TODAY   |  May 22, 2013

Chicagoans launch programs to end gun violence

The city of Chicago has been plagued by gun violence for years, and after the recent shooting death of an innocent teen, residents are ready to fight back to keep kids in the city safe from guns and gang violence. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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>>> look at some of the serious issues that are facing the city. nbc's kevin tibbles has that story for us. kevin , good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning. well, we all know in american cities , there are many places where adults are afraid to go out at night, but what about kids during the daytime? well, here in chicago , there are a number of programs that are winning back the streets, one gymnasium and playground at a time. these are the voices of chicago 's children.

>> a lot of kids are getting killed and i don't want to be one of those kids.

>> we face gang violence and heartache over the loss of our family and our friends.

>> in laall the people who were killed, sadness and hate in my community, making innocent hearts go still.

>> reporter: with every dance, dunk, and dribble --

>> let's have some fun out there, okay?!

>> reporter: -- chicago is fighting back. with programs aimed at keeping kids safe, like american sports .

>> what is your favorite singer?

>> michael jackson . who is your favorite singer?

>> michael jackson too.

>> reporter: before they even face off against each other, they interview and write a short story about one another. creative writing and sports and making new friends, away from the dangerous streets. are you scared to go outside?

>> yes, because too many kids are getting killed.

>> reporter: it hit too close to home for 11-year-old alvarez.

>> i had a brother in a gang. he passed away .

>> reporter: othe happiness troupe is a dance club , a place for self-expression and a safe sanctuar sanctuary.

>> i don't want feel like i have to keep my guard up or whatever. i want to be comfortable and let it all out.

>> it's so much creativity in one room that inspires change.

>> we'll reach a lot and we'll end up winning this huge battle that's now happening.

>> reporter: throughout eight violence-ridden neighborhoods, windy city offers a safe haven . it's a place to play basketball on friday nights and more.

>> being out there is not where it's at. doing something constructive in my life. playing basketball. that's what i want to do.

>> a lot of people look towards the streets.

>> these kids start hanging out together because they're all doing something positive and it takes away some of the negative options for them.

>> reporter: poetic voices asking to be heard.

>> when i grow up, i'm going to college. so i can help people in need , spreading hope for a better future. why follow when i can take the lead?

>> reporter: what strikes me as most important about all of this is that the kids are breaking down the gang barriers all by themselves, making new friends and having some fun while they're doing it. willie and natalie, back to you.

>> kevin tibbles, thank. good stuff.