Social Justice

Advocacy groups leverage growing Illinois Hispanic voting bloc

By Hannah Rank

The consistently growing population of Hispanics in Illinois, paired with an unprecedented number of eligible voters, have local activists involved in Hispanic outreach looking for ways to engage this voting bloc.

“This is something we’ve been anticipating for a very long time,” Celina Villanueva, who runs voter engagement programming at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), said of the growing Latino constituency. “This is a voting bloc that really hasn’t flexed its muscles to the full capacity.”

According to the Pew Research Center, there were 708,000 eligible Hispanic voters in Illinois in 2008; for the 2016 election cycle there will be 951,000. That’s 34 percent more eligible voters over an eight-year period, and 44 percent of the total population of Hispanics in the state. The think-tank ranked Illinois the 11th highest state for percentage of Hispanic voters.

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Marijuana testing lab left high and dry

By Jack Adams

In 2015, David So received the license he needed to open ICR Labs to test medical cannabis to comply with FDA guidelines.

ICR Labs was the first marijuana-testing lab to be authorized for a license in Illinois. Before he opened for business and began testing recently legalized medical marijuana, So realized that there just wasn’t enough product to test to make the business viable.

“I pretty much had everything ready,” So said. “At the push of a button I would have been up and running, but I’m very glad that I didn’t.”

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Women Wrestlers Aim for Olympic Stage

By Carlos D. Williamson

Most women simply aren’t encouraged to participate in male-dominated sports. Even the few who do won’t get the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympics.

But Victoria Anthony may be the exception. The 24-year-old freestyle wrestler said she’s been competing for 10 years and has had her mind set on the Olympics since she was a child.

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Supporters of Independent Living Call for Legislation to Protect Home Services and Discourage Institutionalization

By Shen Wu Tan

A proposed bill that safeguards Illinois home care services passed the House Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, HB 4351, sponsored by state Rep. Greg Harris (D-13), would prevent Gov. Bruce Rauner from increasing the eligibility score for community-based services until a new assessment tool is developed. 

HB 4351 also prohibits the state of Illinois from implementing “an updated assessment tool that causes more than 1% of then-current recipients to lose eligibility.”

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Inside Syria: Trapped on the frontlines of war

By Neil Murthy

What is life like for the thousands of Syrians who have not left their country but are displaced at camps on the fringes of their own borders?

As the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year, the devastation in the country continues to escalate a humanitarian crisis with the largest displacement of people since World War II,  according to researchers.

Nearly five million people have fled Syria, and another six million have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began, show figures from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than half of the country’s entire population of 22 million has been uprooted by the war.

The millions of refugees fleeing to Europe and other areas of the Middle East continue to receive intense media coverage, but little is known about the day to day living conditions of the displaced people staying in makeshift camps along the Syria-Turkey border. The war zone makes access difficult.

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Civil Rights Legend: Black Lives Mattered — Then and Now

By Jasmine M. Ellis

In the age of Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName movements, America’s current racial climate eerily mirrors its past, according to renowned civil rights activist Diane Nash.

“My contemporaries had you in mind when we reacted,” said Nash, keynote speaker for Northwestern University’s campus observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday held on Jan. 25. “Even though we had not yet met you we loved you, and we were trying to bring about the best society we could for you to be born into and to come to age in.

“Future generations are going to look to you to do the same for them,” Nash said.
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Volunteers Count Chicago’s Homeless

By Harry Huggins

Hundreds of volunteers canvased Chicago late Jan. 26 to count every person sleeping in the city’s parks and underpasses.

I drove around Chicago’s Near West Side with Dorothy Yancy, Phoebe DePree and Carolyn Hankins-Page for five hours that night as part of the annual point in time count. The survey takes place in ever major American city, and it helps the federal government decide how much money a city receives for homelessness prevention in the coming year.

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City Colleges, Chicago Public Schools teachers push for elected boards

By Branden Hampton

Faculty at City Colleges of Chicago are banding together with their counterparts in Chicago Public Schools to push for legislation that would bring elected boards to both districts.

Both groups want to curb Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s power by ending his ability to hand-pick board members, as well as the chief executive officer of CPS and the chancellor of City Colleges.

“Right now our mayor has too much power over the decisions about education, frankly. There aren’t any checks,” said Kim Knuston, the faculty council president at Wilbur Wright City College on the North Side.

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Federal agency, faith-based groups join to combat human trafficking in Chicago

By Jay Bouchard

Recalling her years as a sex-trafficking victim in Chicago and Miami, Sam Wijeyakumar reflected that “if God had not been part of my healing process, I’d probably be dead.”

Wijeyakumar, now an activist working to end human trafficking, offered her sobering testimony as part of a “clarion call” in which local faith groups and federal officials are joining forces to rescue victims and better support survivors of sex and labor trafficking.

Over the past year, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), a federal agency promoting the well-being of families in the United States, has brought together various faith-based groups in Chicago on several occasions to discuss ways to better combat human trafficking.

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Ballots in Korean for March 15 primary expected to increase participation

By Jenny Lee

Korean-Americans in Chicago and suburban Cook County can no longer ascribe their low participation in elections to what usually is the biggest challenge for many minority language speakers – reading and speaking in English.

Prior to the 2016 Presidential election, The Chicago Board of Election and The Cook County Clerk decided to supply Korean-language sample ballots and bilingual election judges in 23 precincts heavily concentrated with Korean-Americans including Northbrook, Glenview, Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie and Des Plaines.

The decisions came in an effort to expand access to the electoral process for eligible Korean-Americans – U.S. citizens ages 18 or older – and to facilitate more than 14,000 already registered Korean-Americans with translation services.

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