women – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop https://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Women against NATO https://www.newstips.org/2012/05/women-against-nato/ Fri, 11 May 2012 03:05:18 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6152 One feature of anti-NATO activities planned here is the presence of several women leaders who have notable records of directly confronting war-makers, of “speaking truth to power,” sometimes at significant personal risk.

In addition to their own stories, they offer valuable perspectives on the crucial issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan.  That’s also the subject of a Shadow Summit for Afghan Women’s Rights being held by Amnesty International at the Swissotel, 325 E. Wacker, on Sunday, May 20, the opening day of the NATO summit – where, Amnesty notes, Afghan women won’t be represented, though their interests will be seriously impacted.

Kathy Kelly, Malalai Joya, and Medea Benjamin are each speaking at the People’s Summit, Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13, at 500 W. Cermak (schedule here) and at the No to NATO rally Sunday, May 20 at noon in Grant Park.

Kathy Kelly

Born and raised on Chicago’s Southwest Side, Kathy Kelly became an anti-war activist through the Uptown Catholic Worker House in the late 1970s.  She’s been arrested in peace actions over 60 times and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, once by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire.  She co-founded Voices in the Wilderness in 1995, which sent medical supplies to Iraq in defiance of the U.S. embargo.

With VITW and its successor, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, founded in 2005, Kelly has travelled countless times to war zones; she was in Baghdad for the U.S. invasion in 2003, Lebanon during the 2006 invasion, and Gaza during the Israeli attack in 2008; she and her colleagues have visited Iraq and Afghanistan extensively.

“We try to live in poor neighborhoods, alongside people who can’t escape the war zones, and listen to ordinary people whose voices are never heard,” she said.  She frequently reports on the experiences and views of the people she lives among.  She talks about the 250 Afghan children dying of starvation every day, while the U.S. spends $2 billion a week on the war.

“She’s an inspirational leader,” said Rev. Bob Bossie, who co-founded VITW and is now retired. “She’s radically committed to nonviolence.”  VCVN “is known across the country as an organization that’s not sitting on its heels, that’s taking risks in a nonviolent way to say we won’t be compliant, we will speak out again and again and stand with the people who are being oppressed,” he said.

The group “challenges us all to see what we more can do – what next step can I take,” he said.  “We can’t all go to war zones, but we can all do more.”

The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan is “very misleading,” Kellly said.  “It’s simply not true.  The Joint Special Operations forces, the most intimidating and fearsome warriors on the planet, will remain till 2024 and beyond.

“Our bases will be turned over the to Afghan government, which will lease them back to us.  We’re building the world’s largest embassy in Kabul – it’s really a huge base – and we’re building three prisons.  The night raids will continue at the insistence of the U.S.

“All these things are going to continue, so how can we say the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan?  It’s hypocritical.

“And all these things mean the Taliban will keep fighting, and the people of Afghanistan will be subjected to another decade of warfare.”

Kathy Kelly is currently taking part in a VCNV march from Madison to Chicago.  She’s also on a panel on “How does war end” (3:15 p.m., Friday, May 18) at the Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence.

Malalai Joya

Born in Western Afghanistan in 1978, shortly before the Soviet invasion, Malalai Joya is of a generation that has “only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation,” she writes in her book, “A Woman Among Warlords.”

Her father lost a leg fighting the Soviets, and she grew up in refugee camps.  She was not yet 20 when a women’s rights group sent her back to Afghanistan to start an underground school for girls, illegal under the Taliban.  She was 25 when, as a delegate to the Loya Jirga, she denounced the warlords who had taken over from the Tablian. She was accosted and insulted and finally removed from the assembly (see video below).

But her speech won widespread popular favor, and she was elected to the national assembly in 2005 – and then expelled in 2007 for making remarks deemed disrespectful.

She continues to campaign for peace, democracy, and women’s rights, though after several assassination attempts, she moves constantly between safehouses, attended by bodyguards.

In “A Woman Among Warlords,” Joya writes:  “The situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice…

“In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women’s rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.”

From a recent speech: “We need security and a helping hand from  friends around the world, not this endless U.S.-led ‘war on terror,’ which is in fact a war on the Afghan people….Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs – when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.”

