Social Justice

Chicago River enthusiasts take a group photo to focus on conservation

By Allie Burger

April is Overflow Action Month on the Chicago River. Because of how the city’s sewer system was designed, sewage can enter the river during heavy rains when the drains overflow.

To promote awareness of the issue, and to encourage water conservation, Friends of the Chicago River invited residents to “photobomb” the river.

Photo at top: The event included almost 200 participants downtown. (Friends of the Chicago River)

Logan Square teens preserve their Latino culture

By Alissa Anderegg and Stephanie Rothman

Logan Square is a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood that has seen thriving new businesses and rising rents. But gentrification is pushing out the Latino population that has lived there for decades. According to U.S. Census data, in the last 15 years, Logan Square has seen the most Latino displacement of all 77 Chicago neighborhoods.

Young teens at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association are getting involved to try to preserve their culture in the face of gentrification. These teenage activists are speaking out against the changes that are directly affecting their families, neighbors and local businesses.

Photo at top: An installation dedicated to the heritage of Logan Square families is on display at the XingonX Cultural Festival, sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

‘Fiesta’ brings health services to Chicago’s Latina community

By Alissa Anderegg

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Venus Ginés decided there needed to be more health awareness and education for other Latinas. Together with the Mexican consulate, she founded Día de la Mujer Latina to provide free services, seminars and screenings to women around the country.

Now in its 20th year, the organization has reached more than 96,000 women through “health fiestas” in 39 cities. Last week marked the second year the event has come to Chicago.

Photo at top: A nurse administers blood pressure tests to participants of Día de la Mujer Latina’s Health Fiesta. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Englewood couple opens home as a haven to children of all ages

By Alex Whittler

Quilen and Hannah Blackwell offer a place of refuge to children in an area that often makes headlines for its gun violence and crime rates.

“The Chicago Eco House is an anti-violence strategy and nonprofit that’s focused on using sustainable technologies to invest in the community,” Quilen Blackwell said while a group of kids ate s’mores in his backyard in Englewood, which ranks as the tenth most dangerous Chicago neighborhood.

Those statistics have deterred potential homebuyers in the past, but that’s exactly what drew the Blackwells to Englewood.

With a large tarp welcoming students into their home hanging from a black iron fence, the young married couple said they proudly live and serve through their nonprofit on South Peoria. The Blackwells said they don’t hesitate to offer their home to anyone in the community who needs a haven– especially the nearly 30 kids who are likely to stop by on their way home from school.

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Some UIC Workers Working Without a Contract

By Wen-Yee Lee

On campus resistance day, workers held simultaneous nationwide rallies. Workers from University of Illinois Chicago, who picketed outside the hospital, are calling for a new contract.

Photo at top: University of Illinois Chicago Hospital is criticized by their workers who are working without a contract. (Wen-Yee Lee/MEDILL)

Body Policing: Journalist faces trans issues at TSA checkpoints

By Hailey Melville

This story was previously published in USA Today and Out Digital.

At the security entrance to the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, I was handed a customer satisfaction card. It was small and green, just big enough for the airport logo, phone number and my comments about the service I received.

I felt sick. “In 20 minutes, they probably won’t be happy they gave this to me,” I said, struggling to seem tough.

My two friends, fellow graduate students from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, were moving quickly through the empty velvet-roped lines and it wasn’t clear they had heard me. I was muffled. At my senior prom, I told my date I loved her but my voice was lost in cafeteria-monitor-level Rascal Flatts. I wouldn’t find out for two weeks that she heard what I said. It was like that.

I had been lucky leaving Chicago. Instead of being told to remove my shoes, place my laptop in a bin, remove my jacket and step into one of those sci-fi full-body scanners, I was hurriedly shuffled through a metal detector. Out of my control but a pleasant surprise.

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How homeless Chicago teens are using social media to communicate

By Haley Velasco

Correction: The original version of this story published on March 9 incorrectly identified the makers of the Streetlight app. The app was not created by the City of Chicago. Streetlight is a joint project created and managed by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Youth Futures and the Young Invincibles, with grant funding from the VNA Foundation.

Homeless young people in Chicago are using social media to connect with each other and with services around the city. According to Chicago Public Schools, 18,831 students — or approximately 4.8 percent of the population — were identified as homeless during the 2015-16 school year. Programs that are providing services to homeless youths, like Teen Living Programs and La Casa Norte, have turned to social media to communicate with homeless youths.

Facebook is the easiest way for the program organizers and managers to reach young people, according to the sources we spoke to. When they don’t have access to smartphones, many homeless teens use public libraries as a place to use the internet and check their social media accounts.

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Immigrants Protested Trump’s Executive Orders

By Wen-Yee Lee

President Donald Trump signed executive orders to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and deport illegal immigrants. Chicago’s immigrant communities protested his actions in front of the Chicago Immigration Court Jan. 25.

Jude Ssempungu, Board Member at the United African Organization, is speaking for immigrant communities in Chicago. (Wen-Yee Lee/MEDILL)

Lawndale man finds hope in the basement of a church

By Pat Nabong and Hammad Sarfraz

Although fewer people experienced homelessness in Chicago in 2016 compared to the previous year, nearly six thousand still live on the streets and in shelters. Bernard Johnson is one of them.

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Protesters interrupt council meeting, deliver 300 letters to Mayor’s Office in attempt to curb gun violence

By Alex Whittler

It’s still unclear what will become of the city’s unclaimed $15 million of property tax rebate money. Some people have at least one idea of how the funds could combat one of the city’s most infamous issues. Medill reporter Alex Whittler was there as a group of Chicago South and West Siders took their message to City Hall.

Photo at top: Students prepare to deliver 300 letters pleading for anti-gun violence funding to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Office. (Alex Whittler/MEDILL)