Thomas often returns to his roots on the West Side of Chicago. While seeing family and old friends and watching most of the community strive to improve their lives brings that famous smile to his face, there’s a part of being home that also makes him sad.
Violence and drugs have always harmed Chicago’s streets, and Thomas has never been able to ignore it. Chicago’s homicide rate this summer has especially worried Thomas and caught the attention of the national media. In August alone, Chicago recorded 57 homicides — which was up from 37 in the same month in 2011, according to data from Chicago RedEye, a Chicago Tribune publication.
“Ninety to 95 percent of the people who are living in poverty in those situations, they’re kids going to schools, their parents are doing the right things,” Thomas said. “There’s a community of the church, community of aunts and uncles who are about contributing positively to society.
“Now, there is a fraction to be addressed, and we need to address that small minority that is in need and is doing harm to the community. We are all affected by it personally.”
Thomas isn’t just saying Chicago needs help, he’s also trying to provide it. He has teamed up with St. Sabina on the South Side and father Michael Pfleger to create the PEACE basketball tournament, which will unite rival gang members through basketball in hopes of ceasing the violence between them. The tournament will be held at St. Sabina’s gymnasium from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“Father Pfleger does a Friday night peace march, and he invited me out because of the work I’ve been doing with youth and gang violence starting back in ’86…
Read more: Scott Powers, ESPN