Instead, they were there to talk about their friends and neighbors, Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire, women who were shot and killed on that corner Friday, caught up in the same cycle of violence they were there to disrupt.
“For mothers to be killed in a place where mothers go to seek safety and sisterhood, I take that as a personal threat,” MASK founder Tamar Manasseh said at a news conference. “Because when you come for one of us, you better believe they came for all of us . . . That could’ve been any of us.”
Grant and Stoudemire were standing at the intersection just before 10 p.m. Friday when police say a blue SUV passed and someone inside opened fire. The two were hit in the chest several times each and died that night at a hospital. A man was shot in the arm but is in stable condition. Police have not yet made an arrest in the case, said department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said authorities have no evidence to suggest that Grant and Stoudemire were the intended targets of the shooting.
But now, in the spot where the two once stood lookout, there are signs, balloons and flowers. Tea light candles spell out Stoudemire’s nickname, “Drea,” on the same sidewalk where Grant’s children liked to draw with chalk. Manasseh and her group set up shop on that corner years ago as a way to reclaim a slice of their neighborhood from a spate of violence. Last weekend, they did it again.
“Right here, we’re all sisters and we’re all here to do one thing: Watch the kids,” Manasseh said. “We’re here to make sure the kids have something better than what any of us had . . . It is our responsibility to seek justice for our sisters, to seek justice for our families.”
Maria Pike, a MASK member whose son was fatally shot in 2012, said the corner was a sacred place for mothers from across the city.
“This is about mothers and this is about women who have been disregarded,” Pike said Sunday. “This is about violence against women. We have to stop that.”
The group launched an online fundraiser, hoping to get enough donations to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the assailant or assailants. By Tuesday afternoon, they had raised more than twice that.
“WE AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE,” Manasseh wrote on the fundraising page.
She said Grant and Stoudemire both had four children and were protective mothers and devoted friends.
“They weren’t in gangs, associating with the wrong people, in the wrong place at the wrong time, or any of the other things they tell us so we blame the victims instead of the shooters who no one seems to be able to catch,” Manasseh wrote.
As national and international media began covering the story of Grant and Stoudemire, articles and videos adopted a shorthand for them: “2 activists in Chicago’s anti-violence movement.” But in a Monday post to MASK’s Facebook page, organizers rejected the sober sobriquet.
“We are not activists,” the post read, repudiating the idea that gun violence in their neighborhood was just another issue, something that opposing sides argued over.
“We are Moms, men and a 501C3 charitable organization who volunteer or just come out to create a safe and productive space in their community by being the village,” it continued. “Andrea and Chantel are valued, loved moms and community members, not 'activists in an anti violence movement.’ #BuildingCommunity in a violent area is just the right thing to do.”