MASK to receive violence prevention grant from U. of C. Medicine

Mother’s Against Senseless Killings founder Tamar Manasseh talks about the senseless violence in the city during a school supply drive on the corner of 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue last August. – Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), an Englewood based organization is one of seven organizations that were recently awarded capacity building grants from University of Chicago (U. of C.) Medicine.

Tamar Manasseh, president and founder of MASK, an organization that seeks to prevent and disrupt violence in targeted communities by promoting good health and addressing safety issues, said she is grateful for the support from U. of C. Medicine.

The grants are to provide immediate support to community-based prevention, intervention, and recovery efforts on the south side.

“Violent incidents in our community are more prevalent during summer months,” Brenda Battle, vice president of Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer for the University of Chicago Medicine, said in a written statement. “As a community partner, it is imperative that we work with local grassroots organizations to identify and activate solutions that will help keep children and adults safe.”

U. of C. Medicine’s Community Advisory Council and its Trauma Care and Violence Prevention programs came together to identify ways for U. of C. Medicine to respond to increasing violence at the end of the school year and the start of summer.

The concept that was developed out of those working sessions were rapid cycle grants to assist grassroots organizations that have violence prevention programs.

Community-based organizations were encouraged to apply for the grants in early May.

MASK headquarters is located on the 7500 block of South Stewart Avenue and the organization has a branch in Hyde Park. Manasseh said the organization would use the funds to support programs that are currently in place.

“We feed about a hundred people a day every single day,” Manasseh said. “We are building a playground putting in turf, sod, and concrete to make the neighborhood a bit safer and to create a safe space for the entire community not just for the children.”

Construction of the playground is underway, Manasseh said she wants the playground to be a “place where everybody in the community can come together and talk and meet each other.”

Additionally, MASK will use the grant money toward summer camps that they will begin in the coming weeks.

While Manasseh said she has seen a decline in shootings in the one-mile radius surrounding their hub of operation in Englewood since the organization formed three years ago, she believes there is still more work to be done.

She said she has been able to convince many kids in the area to stop shooting in the neighborhood.

“I can’t seem to get them jobs, so they still end up in jail for other crimes,” Manasseh said. “I can’t pay their rent, buy their clothes, or feed their children. When people turn their lives around there are so few opportunities for them. I haven’t been able to find them the jobs or the field training that they may need.”

The Hyde Park branch of MASK began boosting its presence in the area last year, Manasseh said members from Hyde Park regularly come to Englewood to volunteer.

Last year, members organized a massive school supply drive.

“Hyde Park has a large school supply drive,” Manasseh said. “They collect a lot of school supplies and school uniforms in Hyde Park, and then we distribute them.”

This year, Hyde Park MASK members will do the same. School supplies will be given to those in need at MASK’s end of summer block party that will be held during Labor Day weekend this year.

MASK is also working in the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago as well as Evansville, Ind., Memphis, Tenn., and Staten Island, N.Y.

Other grant recipients for the award include Breaking Bread, Crushers Club, Gary Comer Youth Center, Global Girls, Inc., Kids Off the Block, Inc., and Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors.

The rapid cycle grants are part of U. of C. Medicine’s ongoing effort to assist community organizations with evidence-based violence prevention programs.