale and possession of phantom, untraceable, and serialized weapons. They can be purchased online and assembled at home.

In 2021, Pritzker signed legislation to expand background checks on all gun sales in Illinois and modernized the gun owner identification card system. His administration also launched the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention, which invests in community-based violence prevention programs for communities most affected by gun violence.

The governor also advocated for an assault weapons ban following the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park. “I think all of you around the table in your communities and among your congregations have experienced the horrors of gun violence,” Pritzker said.

“It’s a challenge that got worse over time, not better. We can all talk about the more recent challenges that made it worse. But let’s just say it [gun violence] has been a long-term problem, and we need to treat it as if it were a long-term problem with long-term solutions,” Pritzker continued. “If we can’t address poverty in communities where people have been left behind and left behind, we’re not doing our job.”

During Thursday’s roundtable, no young people or black women were present. Asked about the composition of the roundtable, Pritzker said the meeting was one of many conversations he’s had with different groups inside and outside the faith community over the past few months.

“I asked Reverend Acree to put together a group of leaders and try to solve this problem in their communities,” Pritzker told TRiiBE. “It’s not the only type of group I come across.”

For many religions, the church has always been the backbone of the community. During the civil rights movement, leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King mobilized people using the church as a vehicle to get the message out. The black church, in particular, was the movement’s base of operations. Black churches used their space to “organize meetings and rallies, demonstrations and offer emotional, moral and spiritual support,” according to a short PBS documentary on the subject.

Today, however, the influence of the black church has diminished. Younger generations are not as religious as their parents or grandparents, and many marginalized communities feel ostracized by the church.

“Anti-LGBTQ+ teachings in the church are giving way to increased anxiety, suicidal ideation and depression among LGBTQ+ people,” wrote TRiiBE contributor Derrick Clifton for after the United Methodist Church split over LGBTQ+ rights.

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