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.
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.
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 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.
Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden reversed former President’s Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, stating those actions are a stain on our national conscience.” This stance aligns with that of the tens of thousands of protesters who, at the time the first Muslim Travel Ban was enacted in January 2017, took to the streets and to airports across the country with slogans such as, “We are all Immigrants,” “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia,” and “Stop Hatred against Muslims.” To be sure, the Muslim Travel Ban is a racist policy. It seeks to keep out or deport people perceived to be Muslim based upon the racist assumption that “they” are violent potential terrorist enemies of the U.S. nation. The ban was an executive order that prevented individuals from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from many African countries, from entering the United States. Yet ending the Muslim Ban only scratches the surface of a much larger problem. If progressives really want to end anti-Muslim racism, we are going to need a more radical approach, that requires, as Angela Davis reminds us, “grasping things at the root.” The root cause of the Muslim Ban is anti-Muslim racism, which has many roots.
Presenting Hugo Balta, Nadine Naber, and Dr. Lance Williams offering weekly insights on issues and concerns in Chicago’s Latinx, Muslim, and African-American communities–only in The Chicago Reporter!