Trinity Church Chicago Hosts Vigil for Shooting Victims From Senn High School 

A student at Senn High School was fatally shot on Jan.31. a Vigil was hosted in the students honor.

Trinity Church Chicago, a non-denominational church located at 1244 W. Thorndale Ave., hosted a vigil Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. for Edgewater community members to grieve the death of Daveon Gibson, a 16-year-old Senn High School student who was shot and killed Jan. 31.

Gibson was fatally shot at approximately 3:37 p.m. on the 1200 block of W. Thorndale Ave., about a half mile away from Loyola’s campus, according to a public safety update from 48th Ward Alderwoman Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth.

Three teens, including Gibson, were walking when a vehicle pulled up, according to a speech to the press by Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling. Snelling said several individuals got out of the vehicle and began shooting in the direction of the teens. All three teens were shot. 

One victim, a 16-year-old, is in critical condition and the other, a 15-year-old, is in stable condition, according to the public safety update.

The safety update said the shooting is currently under investigation, and no one is in custody as of Feb. 6.

Trinity Church Pastor Matt Sweetman planned the vigil with the help of other parishioners, specifically Karen Houston. The victims’ families weren’t in attendance at the vigil. 

Sweetman began the vigil with a prayer after passing out white candles to everyone in attendance. The group gathered around flowers outside the church which decorated the words “YOU MATTER TO US” written in chalk on the sidewalk with “SENN” written inside a chalk heart. The display also included a poster that said “DAVEON WE LOVE YOU.” Vigil attendees were asked to sign their names on the poster.

“Lord, we want to pray for healing in our city,” Sweetman said. “We want to pray for change. We want to pray for there to be peace. Help us as we mourn.”

Sweetman concluded his prayer by calling the crowd to pray for the victims’ families, the city, the children and justice. He then opened the floor for anyone to speak about the shooting or offer prayers.

Several community members stepped up to share their grief and talk about possible solutions to gun violence at Senn High School, in Edgewater and in Chicago.

Sweetman asked the crowd to join him in singing “Amazing Grace.” He said he believes the song represents transformations that need to occur in the city of Chicago.

He also said two of his sons attend Senn High School, so he decided to keep his entire family home the day following the shooting. Sweetman said the mood in his home was heavy after the shooting.

Manaa-Hoppenworth said in an interview with The Phoenix the community needs to work together to create spaces and times — like the vigil — for people to grieve. She said she believes the community is traumatized from losing one of its children. 

“We have to think bigger and imagine something better,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “What we are doing right now is not working. It is not keeping us safe.”

Manna-Hoppenworth said she doesn’t think it’s right that children and students are living in fear in their community spaces. She said she believes the city needs better policies and processes to prevent gun violence.

In a speech to the crowd, Edgewater resident and CPS grade school teacher Chris Inserra said she wanted to share Senn High School’s successes, not only the violence that occurred. She said Senn is the first school in Chicago to develop a peer jury program. The program allows students who face disciplinary action to face a jury of their own peers, according to Inserra. 

“It is one of the most diverse schools in the entire city,” Inserra said. “Senn has a rich, deep history. There’s a lot of pain and challenges, but there’s a lot of beauty.”

Inserra said it’s important to have imagination for a different way of life where communities don’t face gun violence.

Inserra invited the crowd to join her in singing a “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” by Emma’s Revolution, a song written following 9/11. Inserra said she believes the song represents the diversity of Senn High School.

The crowd sang the song together and Inserra added “Paz,” meaning peace in Spanish, to the end of the repeated chorus of “Peace, Salaam, Shalom.” Inserra also described the motions of peace in American Sign Language. 

“In American Sign Language — another language to add — you hold the world in your hands, you hold the heart, you hold the community,” Inserra said. “You turn it, and you push away everything that is violence. Peace, Salaam, Shalom y Paz.”

Kathy Pozniak, an Edgewater resident for over 30 years, said even though she isn’t personally connected to Senn High School, as a member of the community she believes attending the vigil is her way of becoming more proactive to gun violence in her neighborhood. 

“For a long, long time, you felt very safe walking around, and I still do for the most part,” Pozniak said. “But I think there is a frustration there, you know, things are maybe getting worse.”

Featured image by Ryan Pittman/ The Phoenix

Julia Pentasuglio

Julia Pentasuglio