All posts by giuliapetroni2018

Photo Gallery: Portraits of Cuba

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

From Havana to Matanzas: away from 1950s Cadillacs and souvenirs of Che, these are the people we met, the streets we walked.

Photo at top: Havana, Cuba. (Giulia Petroni/MEDILL).

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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Black girls perceived, often treated as older and less innocent, study finds

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

In the summer of 2012, a 15-year-old black girl was arrested by police for using her student MetroCard in Harlem, New York. Officers questioned her age – they thought she was too old to use a card valid only for youths under 19 – and kept her in costudy until they got her birth certificate.

After being treated at a hospital for the damage caused by handcuffs on her wrists, Alexis Sumpter said she would have never gone to the same station again.

African-American females are perceived less innocent and more adult-like than white females, reveals the report “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood” published last year by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.

“This is the evidence of what we call adultification,” said Thalia Gonzales, professor at Occidental College and co-author of the research.

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Photo Gallery: Students walk out to protest against gun violence

By Giulia Petroni and Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

In solidarity with the National Walkout Day, students across the Chicago-area walked out of their classrooms to protest against gun violence.

The 17-minute march — a minute for each life lost in the Parkland shooting — is intended to pressure U.S. Congress to pass gun control legislation.

At Evanston Township and Oak Park and River Forest high schools, students, parents and community members marched and held signs to say “enough is enough”.

Photo at top: Walkout at Oak Park and River Forest High School. (Giulia Petroni/MEDILL)

Q&A: Liberty, Security, Sacrifice, Feeling Safe

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

The shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, demonstrate that the emotional impact of a tragedy leads people to question the existing security measures and demand for some reinforcements. The expanded use of metal detectors, lock-down policies and surveillance cameras, however, also challenge people’s freedom.

Are individuals willing to trade liberty for security? How much freedom are they willing to sacrifice? Do restrictive measures really make people feel safer?

Amy Zajakowski Uhll, director at the Chicago Center for Integration and Healing’s Groups, a center providing integrated psychotherapy on a wide range of mental-health issues, with a specialty in the treatment of anxiety and trauma, discussed a psychological perspectives with Medill Reports. Here is the conversation:

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Local boxing gym takes fighting off the streets

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

For the last two and a half years, Juliana Hirales has been training at Little Village’s youth boxing gym 20 hours per week.

One hundred and twenty-five pounds, 5’2″, and not afraid to punch. She was only 14 when she started fighting on the streets, a teenager dealing with her dad’s substances-abuse problem and her peers’ bad influences. Today, she is the only female boxer among a group of amateur and professional youths practicing boxing on the neighborhood’s west side.

Boxing is a form of prevention, said Paulino Vargas, mentor and coach at Urban Life Skills, a local organization counseling and advocating for youths in Little Village.

“It’s a way to keep children off the streets,” said Vargas.

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More jail time won’t stop crime, fair-sentencing advocate argues

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

On the day of his 17th birthday, Xavier McElrath-Bey was standing in a walkway of Cook County Jail, when he heard a very loud voice screaming:

“Welcome to Division 1. If you wanna survive in this place, keep your mouth shut and mind your own business.”

McElrath-Bey was waiting for a judge to decide if he would be transferred from the juvenile system to the adult system. He had been only 13 when convicted for involvement in gang-related murder and sentenced to 25 years of prison,

Raised in the Back of the Yards in Chicago’s Southside, McElrath-Bey’s childhood was marked by family abuse, foster care and street life. Only the support he received from his public offender, his GED instructor, and later on by college professors and mentors, allowed him to embrace a significant change.

“I stand here as a free man. And I urge all of you to ensure the same opportunity that was given to me, to other men,” said McElrath-Bey in front of a large audience at the Chicago Cultural Center. He has been free for 15 years.

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From former gang member to local mentor: How one man is helping youth say ‘no’ to gang life

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

Between West Cermak Road and West 32nd Street there’s an invisible line dividing the east and west sides of Little Village. Formerly known as South Lawndale, the neighborhood boasts one of the largest Mexican-American communities of the Midwest.

There, street gangs continue to represent a visible presence. Latin Kings to the east, Gangster Two-Six to the west. Each with its own internal structure and rules. Only one law reigns supreme: Hate whoever is on the other side.

Jorge Roque knows it well. He was born in El Paso, Texas, and moved to Chicago in the late 1970s.

“Little Village grew me up,” he said.

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Juvenile-justice report: Incarceration doesn’t rehabilitate but family-based programs might

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

Family-focused and community-based approaches are more effective than incarceration in rehabilitating offenders and creating safe communities, according to a new report on Illinois’ juvenile-justice system.

Even when performing at their best, traditional prison-based systems not only fail in adequately supporting development and rehabilitation, but also cause an increase of costs and recidivism rates, according to the Children and Family Justice Center.

Being in detention for any length of time increases the risk of a youth’s being incarcerated as an adult, the report revealed.

“Cook County youth who were sent to juvenile detention were twice as likely -as youth with the same backgrounds who were not detained due to more lenient judges- to be incarcerated in an adult prison by the age of 25,” according to the report.

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Pending budget causes uncertainty amongst Cook County’s employees

By Giulia Petroni
Medill Reports

Three weeks into the new year, Cook County’s budget for 2018 remains stalled by an ongoing lawsuit contesting major cuts, leaving the county’s justice system in an atmosphere of uncertainty.

After the county’s board of commissioners approved 320 layoffs and cuts of over $200 million in order to fill the budget hole caused by the sweetened beverage tax’s repeal, employees under the authority of Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans feared their jobs could be in jeopardy.

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