Q&A: Tracey Wallace, founder of Black Men Against Violence

Tracey Wallace, (third from right), created the new group Black Men Against Violence in the aftermath of recent homicides in Evanston. The group has met several times and organized a Christmas Dinner Delivery program for the holidays.

Courtesy of Facebook

Tracey Wallace, (third from right), created the new group Black Men Against Violence in the aftermath of recent homicides in Evanston. The group has met several times and organized a Christmas Dinner Delivery program for the holidays.

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

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In the aftermath of local teenager Justin Murray’s murder, Evanston resident Tracey Wallace has started Black Men Against Violence, a new group that strives to eliminate violence in the city. Wallace started the group on Facebook in early December and it has grown to include about 25 official members. Members have met several times and created a Christmas dinner delivery program for families in need, which Wallace said is the first of several planned events. Recently, Wallace spoke with The Daily about his motivation, activism and the future for Evanston youth.

The Daily Northwestern: What inspired you to start this group and get involved in community activism?

Tracey Wallace: The inspiration came from the murders of young black men in Evanston. It stemmed from there. I have teenage boys, so the violence hit home and my family personally. One of my sons just graduated from Evanston Township High School, and the other is a freshman. Three murders in three months is a lot.

The Daily: What do you see as the overarching goal of Black Men Against Violence?

Wallace: We want to eliminate the violence in our community. We are really looking at what causes kids to get to the point where they feel the need to have a gun and to commit a violent act against another human being. There are many contributing factors. Education, economic development and the politics of what goes on in the community are all important, but if you had to really focus on one, it has to be education. When you look at the individuals involved in violence, it is generally kids that did not have a successful academic career. That starts from kindergarten and builds from there. One of our major focuses is where we can help enhance the process and make sure our children are getting support inside and outside of the classroom. By no means are we blaming the system; we want to look at outside influences that are affecting kids’ performance and interest in school.

The Daily: How will BMAV operate?

Wallace: We’ve really looked at focusing on four aspects. We’re going to wear many hats. We’re made up of a lot of men from different walks of life. We’ll act more or less as a think tank organization. We’ll look at breaking down what the problems are: really implementing changes and working within individual committees. The committees we’ll work in include education, economic development, political action and outreach.

The Daily: Will you collaborate with other groups and organizations in Evanston to achieve your goals?

Wallace: Absolutely. Our philosophy is that it takes a village. Sometimes we are truly a village here in Evanston. If there’s a child that’s hungry, it’s our responsibility to take care of that child. Speaking from an Afrocentric perspective, we should be taking care of our own and make sure that they get taken care of.

The Daily: What are BMAV’s upcoming events and programs?

Wallace: We’re planning a video game tournament, open to all kids in Evanston. The other thing that we’re working on is a youth program involved with kids that are deemed “at risk.” We want to collectively work hand-in-hand and make sure these kids aren’t passed along. We want these kids to have someone that they can communicate with. Ultimately, our group wants to drive the process of change in our community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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