Hyde Park Neighborhood Club students create anti-gun violence music video

By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
Contributing Writer

Students from the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club summer program came together to create a music video aiming to raise awareness about gun violence in honor of fellow HPNC junior counselor Jeremiah Kimble, who was tragically shot earlier this summer while on his way to work.

The 17-year-old, described as a “positive student leader” by HPNC Director of Programming Christy Beighe-Byrne, is currently in rehabilitation recovering from his injuries.

“Jeremiah was placed with us through One Summer Chicago, a program that provides real-world work opportunities for Chicago teens,” said Sarah Diwan, executive director of the HPNC in a statement. “He was well loved by the kids in our summer camp and always super helpful to the teachers.”

Teenagers at HPNC quickly gathered to create the “Leaders in Training” (LIT) team, a group formed to focus on a topic of social interest, understand how it affects the community and gather ideas on how to solve these issues through positive discussion and creative thinking. The seventh through ninth graders enrolled in the LIT team decided to use Kimble’s experience as inspiration to create a project that would not only reach the Hyde Park community but youth and adults across Chicago.

With the help of teachers MyElle Layfield and Zachariah Austen, students worked tirelessly alongside their mentors to create a music video inspired by their reflections on gun violence in the City of Chicago.

“At the time, we didn’t feel like we were raising enough awareness about this harsh topic in our society,” said Austen, who also teaches fourth through sixth graders at the HPNC. “During the creative process of putting together the music video, all of the kids played a pivotal role by stepping out of their comfort zone, sharing ideas, researching statistics, and telling their own stories of how they have encountered this situation in our community, with family or friends. It was about arriving to a common ground, and sharing a message of positivity about a topic often perceived as negative.”

Austen added that students were taught about the use of vocabulary in their lyric writing, how different words can share altering levels of impact and how to make a message flow and be heard.

“Having the kids include their different perspectives throughout the creation of the video was an important element in making this a collaborative project,” said Austen.

The video, which was written and choreographed by the students, was completed over the course of two weeks. Students visited a recording studio and filmed the music video in the Hyde Park neighborhood with scenes at Promontory Point, the Museum of Science and Industry, Nichols Park and the HPNC.

The young participants revealed their music video during to the entire HPNC community of students, parents and faculty during the HPNC’s Summer Bash held on Aug. 16.

Lyrics included “drop the guns, drop the violence,” to which students sang along during the event and “love is the meaning of life.”

“Gun violence has been affecting our community and youth in Chicago for some time,” said Layfield during the summer event. “We wanted to share a positive message on the subject of gun-violence, which has sadly affected our very own foundation this summer. Our LIT students came together to use music as a vehicle for social justice and let their voices be heard.”

“We wanted our voice to be heard and let the community know we won’t be silent,” said a student during the presentation. “We want the world to know that our generation has a positive message to share and we can stop this violence one day.”

Beighe-Byrne said, “Jeremiah’s journey is not done. We want to give him and his family the space to recover. He’s made it this far with support of his community, friends, and family. We hope we have him join us next year, he’s a great kid.”

The music video will be released in the upcoming weeks by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club on their website: www.hpnclub.org.

hpherald@hpherald.com