Chicago eviction rates significantly decreased in 2020 due to the statewide eviction ban, but it has not mitigated the risk of evictions for residents, particularly on the South and West sides. Thirty percent or more of renter households are predicted to face the risk of eviction this year, according to an Aspen Institute report. For Chicago, that would mean more than 20,000 evictions, according to a report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and Loyola University Chicago. LCBH reported that “majority Black areas continue to have eviction filing rates substantially higher than in other parts of the city. “The new data shows that majority Black areas had eviction filing rates five times higher than majority white areas, while rates in Latinx neighborhoods were twice as high as those in white areas,” as stated in an LCBH news release on Dec.
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.
For Ernestine Jackson, 80, getting the polio vaccine along with her two young sons and husband was a no-brainer.
“I had no apprehension of [us or] our children getting it,” she said. This was for a personal reason: her father had struggled with the disease, which had given him a short leg and made it difficult for him to find work. “It was hard, especially if [polio’s effect] was really visible,” said Mrs. Jackson. “I was just happy about the fact that my children wouldn’t have to go through what my father … went through.”
Her family took the vaccine in the 1960s, after a church service in Peoria, IL; the vaccine they took was in its sugar cube form, which was the second type of polio vaccine created in 1961 by scientist Albert Sabin. Violet Petty, 79, remembers being similarly unconcerned about taking the polio vaccine. She was vaccinated at her school in Mississippi in the 1950s; in the early ’50s, America had seen a second large-scale polio outbreak and in 1955, the year that the polio vaccine was invented by scientist Jonas Salk, recorded over 28,000 cases of polio and 1,043 deaths.
As the deadly Spanish Influenza killed 675,000 Americans between 1917 and 1920, that era’s Black healthcare practitioners took the initiative to help African-Americans avoid and recover from that flu because they saw that the public health system would not or could not do so.
Now, as America steps up its 2021 COVID19 vaccination phase, Black doctors and their HBCU (historically Black college and university) colleagues are again filling a void born of the same variants of systemic and structural racism their great grandparents experienced a little over 100 years ago. One example of the parallel is that in 1918, according to a study published in Public Health Reports, Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell, the Black medical director of Philadelphia’s 75-bed Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, established a 40-bed emergency annex at St. Peter Claver, a Black parochial school when his hospital beds were quickly exhausted by the Spanish Flu. Mossell got no funding for this from Philadelphia’s Board of Health, although the city had opened many emergency clinics for sick whites.
In early 2020, in response to the current COVID19 pandemic, Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, and other HBCU leaders sought and received $25 million in diagnostic and testing equipment from Thermo Fisher Scientific, which they initially used for COVID19 testing for students and faculty on their campuses, testing that was slow coming from other sources for these students and the communities they came from. “We’ll be having discussions on how to do this for the wider community,” Hildreth said. “We see an opportunity for the wider community to be enhanced. We’ve asked the Ways and Means committee of Congress for $5 million to allow medical schools to set up a consortium for a national testing approach.”
Hildreth also envisions a role for HBCU’s in making vaccinations more efficient for communities of color. “The solution is we must take the vaccinations to their communities, to meet the people where they are,” Hildreth said. “With the right training and coordination schools, churches and other community organizations could develop model field hospitals for testing and vaccinations, and once we have an easy to transport vaccine, we can use a mobile approach—medical vans that will extend the reach of vaccines and testing.”
Other Black doctors share Hildreth’s view that Black people and other people of color suffered a big spike in infections and deaths early in 2020 because they were never surveyed or tested properly early on. Health officials, they asserted,, simply surveyed and tested areas and locations where Black folks do not congregate so they got missed, and studies support their conclusion
In December 2020, a study of public health departments was published in the Journal of the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security in conjunction with NCCU (North Carolina Central University), an HCBU in Durham, North Carolina.
This study outlined troubling details about the readiness of public health departments across the country in terms of dealing with a pandemic like COVID19.
The study showed that state and local public health departments were steadily cut in size and scope as state legislatures cut state and local taxes.
After an ongoing conflict between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union to reopen schools for in-person learning during the pandemic, education advocates argue that tensions between Chicago Public schools and the CTU wouldn’t have arisen if the Chicago Board of Education was elected and more responsive to the community. CTU approved a back-to-school deal with support from close to 55% of its members after teachers argued that the initial reopening plan fell short of safety expectations. The reopening debate has renewed energy around an elected school board for the Chicago Board of Education as CPS is the country’s third-largest school district and the only district in Illinois with an appointed school board. “I think an elected school board would make a huge difference because the school board will be responsive to public demand,” said Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. “We know that the majority of the district is Black and brown and they’re not sending their children to school right now.
Jon Burge is still in the news, though he died in 2018. Often referenced as the disgraced and notorious former police commander of the Chicago Police Department, Burge, who served half of his prison sentence and was allowed to keep his police pension and serve some of his confinement near his Florida home, is again newsworthy because of the release of the Chicago Police Torture Archive. On the police website, the first image is of a broken storefront and a request by the police for the public’s help with the “looting and civil unrest task force.”
The police equate pilfering with protest – even if these protests are protected under the First Amendment. This conflation reflects hostility and is part of the calculus many members of the public are forced to consider at all times. Studies have found that victims of interpersonal violence, undocumented individuals, and members of other marginalized communities are less likely to call the police for fear of being further harmed by antagonistic police officers or unsupported by wrongful policies and procedures.
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)
IN ENGLISH | EN ESPAÑOL
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.