Indian Americans in Chicago come together against the new citizenship bill in India

By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

The Indian community in Chicago has come out in support of Muslims after India passed a new citizenship bill last December that discriminates against the religious minority group.

India has been rocked by protests since Dec. 12, when the government passed a law that accelerated citizenship for foreign-born non-Muslim religious minorities from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at the time that he wanted to protect non-Muslims, who were being persecuted in those Muslim-majority nations, but many Indians fear the move would discriminate against Muslims and chip away at the country’s secular constitution.

Critics have charged that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, was acting on its anti-Muslim agenda.

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Alderman Taylor gets candid about Chicago politics during podcast taping

By Sidnee King
Medill Reports

“I hate City Hall, it’s the devil’s den,” said 20th Ward Ald.  Jeanette Taylor at a recent live podcast taping.

As election season ramps up, the conversation on what ideas, policies, and people are truly electable becomes more critical at national and local levels. This discussion was the central component of the first taping of a live podcast series, Unelectable, the product of a partnership between Black Youth Project 100 and Chicago-based podcast AirGo Radio. 

Taylor laid it on the line for the series aimed to engage Chicago voters in deep-dive candor about Chicago politics and the electoral process by inviting city leaders who have made waves in the political sphere. The inaugural taping featured two women behind organizing efforts that captured the entire city’s attention over the last year: Taylor and Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacey Davis Gates.

Taylor took on City Hall and the fight for a Woodlawn community housing agreement as she spoke to attendees that packed out The Silver Room, a black-owned boutique at the corner of East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue.

AirGo hosts Daniel Kisslinger and Damon Williams began the meeting by inviting the crowd to grab a mic and share policies they believe would be beneficial to Chicago’s population but seem ‘unelectable.’ Williams said the hope for events such as this is to create community forums to flush out their thoughts on “impactful issues dismissed as being too big or unrealistic by mainstream media.” 

The conversation touched on a range of controversies from universal healthcare to housing as a human right, something Taylor spoke about passionately as her ward is presently battling with the city for more affordable housing protections. 

Taylor criticized fellow aldermen for their inactivity on ordinances for low-income housing proposed by community organizers last year. She cited her own experience before she entered the political arena. As a Woodlawn resident, she said she felt underappreciated by the officials that represented her neighborhood and has vowed to engage 20th Ward residents in a way that respects their concerns and their tax dollars.

An example of this is the weekly open office hours that Taylor hosts at the aldermanic office on South Wentworth Avenue every Thursday. She also gives her constituents her personal cell phone number– which she shared with attendees at the end of the event. 

The rookie alderman is a professed “organizer first,” who never saw herself as an elected official. But now that she has a seat in city hall, she says she’s fighting for people in Woodlawn to be able to stay because she doesn’t see herself as any different from the low-income residents in her community. 

Gates also touched on affordable housing, which was a controversial topic during the CTU’s strike negotiations between the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Last year, critics admonished CTU leadership for requesting resources for homeless students in its list of demands, but union leadership didn’t back down on the issue.

During the panel discussion, Gates was adamant that a student’s housing-security is directly related to education, and educators should not be told that it’s not in their job description to be concerned. 

“Don’t apologize for it,” she said. 

Gates also encouraged the attendees to continue to organize around the changes that they had earlier expressed they’d like to see in Chicago. 

This wasn’t Black Youth Project 100’s first time partnering with Taylor or Gates. The organization aligned itself with Taylor and the coalition sponsoring the proposed community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation in hopes of preventing rent and property tax hikes that could displace close to 40% of Woodlawn’s residents when the Obama Presidential Library opens. BYP100 also supported CTU in its teachers strike last fall. 

Photo at top: AirGo hosts Damon Williams (left) and Daniel Kisslinger (right) open the floor to discuss electoral politics in Chicago at the first taping of their ‘Unelectable’ series. (Sidnee King/MEDILL)

At 29, Kina Collins is the youngest black woman to run for Congress in Illinois

By Brandon Raphael Dupre
Medill Reports

Kina Collins wears a black shirt with white block letters spelling out the names of the four congresswomen known as The Squad. She greets the owner of L!VE Café in Oak Park with a hug before taking a seat at the table in the back corner. “Give credit where credit is due,” she said. “They have carved out their space and done it, and they’ve changed the fabric of American politics.”

At 29, Collins is the youngest black woman to ever run for congress in Illinois. The Austin native is one of three Democratic candidates challenging 12-term Rep. Danny Davis in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, which stretches from Oak Park and Westchester on the West Side to swaths on the South Side and through downtown Chicago, making it one of the state’s most diverse districts.

Like Squad members Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018, Collins is a young woman of color running against a longtime incumbent. And, like Pressley, she is running against a progressive Democrat who votes along similar ideological lines. But in her mind, the climate is right for another woman of color to upset an established career politician.

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Local officials bring mock Warren, Sanders debate to Chicago stage

By Beth Stewart
Medill Reports

As Chicagoans prepare to cast their vote in the Democratic Presidential primary on March 17, many took a closer look at the campaign platforms of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders during a mock debate at the Hideout Inn in West Town.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa debated in the roles of Warren and Sanders respectively during the First Tuesdays event hosted by Ben Joravsky and Maya Dukmasova of the Chicago Reader.

