THORNTON TOWNSHIP – Just south of Chicago is a community where the most recent data shows the median annual household income is $47,812, 11.7 percent below the poverty level and 57.3 percent of the 180,082 residents are black.
Officials in the Thornton Township are impressed with how the Charleston, South Carolina community responded so much differently than residents of Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri did when shooting tragedies occurred in their cities.
"In some other city, an incident of such hatred and racist horror might have sparked an outpouring of anger, violence and divisiveness – driving crowds into the streets in clashes with each other and police," an online petition being sponsored by the township says. "Instead, something unexpected happened – an outpouring of unity and forgiveness."
In order to find out more about what led to Charleston's unique reaction when nine blacks were killed during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the township paid $46,000 for a taxpayer-funded trip for Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli and 14 other delegates this past September, the Daily Southtown found.
After the trip, the township just south of Chicago launched a $106,000 campaign urging residents to sign the township's petition calling for the South Carolina community to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. The Daily Southtown found:
The township bought radio ads from WVON for $15,750, WVAZ for $9,600, WGCI for $11,140, WYCA for $2,304, and WGRB for $4,440, a January invoice shows.
Thornton also spent $57,877 on full page ads in the Chicago Defender, Citizen newspaper, Crusader newspaper, and Standard newspaper, a different January invoice shows. The rest of the $106,257 figure mostly includes smaller, related costs.
Supervisor Zuccarelli said in a statement that the effort was "directly related" to an "overall township initiative" to "facilitate a law enforcement-community collaboration to help establish the level of mutual trust and respect so necessary to avoid violence and promote peace in our communities."
"What we learned, basically, is that the more familiar people are with each other, the easier it is to deal with individual crises as they occur," Zuccarelli said. "It's actually more of a trust factor than anything else."
The township held one conference to share their findings, and plans another this summer for younger community members.