A steady stream of visitors came and went this weekend to an alley in “La Villita”, as the neighborhood of Little Village is affectionately known by its mostly Mexican, Mexican-American residents; to the site of the final moments of Adam Toledo’s life. Makeshift memorial and mural in Little Village
Many of the mourners at the makeshift memorial were parents with their children who paid their respects by leaving candles, flowers, and messages at the very spot where the 13-year old died. They prayed at the mural, a cutout of Adam with his hands up and angel wings memorializing the instant when he was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer. Their fixed stare lost in thought over the tragedy that happened there just weeks ago, and the violence many of them know all too well. “I don’t want my son growing up here”, said Erica Sanchez as she held her 3-year old son.
These are just a few of the terms used to describe a group of more dynamic people than the one-dimensional labels forced upon them, often by the U.S. government and academics.
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.
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 seminal experience in Carlil Pittman’s life came when a Chicago police officer pulled him out of class at Gage Park High School making vague accusations he didn’t understand, then began searching the 16-year-old boy, rummaging through his pockets and backpack. Just as classes were changing the officer took Pittman’s pants down – in front of all his classmates – as part of the continued and fruitless search. A childhood that made him all too familiar with the stop-and-frisk policy turned into a recent incident in which Chicago police officers approached his car, with his four children inside, flashlights shining in Pittman’s face and hands on their weapons after the family had seen “Power Rangers.’’
“That’s why it’s personal for me to see a real police reform and accountability ordinance,’’ said Pittman, 27, co-founder of GoodKidsMadCity, an organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project, and a member of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, GAPA. “We need reform that has real teeth and real accountability.’’
That reform would not only be real but a giant, progressive step with supporters calling it the most significant police reform in America if it passes in the City Council. It would be the fruit of a half decade of labor, community input, and involvement from more than 100 groups across the city.
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.
Several cities across the nation received federal discretionary dollars last year to help cover COVID-19 related costs. The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) payments could be used for public health and safety response efforts, testing sites and economic support initiatives, as long as the costs were “necessary expenditures” incurred due to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Out of the $470 million Chicago received, the city directed $281.5 million to the Chicago Police Department between March 1 and May 15, according to a budget briefing provided to Chicago aldermen in February. This move was met by criticism, including from Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who said the money spent on the police department could have been used to directly help Chicagoans struggling from the pandemic. It also came after activist made calls to defund the police amid protests against police brutality in the summer.
For more than a half century government offices in Chicago, Cook County and the State of Illinois have been required to follow anti-patronage hiring practices under federal court rulings known as Shakman Decrees. The rulings came after a lawsuit by Chicago activist attorney Michael Shakman. who wanted to end the political hiring and related corruption that was said to be the norm at all levels of government. While Illinois still ranks as one of the most corrupt and compromised states every year, few would argue the changes that have been made under Shakman have been a significant improvement. But disputes over exactly how to comply with Shakman continue to this day and along with some confusion and frustration comes another problem: A big compliance bill for taxpayers to foot.
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.