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‘The Sorrowing City’

“Urban Delarosa: The Sorrowing City” is a work of sacred music and art that grows out of Urban Delarosa, an ecumenical, citywide anti-violence ministry.  It will be premiered Tuesday night at St. Sabina Church, with performances scheduled at other locations around town every night this week.

It features music by Fr. Vaughn Fayle with libretto by Rev. Susan Johnson, both of Hyde Park United Church, with performances by several youth choirs, spoken word performance by Mama Brenda Matthews, and photos from “Too Young to Die” by Carlos Javier Ortiz.

More details at communitynewsproject.org.

Communities mark 9/11 with calls for solidarity

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, community interfaith gatherings will remember victims and the spirit of unity with which the nation responded to the attacks.

And one ongoing Jewish-Muslim collaboration founded in the days following the 2001 attacks is rededicating itself to work together “toward a more inclusive, diverse, and just society.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Community moves on an abandoned building

Southwest Side residents will paint a mural on an abandoned building and plant a community garden in the backyard tomorrow, celebrating the success of a community drive to secure the property —  and promoting plans to reclaim the building as affordable housing.

A press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, May 19) at 6212 S. Fairfield, a foreclosed property which has been a source of trouble for years, and whose owners the city has been unable to identify.

Festivities will take place on the block through the afternoon, and leaders of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network,  Southwest Organizing Project, and Jewish Council on Urban Affairs will hold an interfaith prayer service honoring the community’s commitment and unity.

The two-family building, just across the street from Fairfield Elementary School, has been repeatedly broken into and often wide open over recent years, said Mark Crain of IMAN.  “We know that there has been sexual abuse taking place there and that there’s been rampant drug use,” he said.

It seemed “nothing was ever able to be done about it,” said Mike Reardon of Neighborhood House Service of Chicago Lawn.  “It’s what I’d call a classic bank walkaway.”

First the building’s owner walked away, and after foreclosure, the title was awarded to Deutsche Bank; but the bank never took title, he said.  Other banks and financial services are listed as having interests, and a tax sale also clouds the title.

“We’ve tried meeting with Deutsche Bank, but the talks never went anywhere,” Crain said.

IMAN pressed to have the building taken to Housing Court – an unusual step following foreclosure — but no owners have responded.  Housing Court opens the possibility of taking the building over under the city’s Troubled Buildings Initiative.  In the meantime, NHS was appointed receiver and boarded up the building.

On May 12, with 20 neighbors — along with SWOP and JCUA – in court to show support for IMAN’s effort, a judge issued a final summons to any possible owners.  IMAN is preparing a proposal to rehab the building as affordable housing, Crain said.

If that process is unsuccessful, the group will explore acting under a new state law, the Abandoned Housing Rehabilitation Act, he said.

IMAN hopes it will be the second building in its Green Reentry Project, which trains ex-offenders to retrofit abandoned homes with energy efficient systems.  The project’s first building is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month.

With over 5,000 foreclosures since 2006, Chicago Lawn is among the neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  Crain said IMAN hopes to scale up reclamation efforts to address abandoned properties in a six block area of the neighborhood.

No room at the inn

There’s no room at the inn for some of Chicago’s homeless, turned away from overflowing shelters on frigid nights – and some are dying on Chicago’s streets as a result.

On Tuesday, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, homeless advocates will hold a memorial service for those who died homeless this year.  It takes place at Old St. Pat’s Church, 700 W. Adams, Tuesday, December 21 at 6 p.m.

Shelters are especially full on the coldest nights – such as we’re experiencing right now – and under the current system not all can be sheltered, said Karla Thomas of Old St. Pat’s.

“We want to give [those who have died] a proper memorial service and honor their lives,” she said.

Sponsored by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Ignatian Spirituality Project, the memorial is an opportunity for loved ones to grieve their losses – and to raise awareness of the problems faced by Chicago’s homeless.

“In Chicago, where the abundance of wealth and security is ever-present in the bombardment of media messages to buy, buy, buy, there is another reality: the reality of our brothers and sisters — children of God — losing the struggle for their lives,” said Tom Drexler, executive director of ISP.

The Ignatian Spirituality Project, founded 11 years ago, is a retreat program aimed at ending homelessness by helping people overcome obstacles in their lives and supporting those in recovery.

“I am convinced that there are certain things that only the weakest and most vulnerable among us can teach us about life,” said Wayne Richards, an organizer for CCH who came through the Ignatian Program. (Dawn Turner Trice tells his story in the Tribune.)

It’s hard to compile a comprehensive list of homeless people who have died on the streets because many lack identification, Thomas said, but about 30 individuals who died this year will be honored by name in Tuesday’s service.

CCH has documented homeless people turned away from shelters – even while the city maintains that rates of homelessness were dropping.  In 2005, shelter providers recorded turning away 20,000 people, according to CCH.

The group has argued that Mayor Daley’s ten-year plan to end homeless is flawed; it’s reduced shelter beds available under the guise of shifting to permanent housing without devoting sufficient resources and overstating results.

