Police responding to citizens’ mental health episodes without the benefit of a trained professional will soon be just an afterthought when the city launches a pilot program next month. In 13 Chicago neighborhoods, certified mental health specialists will accompany police responding to calls regarding someone undergoing a crisis. Mental health workers and even some police officers have long maintained law enforcement isn’t always equipped to handle someone going through a mental lapse, regardless of the severity. The pilot program will send teams consisting of a paramedic, police officer and mental health crisis intervention professional and is set to begin in August. Communities on the West Side, North Side and South Side have been identified.
The program, Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE), was announced in June at Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Violence Prevention and Reduction committee meeting. The targeted communities include; Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, East Garfield Park, Gage Park, Humboldt Park, Lakeview, North Center, Uptown, West Garfield Park, West Elsdon, West Englewood and West Lawn.
On July 20, millions of Muslims across the U.S. celebrated Eid Al Adha, the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Prophet Ibrahim’s faithfulness to God after being tested with the unfulfilled command to sacrifice his son. In Chicago, the Arab American Muslim families I know celebrated with feasts, prayers, and giving. They shared and distributed food with those in need. They visited cemeteries to share the celebration in the memory of departed loved ones. They drove across town or to nearby states like Michigan to celebrate with their extended family.
For centuries, Black and Indigenous writers have established loud and clear the great paradox of the Fourth of July: the U.S.’ purported democracy was founded on slavery and genocide. We must also remember that since July 4, 1776, the U.S. has not only continued its settler-colonial project and its containment of Black people within U.S. borders, but it has also expanded its colonial aspirations across the globe. One only needs to recall that the turn of the 20th century “independence” entailed the colonization of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, and Hawaii. In recent years, from police killings of Black people to the deportation machine’s caging of children, it is more clear than ever that the idea that “all men are created equal” was meant only for some, not for all. Perhaps this explains why protesting U.S. state violence has been as much of a part of the Fourth of July as the fireworks and the cookouts all along — from Congolese Therese Patricia Okomou who scaled the Statue of Liberty to protest family separations in 2018 and continues to demand “Abolish ICE” to the 2020 protests against police violence or those who blocked the highway leading up to Mount Rushmore, reminding the world that this land, the Black Hills, belongs to the Lakota Sioux.
As it did with the health care system and economy, COVID-19 exacerbated the deep disparities in education by race and ethnicity that existed across the country’s public school system underscoring the importance of prioritizing equitable access to learning. In Chicago, school districts were overwhelmed and unequipped with the chaos of mass school closures and shifting to remote learning. Hispanic-Latino students who make up the largest student body in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were hardest hit by the disruption. For Hispanic-Latino students and other disenfranchised communities, educators who share their lived experiences could have made a big impact on CPS policy changes that chastised low-income students lacking basic technology, access to live instruction, and safe quiet spaces to learn. Now, with the appointment of José Torres as the interim CPS chief replacing CEO Janice Jackson, there’s an opportunity to make representation in leadership reflect the diversity in classrooms.
“CPS is primarily made up of Latino students,” Ald.
Finally, 17 years after Chicago Public Schools implemented the Renaissance 2010 “turnaround” strategy, a policy that continues to fuel today’s violence, the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously last month to put an end to the plan. School board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland, called the strategy “a relic of a previous era of school reform.” The purpose of the policy was to establish an increased number of high-quality education options across Chicago by transforming several dysfunctional schools into smaller, more manageable schools. However, a by-product of the policy was that it contributed to high dropout rates, especially among young, African American males who were at high risk for gangs and violence. They really suffered.
Consensus is growing across U.S. social movements that people living in the U.S. have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with Palestinian liberation due to Washington providing Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military aid. Union teachers are preparing votes in solidarity with the Palestinian people and polls indicate a shift in thinking, particularly on the left and with young people and BIPOC communities. Solidarity with Palestine is often based on a recognition that the U.S. government has allowed our taxes to fund Israeli state violence and that racist U.S. systems like policing and prisons share resources and technologies with Israel. Yet we should also recognize that the U.S. imposes disastrous neoliberal economic policies on Palestinians and that these policies are essential to U.S. domination of many parts of the Arab region and North Africa. For example, in many countries in that region, U.S.-led economic neoliberalism is devastating the population.
“I’m bisexual,” Isabella Balta said heaving a long sigh of relief. I literally saw the heavy weight lifting from my twelve-year-old daughter’s shoulders and quickly felt a similar weight landing on mine. My family and I were eating out at a neighborhood restaurant, discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, making same-sex marriage legal across the country. The #LoveWins movement was a hot topic in the summer of 2015 that as a family we often talked about with support. Isabella’s Quinceañera, 2018
Sometime between the appetizer and main course being served, Isabella decided it was the right time to share with us she is bisexual.
For decades, research has shown that the most effective violence prevention programs for African Americans focus on cultural transmission. Black scholars like Robert Jagers, Phillip Bowman, Nzinga Warfield-Coppock, myself, and others have written extensively about the importance of violence prevention programs cultivating tools of self-sufficiency, self-empowerment, and ethnic pride among African Americans especially young, Black males. Still, most anti-violence initiatives lack cultural elements. Today’s violence prevention programs need to incorporate activities that highlight major events of oppression of African people, e.g., the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the middle passage, the dehumanizing process of African people being sold as chattel, Jim Crow segregation, and police brutality. Young Black males must be educated on the atrocities committed against their people to better appreciate their ancestors’ strength, who endured such human suffering so that the knowledge is transferred to them to stress the resistance of institutional racism and oppression.
Nationwide, more students decided to take a gap year in the 2020-2021 school year than in previous ones, according to the Gap Year Association. But while some students decided to opt out of their school year, a few historically Black colleges did not see a significant number of students do the same. A gap year has long been an opportunity for individuals to deepen their self-awareness through experiences, according to Ethan Knight, founder of the Gap Year Association. Many have aimed to do this through travel, volunteer work and other activities prior to enrolling into post-secondary education or entering the workforce. But the COVID-19 pandemic complicated things.