This Former Offender Now Works To Help Keep Chicago Youth Off The Streets

And he's using his street smarts to do so.

BUILD Chicago has been empowering the city’s youth for almost 50 years. But with Chicago’s soaring crime rates, their work is now more important than ever. 

The organization’s prevention, gang intervention and college preparation efforts have impacted the lives of a number of young people since the organization was founded in 1969. BUILD also offers job programs, life skills workshops, college prep, mentoring and service learning opportunities.

BUILD’s street intervention specialist Clifton “Booney” McFowler Jr. takes those efforts to the streets. He runs BUILD’s ride-along program, which takes a hands-on approach to combatting violence. Through the program, McFowler drives through the community and stops to speak with passersby in the hopes of intervening with at-risk youth on the streets of Chi-town. 

McFowler, a former gang member himself, grew up in the South Austin neighborhood of Chicago. After serving 37 years in prison for first degree murder, he decided to turn his life around and give back to the community of which he was a once a part. 

“I was a major part of the destruction of this community,” McFowler told HuffPost’s Jacques Morel. “What I do now everyday, is ride through my community to try to keep them from going to jail or getting killed.” 

The violence that BUILD leaders are working to reduce became a memorable talking point of the 2016 presidential election, especially for then president-elect Donald Trump. While campaigning, Trump repeatedly referenced the number of shootings in Chicago and suggested his “law and order” approach, could help bring down crime rates. But fellow BUILD organizer Jonathan Davis said politicians best affect change when they come face-to-face with the problems in the city.  

“You got to know Chicago,” Davis said. 

Davis is also the son of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) whose 15-year-old grandson was killed earlier this month due to gun violence. The BUILD leader referenced his father’s door-to-door canvassing throughout the area as an example for how politicians can familiarize themselves with the community. 

“Donald Trump don’t know the problems [in] Chicago,” he said. “I bet he ain’t never been to a ghetto in America yet. He might have flew over one in a plane, but he ain’t never been to no ghetto.”

Regardless of whether Trump or other politicians find ways to combat Chicago’s plights, Davis said a lot of the responsibility lay with its residents.

“You know the community’s got to get involved with this stuff because everything’s here,” he said. “There’s only so much that legislation can do.”

Watch the full video below. 



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