How to Stop the Violence? Parenting, Community Groups, Jobs

The founder of Black Men Against Violence has some ideas to prevent future violent deaths in Evanston. “If we continue to allow this, black men will become extinct," says Tracey Wallace.

Earlier this week, I shared the first part of my conversation with Tracey Wallace, founder of Black Men Against Violence. He formed the group shortly after the shooting death of 19-year-old Justin Murray in late November. Since then, he and his group have held several meetings, and now he’s trying to put some of the group’s ideas into practice.

Click here to read the first part of our conversation, or read on for the second part, when Tracey Wallace talked about some of the programs he hopes to implement.

Conception To College

In his vision, Black Men Against Violence will tailor programs and services to every life stage. He imagines a team approach, in which 25 people are committed to an individual for support.

“If you are an unwed teen mother,” Wallace says, “we have to surround you with love and support. Let’s make sure you have everything you need. We could build an entire nation of people going to college.”

The 25 people committed to one individual would share two to three hours here and there, creating a “village” of support.

Parenting is Key

Wallace shares a sentiment he recently posted on his Facebook Page. “If you want to hide something from black people, put it in a book.”


“My dad couldn’t read,” he says, “but my mom and dad knew the importance of education. My dad didn’t go to every conference because he was working, but my mom worked in the school I went to [Central School, now Park School]. I was in the first desegregated class in 1967. She worked in the cafeteria. When I went to Nichols Middle School, she worked in the cafeteria there.”

Wallace’s mom also worked at ETHS when Wallace went to high school. He graduated in the class of 1980.

“If I walked on the wrong side of the hallway, she knew about it,” he says. “It was that commitment to raising me.”

After he graduated, his mom went on to work at longtime ETHS rival New Trier, Wallace adds. “I wasn’t too happy about that.”

Wallace clearly wants to help parents raise their kids right. “Every parent loves their child,” he says, “but not all of them know which aspects to invest in to ensure success.”

Working with the Evanston Jr. Wildkit Football program, Wallace sees single moms arriving late to morning practices with their sons. “Some of these moms say to us, ‘I was out partying last night and couldn’t get up.’” He recognizes parents in these situations need to make time for themselves, but believes that they often don’t realize how significantly their actions can affect their children.

“We have to spend time with these kids. There has to be a comfort level. We can’t be afraid of them,” he says. That way, Wallace adds, we can “guide them in a better way.”

How Community Organizations Can Help

The Jr. Wildkits is a good example of how a program can step in to help kids, Wallace says Wallace, who is a coach and assistant director of community relations.

“Believe it or not, the program’s not based on football,” he explains. “It’s academics, character and teamwork for 4th through 8th graders, and football’s the carrot.” The current enrollment includes about 60 kids on scholarship, Wallace explains, with an overriding focus on discipline and respect.

“If there’s a senior in the high school who was a Jr. Wildkit, it’s always, ‘Yes, Sir. No, Sir.’ And we’ll always ask these guys: How are your grades? What are you doing in school these days? They respect us as mentors and know we support them. It helps to guide them.”

Wallace points to the many and varied youth groups in Evanston and hopes to see more of them adopt a similar and collective approach.

“We have to emphasize that if you care about these kids, you have to be there for them,” Wallace says.

While many programs attempt to serve disadvantaged youth, Wallace believes that some are falling short.  “For lack of a better phrase…we’re calling them out.”

How does he plan to call them out? Wallace plans to form a Youth Organization Summit to bring youth groups together and work collectively toward supporting at-risk kids in the community.

Employing The Unemployable

Perhaps most importantly, Wallace says, young adults need jobs. He talks about young men feeling they must “live fast and die young. If you’re surrounded by that, you believe it.” 

 “We talk so much about unemployment but not enough about the unemployable,” Wallace continues. “You’ve got these guys walking in for jobs with their jeans hanging around their butts and a toothpick in their mouths saying they want jobs, but you won’t get one like that.” He also points to attitudes like showing up late or not showing up at all.

“Even a minimum wage job,” Wallace says, “gives a sense of accomplishment; a feeling that they won’t shoot me.”

Clearly, there’s much work to be done. But Wallace appears energized and up to the task. 


Jennifer Fisher December 21, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Lonson, thanks for commenting. To be fair to Christine, I wrote the line "Tracey Wallace talked about some of the programs he hopes to implement." But it seemed to me that the Youth Organization Summit and the "conception to college" were best described as programs.
Lonson Williams December 24, 2012 at 12:58 PM
It looks like the group is off to a great start: Sleeping child unhurt after shots fired into Evanston home http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/evanston/chi-evanston-shooting,0,5626367.story
Christine Wolf December 25, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Mr. Williams, do you really hold to your beliefs that the Evanston police need to revamp their policies to provide more protection? Should there have been an officer outside every house in town, just in case someone decides to shoot into a residence and into the mattress of a sleeping child? To deride Mr. Wallace's grassroots efforts by suggesting they've already failed ("...looks like the group is off to a great start") is nothing short of ludicrious. The path to stopping the violence in Evanston will likely include many tactics, and I applaud those who take a stand by trying to do something. Not every effort will work, but neither will sitting by and criticizing others. It's easy to declare that there are more effective or long-lasting approaches to a problem -- but much harder bringing people together and facing the problems head-on. You've criticized someone's efforts before they've even had a chance to be implemented. It's one thing to ask questions or express doubt, but to come out firing without thinking...well, I think we can all agree it's happening too often around here. To be clear, you said, "I find it a bit humorous that this guy wants to bring organizations together to 'work collectively' when he goes online and tells people with a different view than his to 'shut the f*ck up', but I must point out one thing: Mr. Wallace did not go online and tell people with a different view to do that; he told YOU.
Mark Vale December 28, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Christine, very nice commentary..What you're describing is the typical 'staus quo' in Evanston....Rarely are they interested in outside input with respect to 9th Ward and it's unending crime rate..The individual you were talking about really doesn't care what outside people like us have to say...My thoughts are that most of us know by now how political the Evanston infrastructure is...Shootings and calls for service are consistently on the same path every year and yet individuals within the community continue to finger point and blame others who have nothing to do with the violence, but rather shunning others who are attempting to assist, but often times, the accusers do not take any responsibility for what is happening and continue to blame everything on people who have nothing to do with the futures of many of the young men..Shooting someone or into a house is a problem that that the City of Evanston needs to address rather than holding unreasonable expectations for those not responsible...Same o same o......
Festus McMoron February 05, 2013 at 01:24 PM
....as i heard someone say, why don't they make you have a license before having a kid. go thru training, etc. laughed but what a good idea. here's a little exerpt about 'who really needs preschool.' Children with professional parents heard about 30 million words by the time they turned 3, compared with 20 million in working-class families and 10 million in welfare families. In addition, the ratio of parental encouragements to reprimands was about 6-to-1 among professional families, 2-to-1 among the working class and 1-to-2 in welfare homes. These different experiences closely tracked with the children’s later academic and intellectual performance, and other studies have since supported these findings. so what does it tell us? black families have to start paying attention to their kids from day one. don't send them off to kindergarden not knowing their a,b,c's or having already learned some of the basics of reading. i'm getting sick of all the excuses.


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