Chicago is known for its gangs, so much so gang violence makes headlines across the country, and rappers are continually writing songs about what it’s like to be a gangster in Chicago. But in the one of the most violent neighborhoods is an oasis of peace helping people practice yoga.
I Grow Chicago, a non-profit focused on providing a safe haven for inner-city kids, bought a house on the corner of 64th and Honore in West Englewood with the hope of helping neighborhood residents reduce their stress levels. They’re calling the house their Peace Sanctuary.
West Englewood ranks second for violence in Chicago neighborhoods.
“Englewood has some amazing resources in the people who live here. But the fact is there are some really awful things that happen here. There’s no way around that,” Robbin Carroll, who started I Grow Chicago, told WGN.
Kids who attend the Peace Sanctuary get breakfast and practice street yoga. The block outside the house is closed for five hours, four days a week.
I Grow Chicago has to get approval from the neighbors in order to run their program without any trouble.
Their hope is to eventually reduce violence through yoga and meditation.
Male participants are a key focus of the group.
Shango Johnson is the youth male coordinator at I Grow and also patrols this area for Cease Fire, an organization dedicated to reducing gun violence.
Johnson says there are ex-gang members participating, and the I Grow program has taught them a lot about dealing with anger born out of lack of opportunity.
In terms of actually stemming the bloodshed, there’s no quick fix. And a community beaten down by bad news is cautious. But the organization remains positive that they will be able to make a change in this violent neighborhood.
As soon as I Grow Chicago has construction permits from the city, they are going to start working on the home giving work to neighborhood residents.
Eventually the house will serve as a life center where there will be yoga and Sunday meals all year round.