Medea Benjamin

Before she co-founded Code Pink, Medea Benjamin co-founded Global Exchange, an international human rights organization that helped force Nike to address sweatshop issues in the 1990s.

Code Pink – named for the Bush administration’s color-coded security alerts – has disrupted speeches by George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu and others, and has organized delegations to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Benjamin has a new book out on “Drone Warfare.”

“There’s no easy solution” to the problem of women’s rights in Afghanistan, she said. She notes that women she’s met with there have a range of opinions on how to proceed – and that, contrary to perceptions here, women outside cities find themselves in “pretty much the same situation” they were in under the Taliban. “They’re still going around in burqas.”

“Whether the U.S. pulls out this year or next year or the year after, there are still going to be fundamentalists, and women are still going to have to fight for their rights,” Benjamin said. “It’s going to have to be an indigenous solution.”

Many women there say “there will be no peace without a negotiated solution, and Afghan women must br at the table where negotiations are going on,” Benjamin said.  But with secret talks now going on between the U.S. the Taliban, she points out, that isn’t happening.

Medea Benjamin joins human rights activist Rafia Zakaria to discuss “Drone Wars,” Monday, May 14, 7 p.m. at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood.  She’s also joining with colleagues from Code Pink in a panel of “creative tactics for peace and justice” at the Counter-Summit (Friday, May 18, 3:15 p.m.)

Confronting power

 
Malalai Joya’s speech to the Loya Jirga, December 17, 2003

Medea Benjamin confronts John Brennan, Special Assistant to the President on Counterterrorism, April 30, 2012, Washington DC

Kathy Kelly speaks to Missouri riot police at an anti-drone protest at Whiteman Air Force Base on April 15; three people seeking to present a war crimes indictment were arrested. (Seven more were arrested at an anti-drone protest at Volk Field in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin on April 24.)

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Int’l Women’s Day: spotlight on low wages, sexual harassment https://www.newstips.org/2012/03/intl-womens-day-spotlight-on-low-wages-sexual-harassment/ Wed, 07 Mar 2012 23:08:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5989 Two events will highlight the concerns of women workers on International Women’s Day:  a rally at the Chicago Board of Trade highlighting low wages for women janitors paid by the highly profitable and tax-favored CME Group; and a hearing in Joliet focused on retaliation against women warehouse workers complaining of sexual harassment, including a case where a complainant was herself arrested.

Janitors represented by SEIU Local 1 will rally at the Board of Trade on Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. and march from there to the Willis Tower. Contract negotiations are starting for 13,000 area janitors, including 4,000 at downtown office buildings, whose contract expires April 8.

With annual pay ranging from $24,000 to $31,000, area janitors are classified “very low income” under HUD’s standards, and earn $20,000 or more below the Economic Policy Institute’s estimate of the cost of living for a family of four, according to Nell McNamara of Local 1.

The union is casting the issue as one of income inequality, noting soaring salaries and bonuses for CEOs while Chicago has the third highest poverty rate and the highest racial income disparity of any major U.S. city.

Janitors are calling on wealthy corporations “to do their part,” said McNamara.  “When hard-working people have good jobs with benefits, we’ll begin to restore balance to our economy and vitality to our neighborhoods.”

In December the state passed an income tax break worth $85 million a year to CME after the corporation threatened to leave town.  In 2009, Willis Tower benefited when United Airlines got a $31 million TIF subsidy to move its corporate headquarters into the building.

Arrested for complaining

In Joliet, in response to an increasing number of complaints of sexual harassment by women workers at warehouses in the area, Warehouse Workers for Justice is holding a hearing on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Church, 205 E. Jackson.

A panel including a Will County Board commissioner and a Joliet City Council member will hear testimony from warehouse workers and from experts.

WWJ started hearing complaints after taking on the case of a woman working at Partners Warehouse in Elwood.  When she and her mother went to police to file charges of sexual assault against a supervisor, they were arrested and charged with filing a false report, said Mark Meinster of WWJ.  Police have not investigated the woman’s charge, he said.

The woman and her mother were subsequently fired, and they’ve filed a civil case charging retaliation, Meinster said.

Among other warehouse workers expected to testify Thursday are employees at Wal-Mart’s Elwood warehouse, he said.

