Two women known for their dogged protests against senseless violence on the south side of Chicago were viciously murdered in the street last Friday.
Chantel Grant (25) and Andrea Stoudemire (35) were part of a group called Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK). The group had originally formed about five years ago when a young mother was shot and killed on an Englewood street corner. Grant and Stoudemire, among others in the group, worked to occupy the corner every day in order to provide food, support, counseling and a positive, pro-community atmosphere for all those who lived in and around the area. They strove to provide safety through positive engagement.
Shockingly and tragically, the two activists were shot and killed on that very same street corner.
“That’s why we’re out here seven days a week … trying to create a safe place where people can learn to be neighbors and not kill each other,” said the group’s founder, Tamar Manasseh.
Chicago police say they suspect the gunfire was meant for someone else.
The gunfire on Friday night was meant for a man who is affiliated with a Chicago street gang and recently got out of prison, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The 58-year-old man, who was struck in the arm in the shooting and whose name hasn’t been released, is not cooperating with police, Guglielmi said.
“We have no information to suggest they were the intended targets,” he said Tuesday, adding that police are still seeking leads in the case. No arrests have been made.
Not everyone is convinced the mothers weren’t the target. Manasseh suspects that there may have been more at play than simple gang violence.
“They killed mothers on a corner where mothers sit every day,” Manasseh said. “You don’t have mothers killed in a place that is sacred to mothers and not take that as a message.”
Manasseh said the women had been on the corner for hours Friday handing out food to other mothers and keeping watch over a vacant lot the group has turned into a play area for neighborhood children. She said Grant and Stoudemire had finished up for the day and had begun walking to a store to get food for themselves and their children when they were shot.
“They can’t even walk to the store without getting killed,” said Manasseh. “They were killed for parenting.”
Manasseh called the women’s deaths “terrifying” and “heartbreaking.”
“I haven’t slept because I am trying to figure out how we can stop this,” Manasseh told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Who’s next? I just keep thinking, ‘Who’s next?’
The group has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $5,000 for a reward for information in the case. By Wednesday morning, it had raised more than $16,000.
“The murder of a woman brought us to our corner on 75th & Stewart so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of more moms drive us away,” the fundraising page says. “We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children families tonight, deserve justice.”
Homicides in the Windy City are dropping, but still loom too large in a city that has the most restrictive gun laws in the country. By July 28, Chicago had already suffered 281 murders.
The GoFundMe campaign to help with the reward offer is linked above or click here for more info.