Genese Hill and Bill Burgess, both residents of Hyde Park, knew that children were eager for new activities when they started Operation Wakeup, a grass-roots effort to boost young people’s self-esteem and facilitate peace in gang-ridden neighborhoods.
But they didn’t know just how much need there was for such a group until Operation Wakeup held its first event, a July 15 peace march through Hyde Park that attracted 200 residents, children and gang members past and present. Marchers carried signs with slogans such as “Save the Community” and “Peace on the Streets.”
“It went so well, we almost couldn’t believe it,” said Burgess, 35, a former Rolling ‘60s gang member who has two daughters.
“There are a lot of people who want to make a change in the neighborhood who didn’t really know how. There’s so much togetherness in the community. . . . We have to use it, keep it out there.”
Burgess wrote the plan for Operation Wakeup two years ago, but shelved it because he didn’t quite know how to implement it.
With the first event planned and executed, he and Hill, a postal worker, are enthusiastic about enacting the plan’s other phases: self-awareness classes, basketball teams, a rap-video club and parent seminars.