In response to a Halloween-weekend shooting at a Flossmoor home that left a young man dead, the Village of Flossmoor partnered with local officials and support groups to host a conversation meetup for teenagers.
Over pizza and lemonade at Wiley’s Grill on Sunday, Nov. 21, young people and their caregivers had a chance to talk about their worries and hopes for the future.
“Some recent trauma in the area has highlighted the need for this,” said Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson. “We’re bringing kids together to have difficult conversations in a safe space.”
Late on Oct. 30, partygoers exited a home in the Ballantrae neighborhood as a fight ensued. Someone fired a gun, according to police, shooting four people. One man, 18-year-old Kevin R. Jones of South Holland, died shortly after being transported to a hospital. Three others suffered gunshot wounds.
Flossmoor Police Chief Tod Kamleiter said no suspect is in custody. He would not comment on what led to the altercation, or whether the shooting was gang-related.
At least one of the people shot is a graduate at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. At the Nov. 16 meeting of Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233, Board President Gerald Pauling expressed concern for students and graduates who were involved in and witnessed the incident.
Pauling said he extends the district's support to those individuals and said graduates are “still members of the H-F family. They need our support, and we intend to support them.”
Nelson said Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller called her to help organize the Nov. 21 event. Miller connected her Englewood-based Good Kids Mad City (GKMC) and Purple Pathways, two organizations that focus on helping communities in need.
“We like to look at things through a Black restorative lens, so we help anywhere that we can step in with resources, advocacy and support for Black and brown communities,” said Taylore Norwood, GKMC co-founder.
Shaniqua Jones, the president of Purple Pathways, explained how these organizations teach about and employ restorative justice, which forgoes punishment models in favor of methods that advance personal growth.
“When there’s a harm or offense, we bring together shareholders who have been affected by that wrong so they can have a voice about how they felt, what they can do to move forward and be accountable for their actions,” Jones said.
As academic and social life changed for teens during the pandemic, they were often left out of decisions that affected them, Jones said.
With every social and age group reporting elevated stress levels, Jones said teens already struggling in difficult environments have felt even more pressure.
“We’re seeing an increased level of violence in terms of rage. Too often we tell our young that they’re too young to talk, or they’re not included in decisions that affect them,” she said.
“We’re still following traditional methods, and many of those traditional methods have been dysfunctional. They weren't working before the pandemic; they definitely won’t work now.”
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, who represents Homewood and Flossmoor in Congress, attended the meeting, as did Commissioner Miller. From H-F High School, Guidance Department Chairman Jim Schmidt attended along with the school’s four social workers.
Nelson also invited Destiny Watson, the president of the nonprofit You Matter 2, to highlight positive community outlets for teens.
Before Jones facilitated a “peace circle” for young people to talk about their feelings, Nelson offered thanks and some reflection.
“Our youth witness violence not just in person, but online, and I’m not OK with it,” she said. “I’m not OK with out-of-control parties that result in folks getting injured or killed. I’m not OK with kids getting beat up outside of a football game. I’m not OK with kids vaping or smoking or doing other things that harm them. And if I’m not OK with it, I know you aren’t either.”