General Interest

A heritage of artists highlight Chicago Inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

The Chicago show began by honoring those who owned these ancient lands.

It was a recognition of what was past, a moment of thought and solidarity with the natives peoples who held this land before it was taken away. Shout-outs from some of the audience and solemn nods from others came in response. This is a vital piece of every concert at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, but it felt especially eloquent at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert.

Mateo Mulcahy, the director of Community Projects and Events at the Old Town School of Folk Music, had been approached by Native American singer OPLIAM about a concert to commemorate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated Monday with Columbus Day. OPLIAM would get the artists if Mulcahy could provide the room. The inaugural concert Wednesday offered a space for expression about indigenous rights and created awareness about native communities from all over the world.

Since South Dakota initiated the legacy in 1989, hundreds of cities and several states have now adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in favor of Columbus Day. Mulcahy said he hopes that Chicago will follow suit.

Frank Waln, NuFolk Rebel Alliance and OPLIAM performed.

The show concluded with songs by Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota Hip Hop artist and music producer. He is from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and attended Columbia College in Chicago. Between every song, Walen spoke earnestly with the audience about his experiences as a Lakota indigenous person.(Elena Bruess/Medill)
OPLIAM performs a mix of Reggae, electronic and hip-hop. “Nothing like playing for an indigenous audience if you know what I’m saying,” he said to begin his show. He is Native American on his father’s side, a heritage that often transcends into his music. OPLIAM brought the Indigenous Peoples’ Concert together with the help of Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and played the Indigenous Peoples’ March in D.C. in January 2019. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Leo Minimum Tek (front) and Pedro Erazo (back) make up the NuFolk Rebel Alliance. A fusion of North and South American folk music, the band got the crowd up and dancing. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Leo Minimum Tek chanted to the crowd, “One world is enough for all of us.” (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Pedro Erazo engaged the audience as he sings the band’s new acoustic folk single “Frontera.” (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Letizia Hernandez, 18 (middle) listened to Frank Waln as he performs. She is of the Oaxaca indigenous people in Mexico. During an intermission, she emphasized how important representation is to her and the community. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Frank Waln shared with the audience a moment when he first attended Columbia College in Chicago. “I get on the elevator and this girl gets on the elevator, too. And she looks over at me and says, ‘Oh you have really pretty hair. What are you?'” Waln explained. “‘I’m Lakota.’ And she didn’t know what that was, so I said, ‘I’m Native American.’ And she said, ” Oh, you guys still exist?'” Waln paused as the crowd let out a gasp. “How can there be college educated people who don’t think we even exist? How can there be people around this whole country who don’t think we even exist?” (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Reginald Sawyer showed a portrait of his Choctaw relative who passed in 1949. Sawyer works at the Chicago Two-Sprit Society fighting for the native LGBT community in the city. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
During intermission, Alejandra Lopez, 28, said music plays a big part in her life and these kinds of shows are super important. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Adam Gottlieb, a volunteer for the People’s Tribune, handed out newspapers after the show. The newspaper, also printed in Spanish, often covers issues involving indigenous peoples’ rights. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Jeff Baraka, a friend of Mulcahy, dancing to NuFolk in the back of the venue with is young daughter, Amelia. (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Waln rapped a counter-remix to the old Disney Peter Pan track. “We [my family] didn’t have the privilege to talk about things like stereotypes and representation on TV. We were just trying to put food on the table and survive. So, no one explained these things to me,” Waln talked to the crowd before his song. “As a child, when I was watching this [Peter Pan], I never thought that was supposed to be me. I remember that scene where the Indians were running around like they were animals. And I thought those are TV Indians. TV Indians.” (Elena Bruess/Medill)
Photo at top: Frank Waln raps a song dedicated to his mother. At the end, he shouts out to all the strong “big sisters, mothers and aunties” in the audience. (Elena Bruess/Medill)

Should the U.S. continue prosecuting illegal immigrants? Northwestern community split but majority favors decriminalization

By Carolina Gonzalez
Medill Reports

Northwestern University students were divided at a recent campus debate on  whether the U.S. should decriminalize illegal immigration, offering arguments both in favor and against the Democratic presidential candidate proposals to repeal or rewrite the existing law.

Sachin Shukla, a sophomore studying viola performance and the main debate proponent in favor of decriminalization, opened the discussion by telling participants that the existing law was the work of white supremacist Sen. Coleman Blease of South Carolina and adopted in 1929.

Shukla explained how the law specifically targets and criminalizes a small group of immigrants coming to the U.S. through the Southern border at Mexico. Under the current law, illegal entry is a misdemeanor.

“The whole conversation is centered around a very small minority of these people that are coming illegally and so it just seems punitive to this particular group,” Shukla said. “So, I think decriminalization seems like a better option because we are not even talking about the majority of the people that come illegally.”

Immigration debate
Sachin Shukla, a sophomore studying viola performance at the Bienen School of Music,  defended the decriminalization of illegal immigration.

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Chicago Red Stars brings women’s soccer playoff back to the Windy City

by Krystina Iordanou
Medill Reports

For only the second time in franchise history, the Chicago Red Stars will host a semifinal playoff game against Portland Thorns FC Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Seat Geek Stadium in Bridgeview.

The matchup marks the fourth meeting this season between the two clubs, with Portland having the 2-0-1 edge on the Red Stars. The Red Stars left scoreless in their last two meetings with the Thorns this season.

