By Darcel Rockett Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Tamar Manasseh, the Chicago Mother who has become a real life superhero in her mission to prevent violence. Manasseh says, "I'm proud to be a part of helping create a blueprint for other communities to copy,"...."When you build community, violence doesn't have a chance to get in."
Chicagoan Tamar Manasseh is a real live superhero.
But you may be aware of that already.
She, on the other hand, recently found out.
You may have heard about her work as founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK). As one of many women fed up with Chicago's violence, her group of moms sat down in Englewood in an effort to stand up to deter would-be troublemakers.
That was three years ago. Since then, the mothers have hosted regular block party-style sit-ins at a number of intersections in the city. This summer will be no different, Manasseh says. Women and volunteers will be out there every day trying to make a difference.
"There are no days off," Manasseh said. "I didn't start out to be an activist; I'm not an activist. I'm just a mom."
Her efforts have been noticed locally and now nationally. Studio Movie Grill (SMG), a Dallas-based movie theater brand with a location in the Chatham neighborhood, selected Manasseh as Chicago's "Real Life Woman Superhero." The mother of two was one of more than 700 nominees in the nationwide search for everyday women making a difference in their communities.
"I couldn't believe I won. I thought it was a prank," Manasseh recalled upon hearing the news.
Inspired by the upcoming "Wonder Woman" film, SMG paired with Warner Bros. Pictures for the national campaign to find women with the most inspiring stories from each of SMG's 11 markets, including Chicago. Winners were chosen based on their dedication to helping others and resiliency in the face of tough circumstances.
Manasseh and the other winners were flown to Dallas to attend a red-carpet screening of the film about the DC Comics heroine, presented with SMG's Opening Hearts and Minds Award, and received a $1,000 donation for the charity of their choice May 31.
"What put Tamar apart was she actually put her life on the line, it's one thing to be doing something as your occupation or your job; it's quite another to go out in a community and make a change," said Lynne McQuaker, SMG senior director of public relations and outreach.
Mya Seals, assistant to the news director of WFLD-TV, nominated Manasseh for the award. Seals said that when she thinks of a modern-day female superhero, her mind goes to Manasseh.
"I can't think of anybody besides my mama that is more deserving than Tamar," Seals said. "I think she's super deserving of any accolades that she gets. A story came out about the most dangerous block in Chicago. She saw that story and said we have to do something to help these residents.
Tamar and her army of moms went out and sat on that corner and began to develop a relationship over there. And that's not even something we see the police or aldermen doing. She's really taken this mantle up and run with it. I'm just in awe of the woman she is and the work that she does."
Seals said Manasseh had no idea she was nominated. But that's not stopping her excitement for the recognition.
"Wonder Woman? What girl in the '70s didn't want to be Wonder Woman? I know I did," she said. "I started thinking about if I should wear a cape to the premiere! How cool would that be?" Manasseh jokes.
She said she's erring on the side of caution in her fashion choices but not on where the award money will be spent.
She said the money will either all go toward MASK's planned green space and playlot for children at 75th Street and Stewart Avenue or she will split the money, half for MASK, half for an animal charity.
"I've been showing plans of the playlot around to everybody like it's one of my kids," she said excitedly. "We're excavating the space now, cleaning it up, so we can use it. We'll be ready to go as soon as we get the deeds for the land."
MASK has become Manasseh's full-time job. Four chapters currently exist, but she's looking to add more, including one in Jackson, Miss.
"I'm proud to be a part of helping create a blueprint for other communities to copy," Manasseh said. "When you build community, violence doesn't have a chance to get in."