Fall 2016

Watchdog group on organized racism responds to Trump’s victory

By Cloee Cooper

Many organizations were caught off guard by Donald Trump’s election. Some saw it coming when the presidential campaign geared up last January.

“Everyone is understanding now that the far right is now mainstream. Its running the country. We and others have been warning others about this for a long time,” says Reverend David Ostendorf, founder of Center for New Community (CNC), a national civil rights organization that serves as a watchdog against organized racism.

The organization’s investigative research analyzes the threats to policy and media discourse posed by far right movements. According to them, since the end of the civil rights movement, some of the overtly racist organizations rebranded themselves and found issues that would push their agenda into the mainstream without ever having to speak about race.

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Teen climber continues his sport despite cancer and loss of leg

By Siyan (Jen) Huang

Climbing is a sport that requires great courage and strength.

I met 17-year-old Ian Vallejo, an agile climber who had lost a leg to cancer, right after his second round of chemotherapy for yet another cancer. He was pale and sitting in a wheelchair. It was hard for me to picture him climbing indoor rock walls and outdoor mountainsides considering his physical condition.

But one week later, I saw him hiking with a pair of walking sticks and climbing up a cliff in Arkansas. All doubts disappeared.

“If I can stand, I can climb.” That is what Vallejo said when people question whether he can climb.

(Video by Siyan Huang/MEDILL)

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Millennial Era Jazz: Pianist Alexis Lombre hopes to return the jazz club to a dance hall

By Thaddeus Tukes

After first-year adjustments, most college sophomores are ready to immerse themselves. 20-year-old pianist Alexis Lombre has been doing just that.

A Chicago native and full-time music student at the University of Michigan, Lombre says her first year left her feeling isolated and targeted, due to racist, sexist, and heteropatriarchal statements that were made to her by classmates. She recalls acting passively aggressive, sometimes not even acknowledging their existence.

“Freshman year sucked. I was really, really angry all the time,” she says. “So I realized I could either stay like that, and possibly get worse, or choose a path of love and patience, and to be grateful for what you do have because what do we really deserve?”

Thus, “A Night For Us: Colorful Soul” was born. Centered on artists of color in the Ann Arbor area, the monthly showcase includes an open mic and a featured artist. It is co-sponsored by an Episcopal student center at the University of Michigan that offers free student dinners twice a week. Lombre organizes the event, and was the featured artist at the first showcase, where she performed brand new music with a band of student musicians.
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Stop blaming the polls

By Mariah Quintanilla

Stop blaming the pre-election polls. They told you all they could about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The pre-election polls based on national surveys accurately predicted what they were designed to predict: Clinton’s popular election win. So why did so few consider the fact that the electoral college had a real chance of turning the numbers upside down? And why did major news media promote blind trust in the polls, making many people believe a Clinton win was in the bag?
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U.S. innovation at risk: Science funding crunch clashes with a burgeoning Ph.D. workforce

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

“A CR (continuing resolution) Attenuates Progress. That would be C-R-A-P in case you haven’t figured that out,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins last month, talking about how government funding affects research.

Collins, quoted in Science magazine, referred to an amorphous continuing federal funding program that ends this Friday.

Congress passed a CR in September to fund federal government agencies – including research-funding institutions such as the NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF) – through this week. This means the current levels of funding would continue until the ‘artificial deadline’ of December 9th.  Beyond that, there is had been no further funding plan in place. And hence Francis Collins’ colorful lament. Continue reading

Pearl Harbor and the Enduring Legacy of War

By Duke Omara

Seventy-five years ago, on Dec. 7, 1941, a Japanese strike force consisting of six aircraft carriers descended on the territory of Hawaii and unleashed a ferocious aerial raid on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island.

Less than two hours after the first Japanese aircraft appeared over the horizon, the attack was over and the United States had paid a fearful price. 2,403 Americans, including civilians, were dead. Numerous ships were either sunk or damaged while Japanese losses were much less considerable.

The assault took the United States completely by surprise. The country – in the days leading up to the attack – had been engaged in negotiations with the Empire of Japan to forge a path towards a comprehensive peaceful agreement covering the Pacific region. Continue reading

Researchers and animal rights activists continue their heated debate

By Catherine Chen

More than 200 rats “go through” Mason Lab each year.

The lab at the University of Chicago conducts experiments with the rats to study psychology, neurobiology and social behavior and advance diagnosis and treatment for human conditions.

The Mason Lab used 24 rats in their latest research focusing on rats’ helping behavior. The rats died after they fulfilled their scientific obligations.

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Safe in Chicago but never far from their flight

By Fariba Pajooh

When Soghra Ataee and her four children go grocery shopping in Chicago, they melt into the crowd. Their tortuous 7,500-mile, 15-year journey to get here from Afghanistan is their private secret.

But the memory of that trip never escapes them.

“I have been like a stray cat, picking my children up in my teeth and trying to find a safe place to spend the night,” said Soghra, 49, who single-handedly began to shepherd her children Farhad 19, Elyas 17, Elahe, 16, Mahle, 12, out of Afghanistan in 2001.
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The ‘Light’ shines on for Chicago’s Neo-Futurists and underground theater

By Grant Rindner

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind has been a mainstay of Chicago’s underground theater scene and the most visible performance of the city’s Neo-Futurist movement for 28 years since the play debuted on Dec. 2, 1988. The long-standing show made new headlines this fall as its creator, Greg Allen, abruptly decided to pull its rights, ending the run with a final sold-out performance on New Year’s Eve.

Allen claimed in a press statement that he was spurred by the election of Donald Trump to remodel the show as a “machine to fight Fascism” that would feature a cast “comprised entirely of people of color, LBTQ+, artist/activist women, and other disenfranchised voices in order to combat the tyranny of censorship and oppression.” Some Neo-Futurists have expressed skepticism about Allen’s motives, but regardless the abrupt decision came as a serious shock to the troupe and their many supporters.

The Neo-Futurists initially came together for a single performance but have grown to be one of the most prominent contemporary theater groups in the country. Their theater, the Neo-Futurariam, 5153 N. Ashland, holds varied performances throughout the year. Despite the closure of the group’s calling card show, there’s significant optimism among the Neo-Futurists for not only their future as an artistic collective but also their overarching goals as artists.

“I think it’s the death of a name of a show, of a brand. It’s like if you find out tomorrow that Coca-Cola is going to change its name to something else, even if you’re not into Coca-Cola you’ll still be like, ‘Oh, Coca-Cola is going away,” said Kurt Chiang, the Neo-Futurists’ artistic director. “I think the art form will actually be stronger than ever. I think it’ll empower even more people to do neo-futurism, which has always been the mission of the company.”

The group is re-opening a fundraising campaign from this fall and continuing to perform its innovative, thought-provoking work in tune with their regular schedule.

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Veterans of Chicago’s DIY counterculture see a shifting scene and new paths ahead

By Grant Rindner

When Rae Bees came to Chicago from Tallahassee, she already had deep roots in Florida’s DIY culture that went back to her college days. When she arrived in the Windy City, she became involved with Hostel Earphoria, a house and creative space that hosts artists traveling through Chicago and looking for an authentic understanding of the city’s musical culture.

Hostel Earphoria in Logan Square also hosts shows and serves as a recording space. It is one of a number of renowned DIY (do-it-yourself) musical spaces in town that provide an alternative to the mainstream music and arts scenes. Recently, the tragic fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship venue resulted in the loss of more than 30 lives, and put DIY culture at the forefront of media discussions in the United States. Continue reading