CHICAGO – Flanked by more than 70 wheelchair users, most of whom were disabled by gun violence, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams Ph.D. encouraged youth and adults to speak out for “Safe Schools and Safe Communities” during the 78th annual Bud Billiken parade.
The first message of the IDHS entry- See Something? Say Something!- inspires youth and adults to act to stop the violence in their neighborhoods. The Department is promoting the slogan as an antidote to the destructive “don’t snitch” rule popularized in urban communities.
“None of us can afford to be silent in the face of the destruction and violence that is threatening our way of life, endangering our youth, and destroying our future,” said Secretary Adams PhD. “It’s time to break our silence about gun violence.”
The IDHS entry included members of the Broken Winggz Foundation who have been victims of gun violence, MAGIC Chicago (Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization), an organization that promotes positive youth development, and rapper Malik Yusef.
Spoken word artist Malik Yusef, AKA “The WordSmyth”, was the voice of the entry as he delivered strong and powerful messages all along the parade route. Yusef has developed a reputation as a hip-hop musician and an exemplary urban poet who brings a message on the importance of education and prevention of gang related activity.
Like human billboards displaying the impact of violence, the wheelchair participants were powerful reminder of consequences of gun violence. Broken Winggz founder, Eric Wilkins, and Levon Stone of MAGIC, both living testaments of the effects of gun violence, are reaching out to others who have been disabled by violence. Working with IDHS, they want others to know that they can be messengers and activists against violence. They rode under the banner, “Come Roll with Us…Make a Difference in Your Community.”
Wilkins, who was shot and paralyzed in May 1999, said he rolls with IDHS, because, “I want each person who's in a chair due to gun violence to know that there is a community where they can begin to heal and put their lives back together.”
The second message of the IDHS entry is just as powerful as the first-“Don’t Dis’ Your ABILITY….” That message was reinforced by the last banner in the IDHS entry. “We want people with disabilities to know that we are here for them, their lives are not over, and they still have opportunities to use their abilities,” said IDHS Secretary Adams.
While spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries have traditionally been associated with falls and accidents, increasingly they are the result of gunshot wounds according to statistics from the IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services. Using the parade as an outreach opportunity, IDHS informed people with disabilities about the services available that can help to increase their independence and productivity.
The back of the last banner alerted onlookers that people with disabilities can contact IDHS for assistance with jobs, education, training, medical benefits, housing and transportation. Those in need of support are urged to call the IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services at (800) 843-6154 or (800) 447-6404 TTY.