Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to be director of violence prevention is a longtime anti-violence worker in Chicago, her administration announced.
Norman Livingston Kerr will start in the $130,000-per-year role Monday, officials said.
Originally from Jamaica, Kerr is a Chicago Public Schools graduate and former director of CeaseFire. He also worked at UCAN, a group that works with “15,000 at-risk children, youth and families across Illinois,” according to the organization.
At UCAN, Kerr led the organization’s community violence intervention efforts, the mayor’s office said.
In an interview, Kerr cited his experiences as a young man in the city as inspiration for working against violence.
“Growing up in Rogers Park, I saw some violence take place. I’ve lost some friends and I’ve seen people killed in front of me. I’ve seen shootings,” Kerr said. “What I took away from that was, we lost a lot of talent. People who were smart. I had peers who were smarter than me, better athletes, should’ve been successful, and had that taken away.”
Kerr spent 14 years working with Cure Violence, the group formerly known as CeaseFire, the mayor’s office said. He helped develop its program “through his experience as an outreach worker supporting high-risk individuals, mentor, and as a grassroots community worker,” according to the mayor’s office.
One of the things Kerr said he’s learned in his anti-violence work is, “We can’t just focus on one individual.
“For us to think we can work with them for a couple hours and they’ll carry that with them, some individuals are resilient and can do that,” Kerr said. But often, Kerr said, success requires involving more of the person’s “ecosystem,” including family.
In his new role, Kerr will report to Susan Lee, Lightfoot’s previously announced choice to be deputy mayor for public safety.
Lee is a former senior director of Safe Chicago Network at Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), a nonprofit where Arne Duncan, a former Obama administration education secretary and Chicago Public Schools chief, is managing partner.
The Mayor’s Office of Public Safety will “focus on reducing violent crimes, including gang and gun-related violence — while also ensuring that these efforts are paired with investments in social service supports, including access to mental health resources and other services,” the mayor’s office previously said.
Lightfoot campaigned on reducing crime and made it a top priority in her inaugural address, declaring there is “no higher calling than restoring safety and peace in our neighborhoods.”
She also wants to see police working more with community groups and activists, calling it “fundamentally critical to what we’re doing."
Chicago has a number of organizations working to solve the violence problem, Kerr said. His goals include helping them work together and break out of their “silos,” Kerr said.
“There’s definitely groups that are doing this work, and what we want to see happen is there’s more collaboration and there’s really more coming together with these groups to focus on this issue,” Kerr said.