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Nuns target sex trafficking at Super Bowl https://www.newstips.org/2012/02/nuns-target-sex-trafficking-at-super-bowl/ Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:47:21 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5609 Women from eleven religious orders are working with hotels in the Indianapolis area to curb sexual trafficking associated with the Super Bowl this weekend.

Incidents of sexual trafficking tend to spike around major sporting events, said Grace Skalski of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in LaGrange, which participated in the Super Bowl 2012 Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

The nuns called over 200 hotels asking if employees had been trained to recognize, document and report incidents of human trafficking.  They ended up providing training to employees of several hotels and supplying nearly a hundred hotels with brochures, information about the hospitality industry’s code of conduct on child sexual exploitation, and contact information for victim hotlines and safe houses.

Religious orders in the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan buy stock in hotel chains in order to establish dialogues on the issue of human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

“These are activities that happen in the dark,” said Sister Ann Oestreich, co-chair of CCRIM. “What we are attempting to do is to shine a light on sex trafficking and reduce opportunities for it to happen.”

“Human trafficking is a tragic violation of human rights that devastates its victims, strips away their dignity and security, and tears at the fabric of our global society,” said Sister Pat Bergen of LaGrange Park.  “It is a form of imprisonment and oppression which demands a compassionate response to the cries of victims who long for a future with hope.”

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Forty years of women’s history https://www.newstips.org/2011/10/forty-years-of-womens-history/ Fri, 14 Oct 2011 21:15:02 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4835 Jan Schakowsky and Heather Booth will join local leaders for a panel discussion celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Area Women’s History Council at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, at the Prairie Production studio, 1314 W. Randolph.

Also participating are Maria Pesquiera, executive director of Mujeres Latinas; Jackie Grimshaw of the Center for Neighborhood Technology; Tracy Baim of the Windy City Media Group; and historian Rima Lunin Schultz, co-editor of  CAWHC’s biographical dictionary, “Women Building Chicago 1790-1990.”

Schakowsky was active in consumer and senior groups before being elected to the Illinois House in 1990 and the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998.  A veteran of the civil rights movement, Booth founded the Women’s Radical Action Project and the underground abortion service Jane in the 1960s and the Midwest Academy in 1973.  She now heads Americans for Financial Reform.

CAWHC documents stories of women’s activism and leadership, said Priscilla Hunter. It was founded during the “second wave” of feminism in the 1970s because “women’s history has mostly been told from the standpoint of the East and West Coasts, and there was a lot of activity in Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s,” she said.

Admission is $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $20 low-income, and $15 for students with ID.  Info at 773-227-0093.

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An acquital – but not justice – for Tiawanda Moore https://www.newstips.org/2011/08/an-acquital-but-not-justice-for-tiawanda-moore/ https://www.newstips.org/2011/08/an-acquital-but-not-justice-for-tiawanda-moore/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2011 20:21:09 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4709 Tiawanda Moore’s acquittal Wednesday raises a range of issues:  about the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law; about the role of the State’s Attorney and the Chicago Police Department’s internal affairs division in protecting abusive officers; and about media treatment of female victims of sexual crimes, and especially of young African American women.

The Sun Times report touches on the constitutional issues, while the Tribune examines them more extensively — and hints at the problems with IAD and the State’s Attorney:  “The case offers a rare glimpse” into the internal affairs division.  “And it turns out to be an unflattering look.”

A juror tells the Trib, “Everybody thought [the case] was just a waste of time and that [Moore] should never have been charged.”  The jurors thought  the effort of the IAD investigators to discourage Moore’s complaint, which she captured on her cellphone, at least “bordered on the criminal.”

It’s there, in the Trib’s report, between the lines:  when a cop breaks the law – at least when a young woman of color is the victim — IAD can’t be counted on to investigate, and the State’s Attorney can’t be counted on to protect the victim.

At the blog of the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women (CTOV), Melissa Spatz brings out these implications.  She provides crucial context, missing from other accounts:  the record of young women coming forward in Chicago to report being sexually assaulted by police; CPD’s woeful record disciplining abusive cops.

No recourse

She goes through the closing arguments (more detail on that here), unpacks the prosecution’s amazing attempt to paint an isolated female victim, just 20 years old, as a powerful aggressor, and concludes that “the State’s Attorney cannot be counted on to protect young women from police violence.”

