He hadn’t been the best son or brother, but Manuel E. Vásquez knew his family would help him. He had left them as a gang member and convicted murderer, and returned 20 years later as a man stamped with the scarlet letter of being an ex-offender. But his mother took him in, and his sisters, brothers and in-laws wanted to help him get back on his feet. Because of his family, Vásquez wasn’t worried about finding a job. “Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know,” said Vásquez, 41, who was 5 months old when his family moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago.
When Manuel Feliciano was a young boy growing up in Humboldt Park, Puerto Ricans who saw each other on the street would thrust out a fist or point both index fingers in a gesture of solidarity. That’s when the Latin Kings “were for the people,” he said. They fed the poor and participated in politics. Many “clubs” like the Latin Kings sprung up and played baseball games against each other. Then the games got out of hand.
One morning last year, Calvin R. Mitchell Sr. went to a local dollar discount store to buy a fan and beat the July heat in his small, stuffy Uptown studio apartment. On his way back home, two police officers stopped him. One asked, “‘You got a receipt for this fan?'” Mitchell recalled. Before he could get it out of his pocket, he said, one of the cops handcuffed him. Mitchell was taken to the police station at 5400 N. Lincoln Ave.
Mary Russell Gardner and her family have lived in the same west Austin house, in the 47th precinct of the 29th Ward, since 1985. Bounded by Ohio and Lake streets, the precinct stretches across nine blocks where kids play amid tall trees and well-kept grass islands. Many of the neighborhood’s families have lived in their stately wood and brick homes for 20 or 30 years. Most know their next-door neighbors and people who live down the street. Gardner and her children are active voters, but, last year, after a walking canvass that began in August and spanned the city, the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago challenged the voting status of two of Gardner’s daughters, Constemecka and Charmaine.
Many people attend Chicago Police Board meetings, like this one held in April, seeking information about the department’s investigations of excessive force complaints. (Photo by Christopher B. Santiago)
The Chicago Police Department has omitted the most vital part of a state-mandated report that could help reveal if it has any rogue cops. After more than a decade of breaking the state law requiring the report, the department last month released one page of information about its investigations of officers accused of using unreasonable force. The status report shows that 1,429 unreasonable force allegations were made against 1,150 officers in 2003, and few were disciplined. It’s unclear how many officers received more than one complaint, or if any officers were repeatedly accused of abuse.
Behind binoculars, Valerie C. Johnson cried. She watched from a car across the street on a cold day last February as her students, bundled in winter coats, shouted, marched and waved banners that read “Tenure Professor Johnson” on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus. Eight months later, in October, Pat Gill, UIC’s associate chancellor, was the first person scheduled to speak at Illinois Board of Higher Education hearings on faculty diversity. She faced an ethnically diverse audience of about 40 people, many of them university administrators or professors. Gill, who is Latina, read from a statement.
Jackelin Brooks believes that black youth need more black role models. Brooks attended a predominantly black grade school on the West Side where she and other students held books “like they were birds” so they wouldn’t fall apart. She was one of few African Americans in her high school. Brooks remembers how white students in passing cars sprayed beer on her while she waited for the bus. She identified her locker by the “G” spray-painted on it.
In 1985, the state legislature created two programs to increase minority doctorates in Illinois: the Illinois Minority Graduate Incentive Program and the Illinois Consortium for Education Opportunities Program. Through the programs, the state spent $32 million on scholarships for 846 minority doctoral students. Of those, about a third remained in Illinois to teach college after finishing their Ph.D.s.
Progress reports by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in early 2000 called results of the first program “disappointing.” Soon after, Gov. George H. Ryan pledged to solve the problem. As a first step, he directed the board to conduct a study and hold hearings.
Until this year, Loyola University Chicago’s Asian and Asian American Studies program was praised in national academic circles for its focus on Asians in the United States. But in late October an advisory committee suggested dropping “Asian American” from the program’s name and literature. “We looked around the table and asked, ‘Who’s going to teach these courses?'” said Tracey Pintchman, who became director of the program this fall. Students can receive a minor through the program. The committee, which includes university staff and faculty who teach the program’s courses, decided to “reconfigure” the program, Pintchman said.