The Leaders Network began when Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Marshall Hatch and Rev. Cy Fields, faith leaders from Chicago’s West Side, partnered to help with relief efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The movement, which originally was focused on providing relief to those affected by natural disasters and issues like the Flint, Michigan water crisis, grew to encompass helping Chicago victims of shootings and standing up for victims of police misconduct. A focus on economic and racial social justice quickly followed.

Monthly meetings held on the second Tuesday of each month at 9:30 a.m. at the Columbus Park Refectory became a community mainstay joining residents, community and faith leaders and special guests on issues that face the West Side community.

In 2017, David Cherry met Acree at the funeral of Sandra Bland, and was invited to his first meeting of The Leaders Network. He kept coming back, and in 2020, was named president of The Leaders Network.

According to Cherry, monthly meetings focus on the issues of the day. He says, “It’s fascinating to have an open forum where people involved in education, health care, or officials in city, state or county government come to speak. We have guests from all walks of life, and attendees can ask them questions.”

When Cherry was sworn in in Jan. 2020, he had no idea that the world was about to change. Within days of the March 2020 meeting, the Covid-19 pandemic was changing every aspect of life. Without missing a beat, The Leaders Network transitioned to virtual meetings, holding their regularly scheduled meeting in April 2020.

Cherry notes that during the pandemic, they brought in speakers from then Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, to police superintendent David Brown, to state Senator Don Harmon.

During the pandemic, Cherry says there was an “emphasis on education and health care to provide the latest and best information to our residents.”

Other topics of interest include housing, employment and community development. Though the focus is on community-building, Cherry notes that the reverends’ initial vision of providing aid and comfort to those in need continues. He says a particular focus remains the victims of mass shootings, stating “We stand with the victims, whether it’s in Highland Park or Garfield Park.”

More information about monthly second Tuesday meetings, becoming a member and the efforts of The Leaders Network can be found at leadersnetworkchicago.org/

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