Many star players will be on the field Sunday afternoon, as the clubs have a combined eight players from this year’s U.S. World Cup winning squad. And that doesn’t count other well-known international players such as Sam Kerr, who is this year’s Golden Boot winner, with 18 goals on the season.

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American Ninja Warrior local leagues host ninja competitions

By Junie Burns
Medill Reports

After swinging, balancing, climbing and flying through the first 10 obstacles of the ninja warrior course, pro competitor Derrick Pavoni paused for a brief moment to stare down the final obstacle: the infamous American Ninja Warrior Warped Wall.

The crowd watched eagerly as Pavoni, a 26-year-old pizza maker nicknamed “The Pizza Ninja,” sprinted up to the top of the 14-foot-6-inch Warped Wall to finish his perfect course run.

Windy City Ninjas, a Chicago Ninja Warrior training gym, hosted its first Athlete Warrior Games (AWG) competition of the season on Oct. 6. Pavoni, an Illinois native, finished in first place out of 26 competitors.

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American Ninja Warrior growth sparks Olympic bid effort

By Junie Burns
Medill Reports

Initially, American Ninja Warrior structured its TV presence so that the top Americans could compete in Japan. But as the show gained popularity and athletes became more skilled and aggressive, the show catapulted into a larger market, leaving NBCUniversal affiliate G4 for a new home on NBC ‘s prime time schedule.

Japan began airing a ninja-style sports entertainment special in 1997 where 100 athletes competed on a rigorous four-stage obstacle course called “Sauske.” G4 adapted this format in the United States to create American Ninja Warrior.

Now, the success of the television show carries over into local gyms and ninja gyms while competitive leagues continue to pop up across the country. Patrick Losh, co-owner of the Hanover Park ninja gym Muscleball Ninjas, is the co-founder of Athlete Warrior Games, one of the up-and-coming ninja warrior competitive leagues based in the Midwest.

Losh, a native of Illinois, trained at Muscleball Ninjas for six years before launching Athlete Warrior Games with gym co-owner and 5-time American Ninja Warrior veteran Tyler Yamamuchi.

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4,000 floating robots take on climate change

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

I ziplined recently with a scientist who told me that her work involved almost 4,000 floating robots and a massive global computer database that could help her predict the future of our world’s climate.

This was during a break in the Comer Climate Conference and the woods behind conference headquarters held many mysteries, including a zipline and now – for me – the world’s most interesting researcher. I quickly scribbled “should probably catch up with her” in a notebook.

I did. She gave a presentation on her work the next day to climate scientists from across the nation gathered at the annual science meetup in southwestern Wisconsin. Continue reading

Homegrown Residency spotlights local Chicago musicians

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

Every Tuesday night, Uncommon Ground’s Live Intimate Listening Rooms spotlight artists who might otherwise be plugging up to amplifiers in their garages and basements. Here, they get their chance to perform in front of a room filled with friends, family, and other Chicago local music fans.

Artists such as Danielle “Miss Jones” Jones – who has been singing since she was 10, but never really considered herself as a performer – are provided the opportunity to debut their material live and uncut. Jones, 21, is an Indiana native who moved to Chicago right after she graduated high school. She now deems herself as an amateur pianist and a practiced vocalist.

She will be performing Tuesday night, romancing the audience with soft ballads about her life. Continue reading

Chicago Marathon runner Brigid Kosgei sets a new women’s world record

By Junie Burns
Medill Reports

It took 17 years to the day for Brigid Kosgei of Kenya to set a new women’s world record in running this year’s Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04. On October 13, 2002, Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe set the Chicago Marathon course record and a world’s record for a woman runner with a time of 2:17:18.

Coming just one day after Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the two hour barrier by completing the Vienna marathon in 1:59:40, Kosgei’s world record wraps a historic weekend of distance running for Kenya.

“I come here to run my own race,” Kosgei said.  “I have been training good. I was happy.”

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The Man in Front of the Door: Derrick James opens up about life as a doorman

By Carter Mohs
Medill Reports

Sitting comfortably behind his desk in the quiet lobby of the Streeter Apartments, just over a quarter-mile east of the Magnificent Mile, Derrick James greets residents and visitors with an infectious smile, as if he’s known them for years. Sometimes he has. Born and raised on the South Side, the 36-year-old switched four years ago from working the counter at his family’s dry cleaning business to manning the door. It’s a place where studios start at more than $1,500 per month. He likes his job because all he just needs to be himself both on the clock and off. Between catching up with residents and accepting food deliveries, James talked with me about the job.

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Veggie co-op in North Lawndale brings fresh produce to residents with dietary restrictions

By Trina Ryan
Medill Reports

On a breezy Saturday afternoon, Reynaldo Engram arrives at work early to sift through boxes of carrots. He performs this task with painstaking precision, holding each carrot up to the light, rubbing his thumb slowly over its dirt-speckled orange skin. As hub assistant at Farm on Ogden, a spacious agriculture facility on the West Side of Chicago, Engram’s responsibilities include anything from watering plants to sweeping floors to cleaning bathrooms. “I do what I’m asked,” says the 59-year-old, smiling. But today he has an important job, one he takes seriously: inspecting produce for defects. He wants to make sure the most attractive-looking vegetables go out to his neighbors of North Lawndale.

“I want everyone to feel as strong and healthy as I do,” he says. “Not too many folks around here can say they feel that way at my age.”

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