Stories of impactPullman Peace playground

Chicago's Pullman community united to stop the violence and build a symbol for a brighter future

KaBOOM!, Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), Chicago Parks District and the Chicago White Sox worked together to put kids first in the Pullman community, and it all started when one man decided enough is enough and chose to make an effort toward bringing peace to his community.

For years, the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago has experienced by gun violence, leaving many of the residents — both adults and young kids — longing for safer streets. Sherman Scullark has lived in the neighborhood for his entire life, and in 2018 he decided to do something to address the violence that permeated his community. To help drive momentum toward change and peace, Scullark connected with Detective Vivian Williams, a trusted police officer and community-pillar who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, to enlist her support in helping to bring peace to the neighborhood and put an end to community violence.

Watch our documentary, From Piece to Peace: The Pullman Playground Story, below and find out how to host your own discussion about the film.

Scullark's courageous vision had a ripple effect that resulted in a truce between two rival gangs whose ongoing hostility had amounted to years of terror, countless injuries and painful deaths in Pullman. As part of the truce, the two gangs collectively decided to put down their guns as part of a larger commitment to non-violence in the community.

Pullman Peace Park is completedSherman Scullark, center, accepts a plaque from Chicago CRED for his work in negotiating the truce that led to the creation of the playground.

After helping negotiate the truce, Scullark worked with Chicago CRED and a group of young men from the community to brainstorm ways to improve their neighborhood and promote safer streets for kids and families. The Chicago CRED participants, led by Scullark, came up with the idea of creating a new playground for the young kids — a gathering place for play, but also an important symbol for building a new and more peaceful future for families in Pullman.

The building of this park represents the peace that's coming back into Pullman. It represents how everybody can continue to come together and work together and make something out of it... It's going to bring us all together again.
—Sherman Scullark

Leadership and staff from Chicago CRED, including former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, were encouraged by the truce, and reached out to KaBOOM! to lead the playground project.

You hear about peace treaties for you know, a week, or two weeks, or three weeks. This has been eight months... nothing. And I said, what can we do for you? And I was taking a risk saying that. He might... you know, give me a car. Give me a bunch of money. And he said, our kids have no place to play. Could you help build a playground?

It just again speaks to his vision and his mentality. It wasn't about him. Wasn't about any of his guys. It was about the kids who are growing up in a war zone and had no place to play. And that's how this came to be.
—Arne Duncan

Pullman Peace Park is completed

Giving their kids a safe place to play was what they desired the most. So in celebration of the peace agreement, and with Chicago CRED's support, KaBOOM! brought together Chicago CRED, Chicago Park District and the Chicago White Sox. The community rallied around building a neighborhood playground, which represents a brighter future for kids and families and also helps to recognize the progress being led by young men from the community.

KaBOOM! recognizes the importance of play in reducing the effects of stress that many kids are challenged by as a result of neighborhood trauma. We know that all kids deserve a safe place to play, but far too many are limited by the lack of resources in their communities. Focusing on communities like the Pullman neighborhood in Chicago helps to provide safe places to play for all kids and encourage community engagement.

And so trying to create safe spaces… open public places, trying to rebuild a sense of community maybe shouldn't be this hard, but that's sort of at the heart of what we're trying to do. If we can create a safe place where kids can play together and get to know each other and negotiate rules and issues on the playground, who knows where that goes?
—Arne Duncan

Update

Sadly, since originally publishing this story, we've learned that the truce ended during the end of the summer in 2019. The end of the truce brings to light the harsh reality that many communities are experiencing some of the most challenging inequities in our country. It also shows the urgency to support those who want to create positive outcomes for kids. We must continue to push forward, support communities and create spaces where kids and families can come together peacefully.

Playground project gallery

From Design Day to Build Day, residents of the Pullman community helped make this dream playground a reality.

Documentary and discussion guide

From Piece to Peace: The Pullman Playground Story title card

About the documentary

The Piece to Peace: The Pullman Playground Story documentary follows the story of Pullman resident Sherman Scullark and how his unwavering commitment to establishing safety and positive change in his community led to an historic peace treaty and special gathering place for kids and families. This documentary will give you a first-hand look at how a community facing challenges can lead the charge to improve their community.

Piece to Peace documentary discussion guide

Continue the conversation

If you are interested in continuing the conversation about how communities can lead the positive change they want to see, download our discussion guide.

Download the guide

Interested in hosting a film screening? Contact LeAnn Taylor at ltaylor@kaboom.org.