THE BLOG
10/02/2014 11:41 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

Changing Chicago: Reducing Violence in the Windy City

Chicago is home to some of the greatest architecture, culture, food and people in the country. Frank Sinatra sang about the people in the song My Kind of Town he said, "My kind of people, too. People who smile at you." If you walk along North Ave Beach during the summer, you'll see people smiling from ear to ear, if you smile at them, they'll smile back at you. Or go to a Chicago Bears game, everybody's for the most part, friendly.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won the championship in 2013, over two million people came out to celebrate at the parade. Even on a local level Chicago fans are supportive; Jackie Robinson West Little League was recently in the little league World Series. When they came home, over 12,000 people showed up for their parade. President Obama even called the Jackie Robinson's head coach Darold Butler to congratulate him.

However, it's also home currently to one of the highest rates of gun violence in the country. In 2012, Chicago had 500 murders; in 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that there were 440 murders, and is currently reporting 280 murders.

The rapper Common just released an album in July entitled No Buddy's Smiling. The album was influenced by the ongoing violence occurring in Chicago -- Common's hometown. Common is trying to help out in the community by raising awareness about job creation and other activates through his foundation, the Common Ground Foundation.

Joakim Noah, a player on the Chicago Bulls, is urging Chicago to "stand up," and is raising awareness through his organization Noah's Arc Foundation. On Twitter, the hashtag #ChicagoStandUp is trending to raise awareness about the violence in Chicago. Noah recently took part in the Chicago Peace Basketball Tournament. The tournament was organized by a Roman Catholic Priest and social activist named Michael Pfleger, who brought on Joakim Noah, Cobe William, and Deuce Powell. Many famous faces were in attendance, including Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, and Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls.

Derrick Rose also just gave one million dollars to After School Matters, an initiative that is helping Chicago school children get access to out-of-school apprenticeship services in the area of science, sports and other productive activities.

On a local level, there are activists like Marshawn Feltus, who is teaching yoga in Chicago's Westside. Feltus, a former member of a gang, killed someone when he was 17, and he ended up spending 18 years and nine months in prison. Now, he's out there trying to make a difference in the lives of young people, trying to persuade them to do the right thing with their lives. One of the tools he uses is yoga; he teaches yoga in the Cook County Prison and in several other communities in Chicago. Yoga changed Feltus's life, and he's trying to change the lives of as many people as possible. He speaks at corporations, schools and churches in Chicago to spread a positive message of change.

CeaseFire has been an organization that has played a vital role in helping to reduce gun violence in the streets of Chicago. CeaseFire was started in 1995; the first program saw a 67 percent drop in shootings and murders in the neighborhood. In 2004, CeaseFire communities saw a drop of up to 50 percent in murders. A documentary entitled The Interrupters features several members from CeaseFire and shows many of the struggles in Chicago. CeaseFire is stationed in some of the most dangerous parts of Chicago, they have a team of members working to reduce violence in Chicago, sevearl of the members are former gang members.

Causing change can't just come from a few people in one community; it needs to come from all communities in Chicago. I think its possible to make Chicago one of the safest cities in America, but it takes time, it takes grassroots activism. It's going to take the entire city of Chicago to create change.