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.
COVID 19 forces changes in strategies for anti-violence groups
Like much of the country, Autry Phillips was caught off guard when a worldwide health crisis descended on Chicago last year. In addition to his long-time, ongoing efforts to reduce neighborhood violence, he now faced the challenge of conveying his organization’s message to residents who were increasingly vulnerable to a rampant virus. “When COVID hit back in March we didn’t know what to do,” says Phillips, executive director of Target Area Development Corp.. “If COVID was part of a street organization and carrying a gun, hanging out on the corner, I would have known exactly what to do. We had no idea what to do with COVID.”
Aside from sharing federal safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (“We said, ‘It’s time to put the guns down, but you gotta put a mask on now,’” recalls Phillips.), he and other peace activists have been forced to regroup and re-strategize.
Patrons waiting outside of a south suburban dispensary is becoming a common sight. Black and Latinx owners are barely a blip on the cannabis income radar. Kara Wright followed the rules and could be considered a winner, since the state awarded her and her applicant team the right to maybe get cannabis dispensary licenses in a yet to be conducted lottery. Yet after months of delays, the lottery hasn’t been conducted, and Wright, one few Black step away from legally selling cannabis in Illinois, still doesn’t have a license. “We are almost at a billion dollars [of sales] here in Illinois,” said Wright.
As cannabis becomes legal in more states, religious leaders should be truth-tellers of the racialized history and disparate impact of the war on drugs in recommending how their congregations and communities should respond.