Ujimaa Medics Is Empowering Chicago Residents To Respond To The City’s Violence Epidemic
The first time I took serious notice to Chicago’s devastating gun violence was when I started watching VH-1’s Black Ink Crew: Chicago. Several of the tattoo artists and employees of 9Mag that are featured on the show have lost family and friends to gun violence, but the shop’s owner Ryan Henry has spoken candidly about the “city that hates itself” after losing a sister and a niece in a dispute resulting from domestic violence. Common and Chance The Rapper are a few celebrities that hail from the city and have made efforts to spread awareness and put a stop to the violence that plagues their hometown.
But you don’t need a famous name to make a difference, and in fact, one might argue that the best people to save the city are the residents who walk its streets every single day. In 2017, Chicago alone was home to 3,457 shooting victims. And while it will take a whole lot of work, time and effort to end the violence, a local group is doing its part to make sure that every gunshot victim doesn’t turn into a murder victim. VICE recently aired a feature about Ujimaa Medics, a group teaching local kids how to treat gunshot wounds on Chicago’s South Side. The network followed a group with children as young as 12 who learned how to bandage a wound, control crowds, and interact with the cops—including one young woman who used her training to save a life.
The group isn’t just dedicated to respond to medical emergencies, but to help mitigate the panic that civilians can experience when witnessing their family, friend and neighborhoods involved in violent events. The Trace featured Ujimaa Medics in a story last year, reporting that the group is trained to care for shooting victims until an ambulance arrives. Unfortunately ambulance response times are lengthy in Chicago. Add a shortage of hospitals and a police force that isn’t required to administer first aid and gunshot victims’ chances at survival become slim. In The Trace feature, UMedics co-founder Martine Caverl said the city’s violence, along with health disparities and ambulance response times, can make people feel powerless. She helped form the program which led it’s first training in 2014. Caverl says it’s one thing to witness the violence and complain about it, but it’s another thing to find out what actions you can take to improve the situation:
“We wanted to say to people … this is one thing we can do.”
“You know, when we hear the gunshots we are going to make sure we are safe, but then we are likely to see what is going on because we have something we can offer.”
Caverl says UMedics is working to expand their training to help treat those who suffer from asthma, as well as mental health and diabetes. At the time the article was written, Caverl said her group counts five shooting victims and two people suffering from asthma attacks who have been helped by UMedics members using their training. She says ultimately she has a vision where people will want to visit and stay in Chicago at a time when many residents are fleeing:
“We are in a situation where people are leaving Chicago. And for UMedics members, it’s a place that we love.”
“We want that community, in particular our community, to feel a sense of pride in themselves and each other.”
You can read the full feature on Ujmaa Medics as well as how those in the program use their training in real life situations here, as well as check out VICE’s coverage below: