Many Puerto Ricans See Solidarity With Palestinians

Thunderous battles escalate in the skies above Israel and the ground below Gaza City, as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis continues to unleash death and destruction. Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators are marching on the streets of  Chicago and across the United States condemning what they say is indiscriminate bombing by Israel. Among the hundreds of “Free Palestine” signs and waving Palestinian flags are Puerto Rican flags peppered throughout the crowd shouting, “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go.”

Many Puerto Ricans stand in solidarity with Palestinians against what they see as a common enemy: settler colonialism. “During the recent uprisings we continue the long tradition of protesting and demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” declared the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago in a statement on social media. “We will continue to fight until Palestine, Puerto Rico, and everyone is free.”

Following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States in 1899.

Housing Is A Human Right

No one should have to choose between decent, safe, affordable housing and one that is insecure, unhealthy, or worse – be forced into homelessness. Accessing suitable housing not only meets an individual’s social needs, but also bulldozes barriers to fair employment, education, and health care ensuring community strength and growth for the entire populous. Over decades in the making, Chicago’s housing crisis has only been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic with the increased threat of evictions, foreclosures, and bankruptcy. Despite declines due to the pandemic, Chicago’s average rent is just under $2,000 and the median home sale price is $253,000, according to residential real estate platforms. Those listings vary considerably in North and South Side neighborhoods. While data varies, after you factor in the cost of living expenses such as utilities and groceries, a renter needs to bring in a salary of around $95,000 a year and $85,000 a year for a homeowner.

Latino Muslims Put Their Faith Into Action

The temperature drops faster than the setting sun on a Friday evening that feels more like Autumn than Spring. Car after car with members of the Ojala Foundation roll into the parking lot of Fairplay Foods on the Southwest Side for the weekly “Neighborly Deeds Initiative” of passing out food to the homeless. “As-salamu alaikum,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you” is followed by “Wa-alaikum As-salaam,” ”And peace be onto you” as volunteers greet one another. For some members of the Latino Muslim group, this will be their first time earning their hasanat, or reward for good deeds; others have been donating their time since the program began three years ago. Members of the Ojalá Foundation enjoy iftaar, the evening meal in the parking lot of FairPlay Foods, 2200 S. Western Ave.

University Needs To Do Better When Identifying Race

After decades of institutionalized racism against people perceived to be Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim in the U.S., it is a great disappointment that the University of Illinois continues to categorize Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) students as racially white in data, surveys, and university records. These populations face significant levels of racism across the U.S., in the state of Illinois, and on college campuses. To fight racism and discrimination and quantify it, this group must have its own designation separate from white. Currently, these students are classified as white, even as they are targeted as distinctly different from and inferior to whites, portrayed and treated as potential terrorists, enemies of the U.S. nation, and too frequently attacked for belonging to what bigots crudely deem a misogynist and backwards culture and religion (Islam). This institutionalizes their invisibility — meaning although they face racial adversity, they are denied recognition as a racial/ethnic group that has the legitimacy to advocate for racial justice, resources, and rights or simply be recognized, known about, and understood as having a distinct experience of race/ethnicity in the U.S. Perhaps institutionalizing their invisibility is intentional.

El Saadawi Was Much More Than News Media Portrayed

On March 22, 2021, renowned Egyptian Arab feminist Nawal El Saadawi died of natural causes. A former comrade, she authored more than 50 books and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. It is no surprise that many corporate media obituaries have misrepresented her contributions, focusing only on aspects of her work that align with the sensationalized racist ideas that circulate across U.S. society about Arab and Muslim women. In the Washington Post, for example, the story goes like this: El Saadawi fought for women’s rights and against female genital mutilation (FGM), and received death threats for criticizing Islam.  To be sure, El Saadawi fought for women’s rights, against FGM, and received death threats. Yet she fought through the framework of international socialist feminism, arguing that patriarchy is strengthened by international capitalism, not necessarily Islam.

Fairness of Redistricting Being Questioned by West Siders

Some West Side Chicago residents fear this year’s redistricting cycle could leave their communities without needed representation and resources. The fear isn’t new. But this year it comes amid a lack of transparency and public engagement, according to Valerie Leonard, a North Lawndale resident and the co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, which addresses issues of concern through community organizing, advocacy and community outreach. And as legislators gear up to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries to reflect population changes documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, Leonard and members of Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting, a coalition of community leaders and stakeholders, have also raised concerns about how their districts will be redrawn. Districts are redrawn every 10 years using population data provided by the Census Bureau.

A WARNING to Young, Black Males and Those Who Love Them

 L’A Capone’s song, Shooters, blasted as the walls of the small apartment shook. Thick smoke from marijuana-filled cigars called blunts hung over the heads of 15 to 20 young; Black males crammed into the living room. Their eyes barely open, jumping and hollering in unison:

 “It’s some shooters on my squad

It’s some shooters on my squad

If he holding on that work

Then that pussy gettin’ robbed”

 They never missed a word, never missed a beat as they recited the lyrics of the Drill rap song like a battlefield war cry. Their dread heads bobbed wildly up and down. Their guns flashed, pointed directly into the camera while they threw hand gestures that signified their gang affiliation.

Power and Politics in Chicago’s Struggle to Reduce Violence

In 2021, Chicago is on pace to have an even more violent year than in 2020, which saw a 50% jump in homicides. If this uncontrolled violence persists, it could cost the Mayor the next election. To its credit, the City has come up with a solid plan to combat gun violence. It prioritizes police reform and the expansion of social services. Yet, it comes up short of putting a price tag on what it would actually cost to put the plan into action.

The Community Can Deliver A Better COVID-19 Message Than Health Officials

The missteps in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution were predictable. How could anyone expect better from a broken health care system riddled with barriers for people of color due to deeply rooted structural racism and bias? For nearly a year, it’s been widely reported how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities across the country. Although Hispanics-Latinos make up a small fraction of the U.S. population, they account for an unfairly large proportion of COVID-19 cases and deaths. In Chicago, the Hispanic-Latino community is being affected by COVID-19 more than any other group, with more than 85,000 confirmed cases and in excess of 1,600 deaths.