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What can one person do about gun violence?

People talk about small steps that can bring change

Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. The Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers: A summer of horrific gun violence that continues daily from Orlando, Florida, to Milwaukee is prompting athletes and activists across the country to ask themselves what can be done. This week, The Undefeated looks at some of the issues involved and holds a town hall discussion in Chicago, the site of some of the nation’s worst gun violence.

What can one person do to help solve the problems of gun violence?

The Undefeated hosted a series of panel discussions in Chicago Thursday on violence, athletes and social responsibility. After those conversations were finished, we asked some of the people there what steps an individual could take after hearing the heartbreaking stories of loss shared by the famous and not-so-famous alike.

“I really believe it takes one caring person to change a child or a human being’s life, so I think that anyone out there that wants to actually help stop the violence should take a step towards an individual who was traumatized by the experience,” said town hall attendee Michael Fryer.

“I live in Chicago, I was born and raised here in Chicago, I’m a professor in Chicago, my kids live here in the Chicagoland area. Every opportunity I get to volunteer in Englewood or in Auburn Gresham, I’m there,” he said, referring to two of the city’s more disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Father Michael Pfleger leads St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side and is one of the city’s most visible critics of the country’s response to violence and racism. Small changes can lead to larger outcomes, he said.

“From one person on the block, they can say we’re not going to tolerate any shooting or killing on this block,” Pfleger said. “From one person in a business, they can try to hire a brother out there who needs a job. I think there’s all sorts of things that one person can do from whatever their perspective is. I think everybody has a place in this. Nobody gets a pass in this. Everybody has to do their part because there’s no time for amateur quarterbacks in this violence out here right now.”

Some of the younger people in attendance were a bit skeptical.

Osheundede Asenguah, a 15-year-old junior at Chicago Military Academy, wasn’t convinced that there’s much he can do on his own, aside from keeping a positive outlook.

“As an individual, I can’t really do much, but one thing I know that I can do is give off a positive energy,” Asenguah said. “A lot of things in the media focuses on the negative things in today’s society. They don’t focus on the positive things like people graduating, people being successful with their personal success stories, kids doing this, communities going up. I can’t give into that, make that positive energy flow instead of just blocking it off. Become a part of the good things in life instead of just being part of the negative, being a pessimist.”

Robert Holloway, 18, a student at St. Augustine Community College, took a more collective approach.

“One thing I can do as an individual is try to unite and educate the people,” Holloway said. “If you misled, you not educated, then where you gon’ go? You don’t know what’s going on. One thing I can do is basically educate the people. Let them know what’s going on, the role they can play in it.”

Mika Robinson, a South Side resident who works at MillerCoors, said the solutions may not be simple enough that the actions of one person will be effective. Instead, success depends on a joint effort among everyone in Chicago and the surrounding areas, she said.

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“I don’t think it’s a one-person answer,” Robinson said. “I think that, as they said, it takes a village to make a change. It takes a community and just doing something like this [town hall] and getting more involved, just bringing more awareness and showing the kids that people do care about you, I think that helps.”

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, a Chicago native, prioritizes community involvement. Parker has worked on school initiatives and hosted basketball camps, and said he believes all it takes is one person to create change.

“Just one person can spark the mind and change the viewpoints of a lot of biased folks out here who really don’t think the system itself is unequal,” Parker said. “It just gives people awareness of the things that we face from my experiences or another’s person, and they’ll know this needs to stop.”

Olympic track and field star Kristi Castlin met with children from local community groups before Thursday’s event and showed them the bronze medal she won in the 100-meter hurdles in Rio de Janeiro. She ran the race with gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali; it was the first time American women had swept all three medals in an Olympic track and field event.

She said she plans to become more accessible to children who may not have a consistent mentor in their lives.

“I’m very transparent,” Castlin said. “I want them to know what it takes to be successful, what I went through and I want them to see themselves in me.”