#MemberMonday — Maria Pike

Posted: June 17, 2019 in Uncategorized
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This Week’s Member Monday is On Maria Pike and her path to R.A.G.E.

Maria holding a picture of her son Ricky, who was a victim of gun violence

Maria Pike’s journey to becoming a R.A.G.E. member is a hero’s journey. Personal tragedy has propelled her into the midst of the battle for the spirit of Chicago, as well as securing a brighter future for the youth. Belonging to multiple organizations, Maria’s life mission is to create change  on a structural and community level that will enact sensible policy shifts that will make all of Chicago great.

Born in Peru, in a family of seven, her father worked hard to send all of her siblings to private school. During this time she developed a love for language, speaking Spanish, English, and studying German in her youth. After high school she studied hotel management that led her on an international journey to Brazil, England, and Spain; during her travels she learnt French, Portuguese, and Italian. Working for the 5-Star Sheraton International Hotels, she was transferred to a location Rio De Janeiro; in London she continued her studies for three years; she also spent two years in Barcelona where she was a hair model. She finished her collegiate studies in the US, attending Durham College and UNC in North Carolina and Roosevelt University in Chicago, though she only earned an associates with a plethora of advanced language credits.Through a series of fortunate events, her general manager from Brazil had an opportunity for her to work at a hotel in Evanston. She was in her 20’s when she came to Illinois.

Initially living and working in Evanston, Maria landed a job at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and moved to Rogers Park. Following her time there she moved to Lakeview where she lived for 27 years, before moving to Pilsen where she lives now. On these events leading her to becoming a Chicagoan she states,” it was odd because you wouldn’t imagine that this person (her GM) was from our continent. He opened four hotels in Latin America and he ends up moving to the states to the middle of the country, to a place called Evanston”. Maria adds, “ it’s one of those odd things that happen in your life and you are like, ‘oh, is this planned’”?!

By the early 90’s she had to change her career to raise her two sons, as the 70 hours per week in the hotel left little quality time with her kids. She became a realtor and ran an antique store, utilizing her skill for restorative craftsmanship. As a realtor she specialized in restoring rundown homes and sale them for a profit, even acquiring two “bungalows” off of 64th and Maplewood, which made her familiar with Englewood. Craftsmanship isn’t the only restorative work she had a calling for, as the death of one of her son’s led her to restorative justice work.

Maria’s two sons.

Her eldest son, Ricky Pike, was murdered outside his new apartment in Logan Square during August of 2012. An aspiring restaurant owner, Ricky’s death was a catalyst for Maria to fight for the future of the children of Chicago; with Logan Square being considered a ‘safe’ community Maria knew that the fight against gun violence was a fight that impacted all communities. She became an advocate against gun violence, joining groups like Chicago Survivors, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, along with many others. This traumatic moment changed her life to, “want to find out why people killed without any remorse”.

Ricky’s death was in the midst of Chicago developing a new moniker…Chiraq. With a combination of hip hop, reactionary news, and Spike Lee’s artistic direction a constellation of forces wanted to brand the city as synonymous with a war zone. Spike Lee’s Chiraq came out three years after Ricky’s murder, but the stinge of it still impacted survivors of gun violence. For Maria this was, “total disrespect to survivor moms”, especially after St Sabina allowed and commended the usage of the title of his film, while bringing survivor moms to endorse the film. Maria felt that the survivor moms were being used as props, stating,” I was bursting with anger because the majority of survivors number in the thousands”, pointing out there were less than 80 in the group that Father Pfleger claimed to represent. This even led Maria to write the screenwriter, Kevin Willmott, demanding he change the name, though he claimed it not possible as the agreement was already complete. Maria felt the film was, “insulting a whole generation of children and they are the ones who need the most uplifting”.

Chiraq acted as a rallying call for those who wanted to change the narrative of how Chicago’s Englewood community was viewed. Award winning news anchor, Robin Robinson, wanted to interview moms who were against the premise and Maria was invited. President of R.A.G.E., Aysha Butler, was also invited to talk about what she thought about her community being called Chiraq. During this meeting, Aysha stated, “It really goes against the people who live there and have been here for generations, and who have children, and it labels them unfairly”. Maria agreed with that sentiment,  so she started talking to Aysha. Maria adds, “she said she had meetings, called R.A.G.E., and I started going to her meetings”.

Image may contain: 8 people, including Maria Pike, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
Maria and others with Mayor Lightfoot

Maria became a member of R.A.G.E due to how organized the meetings were, the amount of respect given to the members, and the fact they put the information in laymen’s terms. Maria spouts, “if a member attacks you (R.A.G.E.) they do not promote the sort of shutting down… they go in a very polite way. They say, ‘can we talk offline’, ‘can we talk about this after’; they never give mess a chance”. Maria believes this communication is respectful to the seniors in the community who she believes are the most loyal community members. She points to the work done on TIF’s, stating, “they took the time to go through a university to get compiled data to find out exactly how TIF is understood by the general public”. After close to five years of being a member of R.A.G.E., she uses it as her primary outlet for community work.

You can find Maria at most meetings taking an active role. She takes part in the Quality of Life Plan through many task forces, but most of her time is dedicated to Public Safety and Education work, where she advocates for trauma-informed care and integrating a curriculum with CPS that includes ethnic studies and SEL. She continues her fight against gun violence, as she is a fellow with Everytown for Gun Safety, while advocating for restorative practices like Quiet Time and peace circles. For example, in regards to quiet time, she states, ”Quiet Time is used in some suburban rich schools, but where it’s most needed is in under-served schools because of dysfunctional families and dysfunctional communities”. She’s been at every community event I’ve attended, when not representing us outside the community.

Outside of the amazing community work she takes part in, Maria loves to travel. Whenever she can, she enjoys going to the Carolina Coasts to go fishing. When she doesn’t have time she tries catching up on outdoor living shows. She also practices transcendental meditation, a silent practice.


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