Al Sharpton held a meeting last week to get ideas from the South Chicago community about reducing gun violence, and it took several unexpected turns.
First of all, the large crowd of mainly African Americans didn't mention gun control measures, according to press reports. Instead many voices said that the root of gun violence was unemployment among young men, and the solution was jobs.
"These young black men need gainful employment and entrepreneurship if they are going to have a chance at getting off these streets," said Harold Lucas, 69-year-old CEO of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, DNAInfo reports.
"When you give a person a job you give them a purpose to stay out of trouble and a goal to work toward. Our young people need this especially during these hard times," said Diane Latiker, founder and director of non-profit Kids Off The Block.
A community activist, Sel Dunlap, suggested securing grants to pay youths to clean vacant lots.
A second surprise was that many black attendees were so critical of corrupt local Democratic lawmakers, who one person called the "Chicago machine," according to Breitbart.com.
"We don't have a gangs, guns, drugs problem," said one panelist. "We have a nepotism, cronyism and patronage problem."
"The manner in which we have been voting needs to change. I'm here to say to you that we have been trained to vote in a specific manner," said Wendy Pearson, an activist against Chicago's recent school closings, according to Breitbart. "We need to start looking at the manner in which our elected officials have been voting...if they have not voted in a manner that is beneficial to you, yours, and your community, then you need to start voting them out."
"I would call a serious town meeting, like the town meetings Republicans would call," said an 82-year-old preacher. "They call it a Tea Party."
Breitbart's reporter celebrates the meeting as a revolt by black voters against Democratic lawmakers, implying that Chicago's black community might turn to GOP candidates instead. Their report highlights quotes from the recent Republican candidate for Chicago's 2nd congressional seat, Paul McKinley, who was very vocal at the meeting.
But it's more likely that black voters who are tired of establishment Democrats like Rahm Emmanuel will turn to progressive candidates who have a better local grassroots network than Republicans. That's what happened in February 2013, with Robin Kelly's victory in Chicago's 2nd Congressional District. Kelly was progressives' favorite candidate and beat a huge field of other local candidates, including McKinley. She campaigned extensively on the issue of reducing gun violence.
After the meeting, Sharpton and other leaders said they will study the recordings to learn from the crowds suggestions and come up with a "10 point plan" for action.