To many of its supporters, the death penalty helps balance the scales of justice. But on Jan. 31, Republican Gov. George H. Ryan–”a longtime proponent–”imposed a moratorium on executions and promised to review the state’s capital punishment system. “Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate,” he said. No other state has ever halted executions for a systemic review.
Sleet fell throughout the cold morning of Nov. 2, but the five guys handing out campaign literature outside St. Juliana school couldn’t think of being anywhere else on Election Day. Pacing next to the walkway leading into the school, 7400 W. Touhy Ave. on Chicago’s far Northwest Side, they tried to catch everyone headed inside to vote.
Chicago is so commonly called an epicenter of the nation’s asthma epidemic that it’s become a cliché. The area’s public health departments all know this. Most of them just aren’t doing much about it. An investigation by The Chicago Reporter and Chicago Parent has found that, years after the area attracted national attention for its high asthma rates, little has been done by government to counter a disease that doctors say can be managed, treated and prevented. While government health departments are active members of asthma coalitions and collaborations, private and nonprofit programs are leading the way in outreach and education to families.
When 1-year-old London Mitchell suffered an asthma attack last year, emergency-room doctors helped her thrpugh the crisis but didn’t tell her mother, Loretta, how to prevent another one. (Photo by Mary Hanlon)
Twelve-year-old Hiram Moss is in the back of the Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation’s Asthma Van one morning, insisting to several skeptics that he has been taking his medication. Glancing at the screen of a laptop computer, nurse Becky Blasé looks over the readings from his last breathing test. She doesn’t find his claims persuasive, so she tries a different tack. “Alright, well, how is basketball?”
Child asthma is manageable—as long as the children who have it, and their parents, sit down with doctors to learn everything they can about the disease, map out treatment plans and carefully monitor how they’re doing. It’s worked that way so far for Myles Gibbs and his parents, Keesha and Richard. Myles, now 5, is a small-built, high-energy boy with thick curly hair and precocious verbal skills: He recently described his new cocker spaniel as having ears that are “soft and sort of lumpy. And, when she drinks, her ears come down like this”—which he illustrated by holding his hands, loose at the wrist, up next to his ears. But, from early on, his parents, then living in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, noticed he had respiratory problems that seemed to follow a pattern.
Regina Green used to spend nights hoping her son Myron would stop coughing. In 1998, Myron entered his first winter with what seemed like a cold that wouldn’t go away. “He would get to the point where he would cough and cough and cough and start sweating,” says Green, a friendly, talkative African American woman whose round face is dominated by hip, horn-rimmed glasses and a genuine gaze of pleasantness, even in the unusual event that she’s not smiling. She wasn’t then. “I was concerned,” she says, and often she was terrified.
As common, and potentially dangerous, as asthma may be, surprisingly little is known about it—including its cause and the cure. Doctors, then, have turned to a medical version of the old sports adage that says, if you can’t stop the guy you’re trying to beat, try to contain him. The symptoms of the disease are well-documented: persistent coughing, irregular breathing, interrupted sleeping because of coughing or breathing problems, and trouble exercising. Other illnesses, including bronchitis, respiratory viruses and even colds, show some of the same symptoms. As a result, doctors often have a hard time recognizing asthma, especially among infants, who are vulnerable to infections. But the key to asthma is that it’s a chronic condition.
The Rev. Christopher Alan Bullock listens to a speaker at a Republican Party rally. Bullock, the first African American to top the GOP ticket in Cook County, says he is on a mission to diversify the mostly white party. (Photo by Louis Byrd III)
If you spend any time with the Rev. Christopher Alan Bullock, you’ll hear him say that ministry must be done “with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” As if demonstrating this, last November, a week and a half before announcing he would challenge incumbent John H. Stroger for president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Bullock took a walk through Wentworth Gardens. The low-rise Chicago Housing Authority development sits across the street from Progressive Baptist Church, 3658 S. Wentworth Ave., where Bullock is the pastor.