Less than 24 hours after the Iowa caucus debacle, with still only 62% of the results reported at the time, the standing-room only crowd packed into the Hideout was buzzing with excitement even before the event began.

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City Council debates options for community police oversight

By Beth Stewart
Medill Reports

The Chicago City Council’s first 2020 Public Safety Committee hearing on community police oversight  brought together a panel of experts from Omaha, L.A., New York University and the University of Chicago to offer the latest research and and best practices for police accountability.

However, with less than two days’ notice for the January 23 hearing, many Chicago activists and organizers showed up to remind the committee that other experts were also in the room – everyday Chicagoans affected by police violence.

Recommendations focused on an elected body that oversees police.
Over the next month, the council will be debating and voting on one of two recommended ordinances to create such a body.

In 2018 the city spent more than $113 million on cases related to police misconduct, including $16 million paid to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo in December 2015. It is no secret that community and police relations are more than strained.

The lack of trust, many activists in attendance explained, dates back to the 1969 police killing of Chicago civil rights leader and Black Panther leader  Fred Hampton during a raid. The tenure of former Police Commander Jon Burge from 1971 to 1991, who was accused of torture but never prosecuted added to the deep mistrust. The 2014 shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, since convicted on murder, brought relations to a breaking point.

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‘No matter who wins’: South Carolina mayor calls for moderation, unity in primary

By Anne Snabes and Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

Billy Keyserling, the mayor of Beaufort, South Carolina, governs over a small coastal city reflective of much of the state — largely Republican with some moderate Democrats.

Following Pete Buttigieg’s narrow win of more delegates in Iowa and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire, the pressure on Keyserling’s state to deliver a clear front-runner with the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 has intensified. South Carolina, hosting a more diverse electorate than Iowa and New Hampshire, will not only act as a bellwether for the South, but possibly for Super Tuesday’s 16 contests on March 3.

Keyserling has prioritized educating the public about Reconstruction and addressing environmental problems such as coastal flooding — two issues he sees as impacting political discussions in 2020 — since becoming mayor in 2008. He spoke to Medill Reports about the candidates’ takes on climate change, the importance of black voters to the primary and the similarities between the candidates.

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Latino USA’s Antonia Cerejido wins Medill’s first Cecilia Vaisman award

By Carolina Gonzalez
Medill Reports

Antonia Cerejido, an award-winning audio journalist for NPR’s Latino USA, received the first Cecilia Vaisman Award for Multimedia Reporters Tuesday from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

In a ceremony attended by Cerejido’s family, Vaisman’s husband investigative reporter Gary Marx and Medill faculty and students, Cerejido thanked everyone for the recognition. She talked about her reporting and how Vaisman helped her reach her goals.

Cerejido most renowned stories for Latino USA vary from a profile of the Mexican-American man who became wealthy by building controversial shelters housing migrant children, to a meditation on whether Latinos cry more on average, to the role Dora the Explorer had in portraying Latinos in television.

Antonia Cerejido talked about her career in audio and the role Cecilia Vaisman had in it. (Carolina Gonzalez/MEDILL)

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Who’s running for Chicago Mayor – and why?

By: Noah Broder
Medill Reports

As the February 26 election moves closer and early voting begins, 14 mayoral candidates are working to win the critical  50 percent of the vote.

If no candidate receives over half of the vote, there will be a runoff election on April 2 between the top two candidates who receive the most votes.

 The race for Chicago mayor began in earnest in September when current mayor Rahm Emmanuel declared that he would not be seeking re-election. Continue reading

Chicago mayoral candidates criticize “the Chicago way” and vow to eliminate corruption

By Ariana Puzzo
Medill Reports

“We have candidates on this stage right now who are not corrupt,” said attorney and mayoral candidate John Kozlar.  He and others took swipes at  accusations that have surfaced during the race for mayor and aldermen.

“The people who got us in this mess are not going to be the ones who get us out of it,” Kozlar said.

Other candidates at Saturday’s mayoral forum at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple added that voting for a new type of leader in the mayoral election would bring citywide improvement.

Garry McCarthy, the former Chicago police superintendent, said the problems that affect Chicago today are based on decades of political corruption in the city, state and county.

“Concepts like ‘the Chicago way,’ concepts like, ‘Well, I gave the money back,’” McCarthy said. “Well, if you rob a bank and give the money back, you’re still guilty of bank robbery, folks.”

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What’s on the ballot in Chicago’s 2019 election?

By Noah Broder
Medill Reports

The Chicago mayor’s race is the top-line ballot consideration for voters as the Feb. 26 citywide elections approach. With 14 candidates in the mayoral race, voters have a less than a month to decide how they want to cast their votes.

But Chicagoans also must consider other key races. While the mayoral election impacts the entire city, so do other offices and proposals.

Let’s take a look at some of the other races that will appear on ballots in February.
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