This may not be news, but it is shocking nonetheless:  a young woman in Chicago has no official recourse after a sexual attack by a police officer.

Moore tells the Tribune: “If I would have known I was going to get in trouble, I might never have come in and filed the complaint in the first place.”  As Newstips noted earlier, it’s not hard to conclude that this was the very point of prosecuting her – to punish her for stepping forward, and to prevent others from doing so.

It’s this revictimization of the victim that many commentators see in newspaper reports that describe Moore as a “former stripper.”  Beachwood Reporter and Chicagoist stressed this, with Beachwood citing an e-mail from Chris Drew, an street art activist who’s also facing eavesdropping charges (see Newstips 1-27-10). Drew challenges the characterization as missing the point: Moore “has every right to expect justice from our system and she is a  brave fighter for women’s rights,” he writes.

An inglorious history

Radley Balko at The Agitator argues that Moore’s occupation had no relevance to the story, and Spatz’s colleague Mariame Kaba on the CTOV blog puts it in the context of “an inglorious history in the press of women who bring charges of sexual assault often being painted as sexually ‘loose’.”  The description is “a kind of shorthand,” she writes.  “It suggests something about her character and perhaps should lead us to question her credibility.”

I talked with a couple reporters who’ve covered the case.  Here’s some of what I got:  it’s not uncommon to report the occupations of people in court cases.  Moore’s former occupation did come up in the trial and was, I’m told, relevant as a factor in the cop’s assault, though the coverage did not provide that context.  The fact that she had been a stripper is the kind of detail that adds interest to a story.  There was no intention to smear her.  It’s just the facts, with an eye toward reader appeal and obtaining a few inches in a shrinking newshole.

They’re right, I think, that it was part of the story (though UPI didn’t think it merited inclusion, and the Trib left it out of its report on the verdict).  And I’m convinced that their motive was to get the story out, not to minimize its impact.

Their critics are right, too, that it’s something to be sensitive about. (Indeed, CTOV is considering developing guidelines for media coverage of sexual violence.)

The jury’s verdict clarifies things immensely.  The jury had no trouble finding Moore credible.  (Of course, she had her tape, a crucial fact.)  In the accounts of the verdict, Moore clearly comes across as a person of courage and integrity; the prosecutors as bullies and worse.

For Moore it’s a partial victory; she still hasn’t received justice.  According to the Tribune, the police officer she says assaulted her is still under investigation, but the internal affairs officers who tried to put her off are not being investigated at all – indeed, one has been promoted since the incident.

But Moore’s acquittal is a tremendous comeuppance to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.  The eavesdropping statute stands exposed as a tool for repressing citizen complaints about police, and Alvarez stands exposed as someone who will use that statute to punish honest citizens and protect bad cops.

As Drew says, the media “should examine in depth the way the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office shields police misconduct.”  And we all need to look at how dominant cultural attitudes limit respect and access to justice for young women, especially young women of color.

We should also salute Ms. Moore for her tenacity and commitment to justice, and thank her for the example she sets for all of us.

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Two fighters https://www.newstips.org/2011/06/two-fighters/ Wed, 08 Jun 2011 19:35:27 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3919

Photo by Nancy Bechtol

For the first time since I can remember, Chris Drew won’t be at Community Media Workshop’s annual conference today and tomorrow.  [Update: Chris Drew comes through]

Normally he’d volunteer for a shift at the registration table and spend the rest of the time sitting in a corner, silk-screening and handing out art patches, and talking to anyone who’s interested about free speech and arts policy in Chicago.

This year he’s fighting a felony charge of illegal eavesdropping – he audiotaped his own arrest back in December 2009 as he challenged the city’s peddlar’s ordinance – and in April he announced that he’s fighting lung cancer.  I reached him by phone Tuesday but couldn’t talk much, since he was headed into a chemotherapy session at Cook County Hospital.

Details of his case are here (also see Newstips’ First Amendment two-fer).

An ACLU lawsuit challenging the eavesdropping law under which Drew is charged was dismissed earlier this year; that ruling is being appealed.  “We are concerned about people’s ability to monitor police activity in public,” Ed Yohnka said.  A Chicago Tribune editorial called the law “indefensible.”

