In the early afternoon of August 19, a 20-year-old man named Dwayne L. Thomas was fatally shot in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. The murder occurred steps away from a street corner where a group of local volunteers called Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) had begun camping out in late June, after an apparently random walk-by shooting left a 34-year-old woman dead and two others seriously injured.
Though the community suffers one of Chicago’s highest rates of violent crime, the highly trafficked and sometimes highly combustible intersection of 75th and Stewart had not seen a single shooting since the women took up their post. (“Women bring a special kind of sensitivity to the neighborhood,” one of MASK’s organizers has said. “Everybody is, dare I say it, kinder and gentler.”) Wednesday’s killing, which happened hours before MASK arrived for its evening patrol, was the first incident of gun violence on the block since the group began operating in the area on June 23. Marquinn McDonald, the leader of an affiliated group called MASK Men, said Thomas was not part of the organization but was known by some of the younger volunteers. MASK does not know whether the shooting was gang-related.
McDonald says that while tragic and disappointing, the shooting has not deterred MASK’s commitment. “We’re not gonna feel intimidated, we’re gonna continue going out there and serving our community,” he tells The Trace. The group has said it will continue standing watch over the corner until at least Labor Day — shootings tend to drop when school is in session — and hopes to rent space in a nearby building to continue their outreach program year-round.
“We’re out there every day, and I want everyone to understand it’s a process. It’s our process. More people need to get involved,” said McDonald. “We’ve become interrupters of violence. Unfortunately an incident or two will take place, but the numbers have shown that since we have been there crime has dropped.”
Read The Trace’s initial coverage of MASK’s work here.
[Photo: Maya Dukmasova]