Syrian refugee women building a new life in Illinois

Loumay Alesali
Medill Reports

The journey of Hanan Fayoumi and her four children from Damascus, Syria to Rockford was full of struggles and unpredictability.

She left her home with her husband and kids after violence escalated in 2012 and went to her parents’ big house in a safe village. They stayed with all of her siblings and their families who fled their houses too.

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These women of color in Chicago are shattering gender and racial stereotypes through improv

By Jonathan Skinner
Medill Reports

At the Annoyance Theater, a place known for celebrating more absurd brands of comedy, Matt Damon Improv is doing something that shouldn’t be absurd, providing a place for women of color to perform freely in the acting community. Their variety show tackles social, racial, and cultural issues every Sunday Night at 9:30 pm.

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Cuba’s contradictions

By Holly Honderich
Medill Reports

HAVANA – A cab driver earns more in one day than a doctor does in a week. Monthly government ration cards provide only enough rice, coffee, eggs and milk to cover basic needs for 13 days. Education is free, but tens of thousands of teachers have abandoned the profession because of poor working conditions and negligible pay. Daily life in Cuba is stained by contradictions.

When President Raúl Castro steps down later this year, it will be the first time in six decades that Cuba will not be led by a Castro. His successor faces a country struggling not just to live up to the soaring ideals of the 1959 socialist revolution, but also to realize more earthbound goals: put milk on the shelves, provide a living wage and restore a missing sense of opportunity to the national narrative.

“We expect nothing,” said Leslie Alemán, 25, who lives with her husband Jorge in her parents’ Havana home.

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The private sector brings change to Cuba

Loumay Alesali
Medill Reports

For years, Luis Manuel Rodriguez made vaccines for a living. He liked his job, but he didn’t earn enough to support his family and improve his life. Attracted by the money available in the tourist industry, he quit his job as a chemical engineer and became a waiter in a popular brewpub.

Eight years later, the brewpub thrives in the beautifully restored Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, where tourists keep the convertible Cuban currency flowing in restaurants and bars.

It is only the tourism sector, Rodriguez said, that holds out the possibility of a living wage.

“Our economy is on the bottom,” he said.

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In Cuba Family Means Collective Wisdom

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

HAVANA — A sunbeam streams through the window and crosses the living room. It is 9 a.m., and Lesbia is opening the shutters while humming the notes of Cuban guajira. They resonate in her mind as the most powerful of memories.

It was the late 1970s, and Lesbia was in her house in Matanzas. Her mom was getting ready to receive family for lunch. Eleven siblings, three children each. It was the same every Sunday: a meal, a guitar and songs until late afternoon.

“Siempre juntos,” says Lesbia. Always together.

This is how she defines family. It’s the essence of Cuba and, perhaps, an inadvertent product of the socialist experiment.

Scarcity forces entire families to live under the same roof. Houses with three bedrooms accommodate up to nine people. The sense of community – the greatest strength of the Cuban population – stems from the necessity to share.

Physical closeness ensures a continuous exchange of knowledge and wisdom. Stories are turned into life lessons that family members pass on to each other.

At the same time, as the country undergoes historical changes, generational gaps become more tangible: Young Cubans face the limits imposed by the regime and mature a stronger desire for openness.

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Orland Park Teen Wants Everyone to Play Baseball

By: Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

Orland Park has a special resident who thinks beyond himself when it comes to improving his community. Sixteen-year-old Zachary Stack is on a mission to building a handicap accessible baseball field.

After hearing about a Challengers Field in nearby Tinley Park, IL he asked why his town of Orland Park, IL didn’t have a field that was handicap friendly. When it was apparent that the idea for one was never thought of, he decided to take action.

Zachary’s mission is to share his love for the game of baseball by making it accessible to those who haven’t always been able to play due to their disabilities.


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Northwestern men’s golf prepares for Big Ten Championships

By Darren Zaslau
Medill Reports

The Northwestern men’s golf team has already started its preparations for the 2018 Big Ten Championships.

After finishing in second place last year, the Wildcats are looking to capture its first Big Ten title since 2006. The Big Ten Championships will be held at the Baltimore Country Club, in Baltimore, Md., from April 27–29.


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In modern Cuba, English is key for success

By Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

HAVANA – On the top floor of a walkup in the chic Havana neighborhood of Miramar sits the office of entrepreneurship magazine Negolution. Co-founders Marta E. Deus and Rigo García Berriel are young, professional, speak perfect English and look the part of any business owner in a capitalist country.

Except that this is Cuba, where communism reigns and “capitalism” can be a dirty word.

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Survivors of Sexual Violence Find an Outlet in Performance

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

Rory Beckett is 4 feet 11 inches tall, but as she thrashes her whole body to headbang, the shadows from her whipping hair tower over the stage.

When Beckett arrived for her performance at the Playground Theater, she had no plan for what she would do; only that she would dance to The Cranberries’ “Zombie.”

“What feels really good right now is that I cannot think of most of the thoughts that went through my mind as I was performing,” said Beckett a few days later. “I just let my body do what it wanted.”

Beckett’s performance closed Monday night’s show “Resilient,” a monthly exhibition for survivors of sexual violence.

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History on the wing: how evolution in birds is a window into the past

By David Thill
Medill Reports

Take a look, if you will, at the birds pictured here.

With their yellow throats and yellow breasts, their mottled feathers and the black streaks lining their wings like racing stripes – tiny cotton balls where their eyes once sat – they look like birds of a feather.

But they’re not of the same feather.

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