All posts by michaeldeas

MLK protector paves road for others to ‘accomplish more’

By Dwight A. Weingarten
Medill Reports

No one knew the building of Warren Avenue Congregational Church better than Rozell “Prexy” Nesbitt, whose first encounter with the church came as a 4-year-old in 1948 after his parents rolled him into the Sunday  school with a broken leg.

“In fact, the truth be told, I was the first black person in the building,” said Nesbitt, now 74, whose parents would join the church soon after Nesbitt’s inauspicious first visit.

Nearly two decades later,  the same church welcomed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1966 as the organization made the church its headquarters in their campaign to end slum housing. Continue reading

Religious activists’ work in troubled communities escapes media coverage

By Claire Fahey


imberly Lymore, associate minister at St. Sabina, said her place of worship on Chicago’s South Side is “ is not like any other Catholic Church in the archdiocese.”

“A lot of the times, we think about the community as a congregation now and we try to meet their needs in whatever way … because Auburn Gresham and Englewood has the highest unemployment rate in the area,” Lymore said, adding that some of the services include finding jobs and providing food and clothing.

At St. Clement Catholic Church in Lincoln Park, Maggie Hanley, the director of community outreach, said that “there is more work to be done” in communities on the South Side.

Religious institutions, like  Lymore’s and Hanley’s,  are working  to counter systemic issues of crime through a variety of services rarely noticed by mainstream media that frequently target the city for its perpetually high murder rate.
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Chicago cops find solace in God ‘in times of stress,’ growing public distrust

By Allison Ledwon

In the following story, details such as the names and ages of the police officers have been withheld to protect their privacy and personal safety.

A  South Side police officer, like most young adults graduating from college, was looking for a stable but fulfilling career.  He thought he would find it in the role of a Chicago police officer.

“My initial thought was that it would be a rewarding career of helping people,” the officer said.  But after bearing his badge for some time, he made the discovery that the job is not what he thought it would be.

“You thought that you were going to help people and you find out when you get there, not many people tell you thank you” he said. “It’s still rewarding because you know secretly that people needed you and wanted you there, even if they didn’t tell you thank you. However, we’ve come across one of the weirdest times in the United States’ history that we’ve reached the spot where the police are actually the bad guy now.”

According to Pew researchers, 51 percent of police officers nationwide, like the South Side officer, are frustrated by their jobs, while 81 percent say they believe that the public does not understand their occupation. This, according to the study, is likely tied to the recent high-profile fatal encounters between black civilians and police officers both nationwide and in Chicago.
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Chicago experts weigh in on pope’s call to dispose of nuclear weapons


By Katie Karalis

In light of the “mother of all bombs” dropped on an ISIS target in Afghanistan last Thursday, academics and nonviolence strategists alike are in agreement with Pope Francis’ call to the international community to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability, questioning not only the existence of nuclear weapons but also the doctrine of deterrence.

“What Francis is doing is continuing a drift in recent Catholic moral thinking toward peace, which started with John XXIII, said Father John T. Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics and director of the Catholic-Jewish studies program at Catholic Theological Union. “I wouldn’t say that it’s an advocacy of total passivism, but it’s certainly moving away from not only nuclear weapons but just war as an instrument of security and survival.”

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Muslims see mug shot of woman forced to remove hijab as ongoing issue

By Ben Trachtenberg

In the wake of DuPage police releasing a mug shot of a Rafath Waheed without her head scarf, many in the Muslim community said they felt insulted by the lack of sensitivity to their religious customs and say this is just one example of an ongoing problem.

“I think that’s a huge violation of her independence,” said Shapla Shaheen, 21, of Naperville. If you’re obviously wearing something that’s covering yourself and you’re doing that purposefully, and somebody forces you to take it off, it’s taking away your choice. I think that’s disrespectful.”

Shaheen, a Muslim who has worn hijab since high school, said wearing the garment gives her a personal connection to God that is very important to her.

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Homeless youth activists rally against budget impasse

By Kayla Daugherty
Video by Ryan Connelly Holmes

James Ivory describes himself as many things: a college student, a musician, an activist and a father. But because of the social services he received through a homeless shelter, he no longer needs to include “homeless” in that list.

Ivory is one of the thousands of Illinois youth who have found themselves on the street, without a place to eat, sleep or work. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that an estimated 20,205 Chicago Public Schools students were homeless during the 2014-2015 school year. They were among the 125,848 Chicagoans who were homeless during that period.

Though Ivory is no longer homeless, the 25-year-old came to a recent rally at the Thompson Center in support of social services funding for homeless youth. The rally, sponsored by the Coalition, drew more than 100 individuals hoping to prove to Gov. Bruce Rauner that homelessness is a huge issue in Chicago and that his proposed social service budget cuts will harm people in dire need of help.

Ivory, along with others who are still homeless, talked about their experiences on the streets.

“I think that the normal person doesn’t understand what it’s like to be really hungry,” Ivory said. “Hunger, loneliness—those things are very depressing.”

The young people who spoke showed that there is no one reason for homelessness. Some young men were kicked out of their homes after coming out as gay, bisexual or transgender. Some with criminal records said they had difficulty obtaining and keeping a steady job. Others just fell on hard times—losing a job or being in a serious accident—and were sent into a devastating downward spiral.

Upcoming vote to restore money

Illinois has gone four months without a state budget, and a vote is scheduled in the House on Senate Bill 2046, which would restore social service funding cut in Rauner’s budget.

(Ryan Connelly Holmes/Medill)

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City officials keep quiet about status of park permits for NFL draft

By Taylor Hall

Chicago Park District officials are staying mum on the NFL’s permit status after announcing the league had not yet obtained necessary permits to create a public site for the upcoming three-day draft in Grant Park.

After announcing April 8 that the NFL had not secured the appropriate permits for its outdoor fan festival , Park District and City officials have not provided any updates. The NFL’s Draft Town is scheduled to take place April 30 through May 2.

“That’s information I cannot release to you. You can go on the website and email from the FOIA,” said Denise Reed-Burton,  Park District coordinator for special event & media permits, regarding the site. “I can’t give you any information at all. The only person that can speak to that permit is the person whose name is on the permit”

Medill Reports has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the information.
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Obama still ‘optimistic’ as judge delays expansion of immigrant orders

By Christine Smith

 President Barack Obama expressed  optimism–shared by some immigration experts–that a Texas judge’s ruling to delay the expansion of the president’s executive order that would grant children of undocumented immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation will be eventually be overturned.

Although Texas U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction Feb. 16 to prevent the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a component of President Obama’s immigration action that was set to start accepting applications on Feb. 18, Obama said Wednesday he remains confident about his immigration policy. Continue reading

Health officials, activists rally for more funding for AIDS/HIV outreach

By Danielle Anguiano

Carl Jenkins, a retired teacher, has been living with AIDS for the past 19 years. He credits sustained care, caring doctors and social workers with his survival.

“I came along when the retroviral medications came and I was able to get on that medication and I have been taking that medication faithfully since being diagnosed,” Jenkins said, during last week’s Black/African-American AIDS/HIV Awareness day. “Now my viral load is suppressed. Continue reading