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What about the neighborhoods?

The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.

Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m.  Information is at

Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.

(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million.  Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)

Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.

Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.

On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”

Party fund

Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust.  In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Back of the Yards wants one ward

While Latino aldermen are calling for more Latino wards, residents of one of Chicago largest Latino communities have a more particular concern – they want a single alderman.

Back of the Yards is now divided into pieces included in five wards, and the Committee for a Unified Back of the Yards says that has complicated communications and hindered progress for the community.

The group will hold a press conference Saturday morning (November 12, 10 a.m.) at 45th and Paulina, in the heart of the community – a corner where the boundaries of three wards intersect.

The neighborhood is seeing increased community improvement efforts – Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council recently launched a new Great Neighborhoods community planning initiative with LISC Chicago –but  lack of a single alderman makes it hard to address questions like the recent closing of the Back of the Yards branch library at 47th and Damen, said Cindy Agustin of CUBY.

“It’s been closed since September,” she said.  “The sign on the door says it’s closed due to flooding,” but it’s been difficult to get any attention to the problem.

The branch library serves students in five elementary schools, Agustin said.

While a survey by Latinos Organized for Justice and the Illinois Hunger Coalition recently found that over half of Back of the Yards families report they “sometimes, rarely, or never” have enough money to feed their families, the state recently closed a human services office that offered food assistance and other help.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget would also close Back of the Yards’ mental health clinic.

Groups participating Saturday include BYNC, The Resurrection Project, United Southwest Chamber of Commerce, U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center, and several parishes and schools.

Youth in motion – from Hip Hop to soccer

Young people get a lot of bad press, but with the support of community groups, many are seeking out positive paths in an increasingly difficult world.  Tomorrow two events – a hip hop festival and a soccer league gathering – highlight some of the alternatives.

The Pros Arts Studio’s Sixth Annual We R Hip Hop Festival showcases local musicians, artists, breakdancers and poets in Pilsen and Little Village, emphasizing the noncommercial, positive aspects of hip-hop culture.

It takes place at Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 13.  Read the rest of this entry »

Trees still down from last month’s storms

Lots of trees were blown down in recent summer storms – but that was weeks ago.

“Streets and Sanitation’s Bureau of Forestry has cleared the fallen trees on Chicago’s North Side but neglected cleanup on the South Side,” according to Action Now.

The group is holding a rally on Thursday, July 22,  at 10 a.m. in Back of the Yards (on 50th Street between Marshfield and Paulina) to highlight huge tree branches still blocking sidewalks.  Residents have called 311 repeatedly, according to the group.

The group says greater attention given to higher-income neighborhoods “illustrates the inequalities of city services in Chicago,” said Action Now.

Ballet Folklorico from Back of the Yards

The Ballet Folklorico of the Back of the Yards Council celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend with performances at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Morton East High School, 2423 S. Austin in Cicero.

With over 200 participants in groups “ranging from teenie tots to grandparents,” it’s one of the Council’s most successful programs, said Patty Flores.  Three advanced groups give public performances throughout the year and have won national championships four times. 

All the groups will be featured this weekend, presenting folkloric dance styles and music from regions across Mexico, from the mountains to the coastal areas.  Tickets cost $18 and are still available; call (773) 523-4416.

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