Social Justice

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)

Naomi Oreskes urges scientists to take a stand against attempts to ‘silence facts’

By Janice Cantieri

Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes urged hundreds of scientists to step beyond the objectivity of their data and embrace the riskier role as “sentinels” for scientific facts.

“We do need to speak for the facts because the facts don’t speak for themselves,” Oreskes said to an overflowing auditorium at the Boston conference of he American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We live in a world where many people are trying to silence facts,” said the author of “Merchants of Doubt.”

The book and documentary based on it show how the tobacco and sugar industries and climate change deniers cast doubt on scientific facts without ever needing to refute them.
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Climate extremes can ignite violence and more intolerant societies

By Janice Cantieri

Rising extremes of droughts, floods or food shortages can reduce a country’s political stability and cultural tolerance, warned scientists at the American Association for the Advancements of Science conference in Boston this weekend.

As global temperatures continue to rise, these and other environmental threats are expected to increase.

“What you have here is a model where different forms of ecological threat are producing stronger cultural institutions,” but stronger in the sense of more regimented, said Joshua Conrad Jackson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “That could carry over into intergenerational changes in cultural institutions.”

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Historic Bronzeville hardware store and jazz archive set to close

By Pat Nabong

Meyers Ace Hardware has two kinds of customers: those who buy paint for their walls and those who “listen to the walls.” For decades, hundreds of tourists and curious souls in search of jazz relics have been visiting the neighborhood store in Bronzeville. It has preserved remnants of what it used to be—the Sunset Café, a famous jazz club in the 1920s to ’40s.

Driven out of business by changes in the neighborhood, loyal customers and jazz aficionados are now mourning as the hardware is preparing to close for good in February.

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Marquette Park 4’s exoneration marks milestone for Illinois

By Kara Voght

Theresa Johnson knew there was no way her son, Charles, committed the robbery and murder he’d been convicted of. Convincing others of his innocence, however, was another matter.

“Everybody would just close the door practically in my face,” Johnson said of her repeated attempts to obtain legal help for Charles, who, along with three other men, spent over 20 years in prison for a 1995 double murder and armed robbery they did not commit.

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx rewarded Johnson’s decades of persistence Wednesday morning when she dismissed all charges against Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, Lashawn Ezell and Troshawn McCoy after fingerprint evidence conclusively proved their innocence.  McCoy, sentenced to 55 years in prison, is awaiting his release from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The “Marquette Park 4,” as their attorneys call them, entered prison as teenagers and spent a collective 70 years behind bars.

On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson, Styles and Ezell appeared in a press conference at Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Chicago office, alongside their legal teams and nearly two dozen family members, to discuss their cases.

Theresa Johnson embraces her son, Charles, at Wednesday's press conference to discuss Johnson and three other men's exoneration. (Kara Voght/MEDILL)
Theresa Johnson embraces her son, Charles, at Wednesday’s press conference to discuss Johnson and three other men’s exoneration. (Kara Voght/MEDILL)

The Marquette Park 4’s journey to exoneration began in 2008, when Steven Drizin of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law received a letter from Charles Johnson. Johnson described giving a false confession to detective James Cassidy, a story that matched many other letters Drizin had received from inmates across the state.

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Disability Intersects Muslim Identity for Chicagoans

By Peter Jones

Aziza Nassar and Muhammed S. Ullah are two American Muslims living with disabilities. Although President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees and travelers from seven mainly Muslim countries has left Muslims in the U.S. feeling marginalized, Muslims with disabilities are feeling even more isolated.

The U.S. Religion Census estimated that the Muslim population of Illinois was 35,000 in 2010. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, approximately 10.7 percent of people in the state are living with a disability. That means an estimated 3,700 Muslims with disabilities live in Illinois. Despite their sizeable population, Muslims with disabilities often avoid attending mosques because they are not accessible to the disabled.

Aziza Nassar has not had such an easy time merging her faith with a disability. After losing her father and starting to use a wheelchair at age 15, Nassar and her family turned to their local mosque for support. But accessing that mosque proved difficult.

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