Chris’s gentle appearance and manner can be deceiving:  he’s a fighter. “I have a ’60s bent to me,” he explained to Chicago News Coop in January. “I won’t back down. I won’t be intimidated.”

He’s been fighting for free speech in Chicago for years; he’s refused to back down in the face of an outrageous prosecution.  He’s been contacting legislators about fixing the eavesdropping law.  (And maybe a new arts-friendly mayor will take a new look at the peddlars’ ordinance?)

Meanwhile his art patch project is going nationwide, with exhibits scheduled in Seattle and San Francisco.  But under the financial strain, he sent out an e-mail recently saying the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center is in danger of closing.  Chris founded the center in 1987; it teaches silk-screening and holds an annual Art of the T-Shirt festival.  Donations are welcome.

Free speech for artists has been the fight of Chris’s life.  It’s expanded dramatically: now he’s defending free speech rights for all of us.  And there’s a new front.  In the midst of all this, he’s fighting for his life.  We’re pulling for you, Chris.

Meanwhile, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez should drop all charges against Chris Drew.  And the City Council and General Assembly should fix these laws.

Tiawanda Moore is another fighter.  There’s no telling how many young women are sexually harassed by police. Most, understandably, are too scared to complain about it.  Moore wasn’t.

When she went to police headquarters last August to file a complaint and Internal Affairs officers tried to dissuade her, she started recording them on her cell phone.  When they noticed, they arrested her under the same eavesdropping law that Drew is charged with violating.

Moore had a court date scheduled for today, with her attorney, Robert W. Johnson, continuing to press for a trial date.  The state’s attorney has won a series of continuances.

As CNC reported, Johnson argues that the Internal Affairs officers were violating the law, and the eavesdropping statute exempts people who have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

The prosecution of Moore is “just appalling,” said Melissa Spatz of the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls and Young Women, which is supporting Moore.  “It’s certain to have a chilling effect on women who are harassed by police.”

It would be cynical to wonder if that was the point.

The task force has collected over 2200 signatures on an on-line petition calling on Alvarez to dismiss the charges against Moore.

Meanwhile, Spatz said there is no indication that any investigation is underway into the complaint Moore filed last summer, when she returned to police headquarters with her lawyer.

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Equal pay for women https://www.newstips.org/2011/04/equal-pay-for-women/ Tue, 12 Apr 2011 16:55:52 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3620 If a man started a new job today, by the end of the year he’d make as much on average as a woman who’d been on the job since January 1.

That’s why April 12 is dubbed Equal Pay Day, and a coalition of women’s groups is marking it with a rally downtown calling for an end to employment discrimination.

On average, controlling for education and experience, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Over a lifetime, that can add up.

“The Labor Department reports the pay gap for the average, full-time working woman means she gets $150 less in her weekly paycheck,” according to AFL-CIO NOW.  “If she works all year, that’s $8,000 less at the end of the year and about $380,000 over a lifetime.”

One thing that could help is a bill in Springfield – backed by groups including Women Employed, one of the sponsors of today’s rally — that would raise the state’s minimum wage by steps until it reaches the buying power it had in 1968.

The AFL-CIO cites a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that shows that women account for two-thirds of workers in the ten occupations with the lowest earnings; men account for two-thirds of those in the top ten occupations.

On top of that, within the top and bottom ten occupations, women are paid less than men.

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Domestic violence victims being deported https://www.newstips.org/2011/03/domestic-violence-victims-being-deported/ Tue, 08 Mar 2011 22:02:16 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=3468 Victims of domestic violence are being detained and deported when they contact local law enforcement to report abuses, according to a new report released here by the Latino Union of Chicago.

It’s happening under the so-called “Secure Communities” program, which coordinates local police agencies with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  ICE claims the program targets individuals convicted of violent crimes, but critics have charged that many others are caught up in it.  According to the report from Latino Union and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, women are being fingerprinted and detained when they go to police to report crimes.

“Secure Communities is a direct attack on immigrant women, families, and victims of domestic violence,” said Gladys Zarate, a founder of Weaving Dreams, a domestic workers collective.

“As we honor contributions of the women’s movement on International Women’s Day, we demand that Illinois take immediate steps to protect women and families by opting out of this voluntary program,” she said.

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