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.
The soccer team Santas plays a match at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois. (Photo by Rita Oceguera/The Chicago Reporter)
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AURORA, Ill. – The first thing visitors hear opening the door of the facility is Spanish music. While the sound makes it seem as if nothing has changed, the building is still. The children who once ran freely, spilling chips as they chased one another, are gone.The screaming mothers and friends at the sidelines are no longer there.
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As confirmed coronavirus cases climb into the thousands for Illinois, state and city officials, businesses and communities rally to fight the disease as questions remain about protecting the most vulnerable residents and workers.