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Action Now: Don’t demolish – rebuild

A community group is taking issue with Mayor Emanuel’s new plan to demolish vacant buildings that serve as gang havens.

Action Now is proposing an alternative strategy:  use the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to finance rehab of the buildings into affordable rentals.

Emanuel says his “message to gang members” is that “you will no longer find shelter in the city of Chicago.”

But according to Michelle Young, president of Action Now, “He’s really saying that working families will no longer find shelter in the city of Chicago.”

On Monday, Emanuel said the city has identified 200 buildings for possible demolition due to their “location in high-crime areas.”  His initiative covers Englewood, Lawndale, Grand Crossing, Garfield Park, and Little Village.

“All over the city there are blocks full of vacant homes,” Young said in a release. “Our neighborhoods have become ghost towns. The mayor is going in the wrong direction.

“The solution to the vacant property problem is not creating more destruction by demolishing buildings,” she said. “We must rebuild our communities by transforming vacant buildings into homes for families once again.”

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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 thegrassrootscollaborative.org.

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.

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A community platform to stop violence

Violence is up in Chicago, but community leaders say prevention works and deserves support.

Hundreds of residents of Rogers Park and Uptown will attend the unveiling of a comprehensive violence prevention platform by the Organization of the North East on Monday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Sullivan High School, 6631 N. Bosworth.

“We cannot end violence and crime with policing and law enforcement,” according to the platform. “We must address the root causes of violence by employing multiple strategies that build community, support positive youth development, prevent the negative influence of poverty and racism, and provide development-focused interventions when youth make choices that will have a negative impact on their lives.”

Speakers will include young people who have been helped by community programs and CeaseFire interrupters and clients.  “There’s a lot of good work being done that needs to be continued,” said ONE executive director Joe Damal.

Students who have been inappropriately suspended will discuss the need for school discipline reform.  ONE is part of the High Hopes Campaign, which calls for implementing restorative justice practices to reduce suspensions and expulsions in CPS.

‘The Interrupters’ on WTTW

If you missed “The Interrupters” in the theaters, or want to see it again, the documentary (covering the work of three violence interrupters with Chicago’s CeaseFire) will be broadcast on Frontline on WTTW Channel 11 on Tuesday, February 14, at 8 p.m. and Friday, February 17, at 10 p.m.

Chicago’s ‘feedback loop’ for violence

The Sun Times reports Saturday on Ondelee Perteet at the sentencing hearing for the young man who shot and paralyzed him in 2009. Ondelee shows impressive maturity and generosity of spirit.

At the Chicago Reporter, Kari Lydersen talks at length with the 17-year-old West Side resident and his mother about the personal costs of surviving violence: Ondelee struggles to maintain his positive attitude, and his mother struggles to care for him and pay the bills.

It’s part two the Reporter’s “Too Young To Die” series by Lydersen and photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz, and it’s part of the Local Reporting Initiative, which you can follow at the Community News Project blog.

Classmates of Ondelee interviewed him for a video by the Westside Writers Project, another LRI participant, in 2010.

Last week the first report of the Reporter’s series showed that Chicago’s homicide rate is double that of New York City. At Chicago Magazine’s The 312 blog, Whet Moser has a fascinating piece looking at differences between the two cities that may help account for that.

New York has less than a third the number of gang members that Chicago has, and various experts suggest this could have to do with differences between the two cities in public housing and incarceration policies.

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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.

Peacemaking: From West Bank to West Side

When he was on the West Bank with a Christian Peacemaker Team in 2005, Chicago organizer Elce Redmond realized the problems people faced there were similar to those faced by people back home – and solutions might be similar too.

Redmond, an organizer with the South Austin Coalition, will give the opening keynote for CPT’s 25th anniversary Peacemaker Congress, Thursday, October 13 at 8 p.m. at Evanston Reba Place Church, 533 Custer.  The congress runs through Sunday the 16th.

In 2005, Redmond’s team was providing “peaceful accompaniment” for Palestinian schoolchildren who faced bullying and attacks by adults (“they were mostly from New York,” he says) living in Israeli settlements there.  “I was struck that the same situation happens on the West Side of Chicago, kids trying to get home from school and facing gangs and violence.”

Back home, Redmond began organizing the Austin Peaceforce, with parents and community volunteers trained in nonviolent strategies who are deployed to defuse conflicts and prevent violence.  Today they have a regular presence in Austin schools, including parent patrols after school.

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Covering youth violence

With WBBM-TV demonstrating how not to do it, Community Media Workshop’s Ethnic Media Project offers suggestions for improving coverage youth violence, including:

  • Encourage young people to speak for themselves, promoting youth-created media to give them the opportunity to do so. Agencies that provide media training for their leaders, for example, can include young people served by the agency as spokespersons. Read the rest of this entry »


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  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]
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