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Mothers Against Senseless Killing Promote a New Vision

Andy and Leslie Willis  |  Issue: September | October 2016
Mothers Against Senseless Killings

Protest of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. | Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (M.A.S.K. by its acronym in English), and supporters ask questions at the Delegation of Police from the 6th District about why they are being harassed for saving lives in Chicago.
PHOTO: Julie Dermansky and Andy Willis


CHICAGO, IL — Chicago is not only a tale of two cities—the Magnificent Mile vs. poverty stricken neighborhoods—it’s also the tale of two visions. One vision is to secure our city with military-style police who terrorize dispossessed communities. The other vision is to have sharing and nurturing neighborhoods where resources become the property of all. Mothers Against Senseless Killing (M.A.S.K.) is an organization that works everyday to make that revolutionary vision a reality.

M.A.S.K. has been in operation for two years on one of the most dangerous corners in Englewood, one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. They bring peace by feeding people, by meeting and talking with each other; they provide a friendly place for children to gather. The love demonstrated by the men and women of M.A.S.K. has real effects. Violence has been greatly reduced and everyone agrees that they represent hope for a different reality, free of deprivation.

You would think M.A.S.K would be heralded as heroes. But no, they face constant harassment by property owners and police. When a landlord complained he didn’t want them set up near his building, he complained to the alderman and M.A.S.K. leader, Tamar Manasseh, was forced to come to a meeting at the police station. Neither the landlord nor the alderman showed up, but about 30 community supporters of M.A.S.K. did.

Supporters came from all over Chicago, where the model of going to trouble spots to share a meal and conversation has caught people’s imagination. Some call them healing corners. But the police and often government officials don’t like it. Such sites present an opposite narrative to the zero tolerance, mass incarceration, police beatings and murders that are more and more the daily lot of our poorest communities.

Supporters left the police station with a tentative agreement for this summer and some assurance that the harassment from the landlord was over for the time being. But that very evening one of M.A.S.K.’s members returned home to find an eviction notice.

As the incidents of harassment and such obstacles pile up, Tamar Manasseh issued this statement on her Facebook page: “We try to make people’s lives better and the government doesn’t come up off a dime in support of it . . . but we have to constantly beg you to not be a hindrance! We have to beg you to let us feed your people somewhere that’s clean. We have to beg you to not harass and threaten us while we’re doing our good work. Now we even have to beg you to grant us a permit to host a block party, an event you don’t have to spend a dime on, to supply the children in YOUR area with all of the necessary tools they need to return to school!!!! I’ll be damned if I’m gonna BEG anybody to allow me to help the people that they should already be helping!”

If the government can’t provide its people with the necessaries of life then it is unfit to rule. It needs to turn over the abundant resources to the people who need them. Our neighborhoods have leaders like those in M.A.S.K. who know what it means to build a sharing and cooperative community.

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