General Interest

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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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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Flooding relief for Chatham

By Morgan Levey
Medill Reports

A South-Side Chicago neighborhood endures significant flooding from even minor rain events. It’s had this problem since the 1860s and residents are tired of scrubbing their basements and dealing with mold. But the end may be in sight — at least for a few dozen homes.

Photo at top: Rain gardens help mitigate flooding. This is one type of intervention the pilot program will fund for Chatham homes. (Lori Burns/Chatham resident)

Humbolt Park’s West Town Bikes get local teens in gear

By Holly Honderich
Medill Reports

Humbolt Park’s West Town Bikes has grown from a small partnership with an affordable housing network to a city-wide program provider, using the “magic of the bicycle” to foster youth development. In conjunction with its retail store, Ciclo Urbano, West Town bikes provides the chance for local teenagers to play, learn and work.


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For a family who lost a baby, love keeps them moving on

By Yunyi (Jessie) Liu
Medill Reports

Anne Street set a wall of five  clocks at home to the moment of her marriage and the birth times of each of her four children. The accuracy of the time can be calculated in seconds.

Her eldest son George, 7, excitedly pointed to the clock with the time of 5:48:17 p.m. at a standstill – the clock in the top left corner.

“That one’s my clock!”

Then he turned around and ran to the toy tent. Anthony, 4, Anne’s second son, did not seem to care whether his birth time was on the top right corner, set at 5 p.m., or the lower right corner, set at about 7 p.m. He was more excited about the middle clocks: “The big one’s Daddy’s,” the clock celebrating the Streets’ marriage.  Anthony’s clock is the  one set at 5.

If Lorraine, the owner of the clock in the lower left corner, was still here, she would be able to show her age, with a mumbled language that others may not understand.

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One priest’s journey from the Second City to the Eternal City

By Larry Flynn
Medill Reports

Fr. Tom McCarthy is in his element. He wears the Augustinian Black Robe. He fills the immediate space around him with gestures and a Chicago accent. He faces 32 students at All Saints School in Rossford, Ohio, and plants a seed.

“How many of you here have thought about being a priest or sister?”

The question matters to McCarthy because he once had to answer it. Sister Catherine Hanlin posed the same proposition to his sixth grade class at St. Adrian’s on the south side of Chicago – in room 205, he remembers. He recalls little else from Sister Hanlin’s speech other than the question itself.

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Chinatown “circle time” preps kids and parents for school days ahead

By Serena Yeh
Medill Reports

Around 20 young children, accompanied by their caregivers, sing and dance to both English and Mandarin nursery rhymes, listen to an English story translated to the Mandarin language, and learn from a bilingual teacher about cultivating good habits in the classroom.

It is a scene called “circle time” and it happens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at the Chinese American Service League’s family and learning resource center, said CASL’s parent-child educator, Jasmine Wang. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the children participate in gym classes.

Through the program, the children – infants, toddlers and a bit older – are taught simple songs and dances, habits such as lining up to wash their hands before eating a meal and about different festivities ranging from Lunar New Year to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The goal of the two-hour program, said CASL’s manager for children and youth development, Yuling Wu, is to educate both children and parents.

“For children, it is to provide a learning environment where they can get to know American culture, and kind of experiencing the school setting in the United States,” said Wu.

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Wrigleyville memorabilia shop brings history to life

By Sarah Foster
Medill Reports

Tom Boyle can’t help but poke through his shelves. He’s in search of a movie poster that only he can visualize. It’s somewhere among the newspaper clippings, the vinyl records, the buttons and the books.

“Let me see,” he says, furrowing his brows and shuffling through his inventory.

After searching for a few minutes himself, he sends his colleague over to the other corner of the store, hoping he can help find it. Poking and prodding through the posters, the pair finally pull it out of the pile: “A Stratton Story.” Their eyes glance over the picture depicting the 1949 film about an injured baseball player. They notice the faded red-and-white hues and the way James Stewart embraces June Allyson.

“This is it,” Boyle says with a smile.

But they weren’t searching through their inventory for fun. They were hoping to retrieve the poster for a customer, who has the same last name as Stewart’s character.

“It’s like finding a home for abandoned children,” Boyle said. “When we can find a good home for these items, it makes us happy.”

Intimate customer service and an ability to provide rare items from the past are exactly how Boyle’s store, a memorabilia shop called Yesterday, has managed to stay open for 42 years.

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Japanese politician fights for gender equality

By Sarah Foster
Medill Reports

Tokyo—There would be nothing special about the night of Oct. 22.

There would be no front-page stories to commemorate her, no newspaper headlines to honor her. No confetti would fall from the ceiling; no balloons would bounce to the floor.

Instead, she would spend her night alone, sitting somberly in a single-room hotel. She would wait for the results to pour in, to confirm what she’d already known.

Noelle Takahashi knows what they’re looking for.

Most of the time, it’s not someone like her.

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