Social Justice

God is secondary in New Hampshire primary

By Jay Bouchard

MANCHESTER, NH—Tom Rettberg reflects the historical nature of New Hampshire voters—a fickle electorate notoriously tough to impress.

Standing in a crowded gymnasium waiting to hear Marco Rubio speak, Rettberg, an undecided voter from Weare, NH, described how he has spent months creating a comprehensive spreadsheet ranking each candidate in the Republican primary field. He’s evaluating the candidates on issues like economics, potential Supreme Court appointments, immigration, and national security.

Though he is a self-described Christian, Rettberg said his spreadsheet features no columns ranking the candidates’ religion or matters of faith.

He notes he has great respect for candidates who demonstrate their faith on the campaign trail, but said it’s “not a high priority” when he considers the many factors influencing his decision.

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Writer discusses social justice aspects of abortion rights

By Enrica Nicoli Aldini

Nearly one in three American women has had an abortion. Of these, 45 percent have had more than one. Thus, chances are that more often than not, whether in an elevator, a diner or a bar, anyone might be in the presence of at least one woman who has had an abortion.

This is one of the chief arguments Katha Pollitt, feminist poet and columnist at The Nation, uses to suggest that “abortion is a normal experience. It’s all around us.”

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Racing to catch Clinton, Sanders calls for “political revolution”

By Enrica Nicoli Aldini

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Bernie Sanders is tailgating Hillary Clinton in Iowa. With only four points separating the Democratic frontrunners,  the Vermont senator is working to overtake the former secretary of state in the final days before the Iowa caucuses.

Tapping into his ambitions for a political revolution in America, he is casting himself as the non-establishment Democratic candidate who would redistribute the country’s income to benefit the middle and working classes, reform the criminal justice system and reduce the cost of education and health care.

“When we talk about the anger that’s going on in America, it is the fact that ordinary people today are working longer hours for low wages and yet they’ve been seeing that most of the new income and wealth go to the top one percent,” he told a crowd that filled the  Danceland Ballroom on Friday in Davenport, Iowa’s third-largest city. “And whether the establishment likes it or not, we are saying enough is enough, that’s going to change.”

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Food Insecurity Screenings to Expand to Chicago Suburbs

By Anna Boisseau

Cook County will expand a pilot nutrition program into a second health clinic in the Chicago suburbs in early February. Doctors first began the process of questioning pediatric patients about their access to food at the Logan Square Health Center in September. After the success of the initial program, the Greater Chicago Food Depository will start training staff at the Cottage Grove Clinic in Ford Heights on how to conduct food insecurity screenings next week.

“Food insecurity is everywhere,” said Jim Conwell of the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD). “A key part of launching this plan and this task force is also about…putting focus on the need…in suburban communities.”
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Righteous Fighters: how boxing can save lives in Chicago’s Southside (Video)

By Iacopo Luzi

40-year-old Ramon Zavaleta is a 4th District police officer with the Chicago Police Department. He is not just a cop. Every day, when his shift is over, he goes to the Community Christian Church and he becomes a boxing coach.

Four years ago, he took an empty room in an East Side building and turned it into a gym. Today it is the home of the Righteous Fighters, a boxing/MMA group founded by Ramon where young people are taught how to box and be respectful.
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White privilege is real, Black Lives Matter founders tell Loyola crowd

By Rebekah Frumkin and Carlos D. Williamson

It’s wrong for people to say all lives matter when certain races clearly have an advantage, said Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza during a celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Wednesday at Loyola University.

“What we’re trying to shift here is a paradigm, where the experiences of white folks are used to control how everybody else should live,” Garza said.
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Immigrant mother of deceased veteran fights to keep family together

By Hannah Rank

Olivia Segura remembers it in bits and pieces. The before and after. Everything before hearing the news is clear and chronological. Everything after is hazy and nightmarish.

[Listen to Olivia Segura tell her story below.]

“They asked me if I had any sickness, if my heart was okay,” she recalls. “I knew that something had happened but I never expected that she was going to be dead.”

It was Veterans’ Day in 2007 when Segura heard the news that her daughter, Ashley Sietsema, had died while on active duty in Kuwait. She and her husband Alberto had the day off and were unpacking groceries when the doorbell rang and a military officer was at the door.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Segura says. “I almost passed out.”

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Chicago festival celebrates hip-hop arts’ positive impact

By Marisa Endicott

Some might claim that “hip-hop is dead,” but the 7th Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip Hop Arts this Saturday suggested otherwise.