CCH found that city resources devoted to ending homelessness fall short in comparison to other cities, with Chicago providing one-third the per-capita investment of New York City and one-tenth that of San Francisco.

CCH estimates about 75,000 Chicagoans deal with homeless in the course of a year.

Hyatt workers to call boycott

Hyatt workers locked in tough contract negotiations – and hit by job cuts and reduced hours leading to chronic understaffing and increased injuries – will announce a boycott of one or more Chicago-area Hyatt properties tomorrow.

They’ll be joined by leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis announcing support from 200 Jewish leaders nationwide, at a 12:30 p.m. press conference in front of Hyatt Global Headquarters, 71 S. Wacker (Tuesday, August 24).

The rabbis will call on Hyatt to meet biblical obligations to treat workers fairly, and will pledge to honor worker-led boycotts and strikes of Hyatt properties.

Chicago will become the eighth U.S. city with boycotts of Hyatt hotels.  Chicago is home to the hotel chain’s corporate headquarters – and the base of the politically-connected Pritzker family, which controls the corporation.

UNITE HERE Local 1 members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike at four area Hyatt hotels on July 29.  They are among 6,500 Chicago area hotel workers who have been in negotiations since their contracts expired on almost a year ago.

Religious leaders have come out in support of Hyatt workers since 98 nonunion housekeepers were fired in Boston last year and replaced with subcontract workers at minimum wage.   Faith leaders participated in protests at Hyatt’s first shareholders meeting at the McCormick Hyatt in June and in civil disobedience at the Hyatt Regency in July.

Hyatt is “using the recession as an excuse to cut jobs,” said Annemarie Strassel of Local 1.  In ongoing negotiations, the company is proposing a long-term contract that would “flatten wages for years to come” and roll back healthcare benefits, she said.

“Hyatt is trying to lock workers into the recession at a time when the company is profitable and the hotel industry is projecting a recovery,” she said.

Muslim-Jewish gathering promotes tolerance

With anti-Muslim sentiment once again surging, serving now as the latest vehicle for a flourishing politics of divisiveness, Jews and Muslims will gather tomorrow night for a unique interfaith celebration to promote dialogue and tolerance.

Iftar in the Synagogue features “what both [Jewish and Muslim] traditions do best – eating, prayer, discussion and schmoozing,” said Asaf Bar-Tura of the Jewish Muslim Community Building Initiative.

The Iftar is the meal which breaks the daily fast of Ramadan, which coincides with a month of repentance in preparation for the Jewish  high holidays.  Iftar in the Synagogue features joint worship, speeches and discussion, along with a communal meal.

It’s the sixth year the event has been held, drawing hundreds of participants, sponsored by the community building initiative.  JMCBI was started by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in 2001 as a response to the increase in intolerance and hate crimes against Muslims following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

This year the event will include a screening of Road to Unity, a short documentary about the religions and cultures represented on Chicago’s Devon Avenue.

Iftar in the Synagogue takes place Thursday, August 19 at 6:30 p.m. (following a community service activity at 5:30) at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, 540 W. Melrose.

‘One Chicago’ video award – and Streets 2010

Winners of the One Chicago-One Nation video contest will be announced Thursday night at Milennium Park during a concert featuring world-renowned Muslim musicians. The concert is part of Streets 2010, an urban international festival sponsored by Inner-city Muslim Action Network.

The concert features the “dessert groove” music of Tinariwen, which combines Moroccan protest music, Algerian pop, and rock and roll, along with virtuoso flautist Omar Faruk Tekbilek from Turkey.

It will open at 6:30 with an award ceremony for creators of short videos showcasing Chicago’s diversity in comedy, drama, documentary, music/spoken-word/animation, and mobile digital media categories.  The video contest is hosted by Link TV and is part of a larger civic engagement initiative also backed by the  Chicago Community Trust and Interfaith Youth Core.

The finalists in the video contest can be viewed here. Prizes range from $5,000 to $20,000.

One Chicago-One Nation continues Saturday, June 19 at 10 a.m. with the induction of 100 newly trained community ambassadors at Streets 2010 in Marquette Park..  Ranging in age from 17 to 80 and representing a variety of ethnic and faith backgrounds, the ambassadors have been trained in facilitating intercultural dialogues and will be organizing community conversations over coming months.

Also part of the initiative, CCT will fund 20 grants of $10,000 each for projects that stimulate cross-community collaboration.

IMAN expects 20,000 people to attend its Takin’ it to the Streets event Saturday in Marquette Park, 6734 S. Kedzie, with four stages (including world music and hip-hop), 100 performers (including Mos Def), and a range of educational and community events and forums.

An annual event since 1997, it’s “a Muslim-led festival where artistic expression, spirituality and urban creativity inspire social change.”  It’s since expanded to a week of activities “that embrace a new Muslim cultural renaissance.”

Immigrant rights vigil moves inside

Today’s interfaith immigrant rights vigil is moving inside — to the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington — starts at 4:30 p.m.



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