“If you go to the spaces, if you go to the open mics, it is alive and well,” said Damon Williams, a performer and activist emceeing for the event. “Hip-hop is a culture that is inherent in people’s spirits.”

Nonprofit Young Chicago Authors and public radio stations WBEZ and Vocalo hosted the all-day showcase that took place at the Metro concert hall in Wrigleyville. The festivities culminated in a mixtape release concert featuring young up-and-coming spoken word poets, singers and rappers from Louder than a Bomb, a Chicago youth poetry festival.
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Recruiting minorities is not the solution to police reform, say community groups

By Meggie Morris

Community-based organizations demanding police reform say recruiting more minorities to better reflect Chicago’s demographics is not enough to improve police-community relations.

The recruitment campaign, which is to end this week, will be ineffective unless the city first addresses the policing system as a whole, the groups say.

“It certainly is a prerequisite for improving police relations,” said Ted Pearson of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “However, until the community has control of the police it really doesn’t matter who they hire.”

When the Chicago Police Department announced late last year that it was hiring officers for the first time since 2013, the city said the recruitment drive’s most important objective was to increase the force’s ethnic diversity.

“This effort will not only help ensure our department remains fully staffed as we work to fight gun violence,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said then in a written statement. “But will also help ensure that the makeup of the force better reflects the makeup of our city.”

The ethnic makeup of the Chicago Police Department as of January 2016

According to the Chicago Police Department, white police employees account for more than half the police department. (Meggie Morris/MEDILL)

According to Camesha Jones of Black Youth Project 100, encouraging individuals to join the CPD to initiate reform from the inside will never be feasible.

“Our stance is pretty much that the system of policing is flawed,” she said. “We’re against the system of policing, it doesn’t matter… if it’s a black or a white person.”

Recruitment is just one of the initiatives that surfaced in 2015 as part of the city’s response to the issue of police accountability. In May, the City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of police torture. In August, the CPD agreed to an independent evaluation of investigatory stops, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois published a report questioning the constitutionality of “stop and frisk” procedures.

And in November, three weeks before the city released dash cam video showing a white police officer fatally shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the recruitment campaign was announced.

For community advocacy groups, replacing cops is not the solution. A civilian-elected board that not only monitors policing, but has authority over how communities are policed, however, is.

A coalition of organizations supports the establishment of the Civilian Police Accountability Council. According to legislation they drafted more than two years ago, 25 elected civilians representing each of the city’s districts would be authorized to select the police superintendent and investigate misconduct complaints and all police shootings. The board would also have the power to discipline officers and determine police procedures, rules, and use of force guidelines.

“An independent police account board would be a more fair and just solution to dealing with police misconduct and harm reduction,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, which is part of the growing coalition.

Some members of the communities these organizations represent are not waiting for the city’s approval of the Civilian Police Accountability Council to begin the process of police reform. Instead, they are applying to join the CPD as police officers, optimistic that in time they can make a difference.

Danielle Wright, who is hoping to help her city with the tools she learned as an Aviation Ordnanceman in the U.S. Navy, said improving attitudes in Chicago towards police and within the CPD towards the communities depends on shared responsibility.

“We can play a part as individuals, but it takes more than one person to change anything,” she said. “You can stand here and say ‘I want change, I want better, I want peace’, but if you just standing alone, it’s going to be a difficult task to overcome by yourself. It has to be everybody – one sound, one team – everybody in for the same cause.”

Southside native Katina Hewitt agreed, but said in order to make that happen, the police need to start the process themselves.

“The youth are not going to agree with trying to join the police when they’re shooting the youth, when they’re killing youth,” the 22-year-old said. “This needs to be a slow process, but both sides gotta put in the work.”

Photo at top: The Chicago Police Department puts on a show at a recruitment event Jan. 9, 2015. (Meggie Morris/MEDILL)

Little Village residents welcome diversity, fear rising rents

By Harry Huggins

Residents of Chicago’s largely Hispanic Little Village neighborhood are excited to greet their increasingly diverse neighbors, but the area’s popularity comes at the expense of long-time tenants who grew up in a community with more affordable housing.

Jesus Zamudio was born and raised in Little Village, which is just west of Pilsen on the city’s Southwest Side.

“I noticed that little by little, Asians, African-Americans and white people have been joining our community,” Zamudio said. “I like that, because I don’t want to be a part of only Mexicans, but I want to see other cultures around here.”
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