Chicago

Phil Jackson 02-14-2013
Chicago skyline, nialat / Shutterstock.com

Chicago skyline, nialat / Shutterstock.com

My city of Chicago, known as the City with Big Shoulders, is now on its knees. But it’s not prostrate in some humble submission to God. No. Instead Chicago is weeping from the emotional exhaustion of having to bury too many youth who have been murdered.

Last year Chicago recorded 2,400 shootings and more than 505 murders, of which more than 108 were teenagers of color from seven violent communities. Already 2013, with less than two months into its birth, has seen 49 murders. Those of us on the ground seeking to bring change to this pandemic of violence know that if the Chicago cold winters are this violent, then the hot summers will not cool off. On top of the hard and constant news about those who are killing and being killed, Chicago Police stats show that only 34 percent of the murders get solved within one year. If the detectives have two years on a case, then the rate barely reaches 50 percent. The national average of murders solved is 64 percent. New York’s rate is only 60 percent. In Chicago, though, one has a 50-50 chance of getting away with a murder.

Harold Dean Trulear 02-14-2013
Gun image, val lawless / Shutterstock.com

Gun image, val lawless / Shutterstock.com

A well-known restorative justice film, "A Justice That Heals" recounts the role of faith and the church in caring for the families of both a murderer and his victim. The film climaxes in the mother’s act of forgiveness and counsel to the young man who killed her son. The power of that image of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration almost obscures another dimension of the grieving family's response to the death of their son. The victim's father resigns his job and becomes the director of an advocacy group for gun control.

The late Carl Dudley demonstrated in his research on mobilizing congregations that communities of faith rally to advocacy only after they have generated sufficient energy about and engagement with those affected by the policy. Congregations care about people not policy, stories over statistics, and narratives before numbers. Even the civil rights movement found its genesis in the story of Rosa Parks, and others like her, rather than in the "ethics" of segregation and discrimination. So, like the family in "A Justice That Heals," our work to mobilize around gun control requires creating a climate where people's experience with those who are victimized by bad policy.

Monique Parsons 02-06-2013
RNS photo by Monique Parsons.

Rami Nashashibi founded IMAN in 1997. RNS photo by Monique Parsons.

CHICAGO — Religious affiliation may be on the wane in America, a recent Pew study asserts, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the storefront near the corner of West 63rd Street and South Fairfield Avenue.

Inside a former bank in a neighborhood afflicted with gang violence, failed businesses and empty lots, a team of volunteers drawn by their religious faith is working to make life better for Chicago’s poorest residents.

The free medical clinic has expanded its hours; 20-something college graduates are clamoring to get into its internship program; rap stars swing by its alcohol-free poetry slams; and the budget has increased tenfold in the past decade.

The storefront belongs to Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and it is part of a wave of new Muslim institutions emerging at an unprecedented pace. More than a quarter of the nation’s 2,106 mosques were founded in the last decade, according to a recent University of Kentucky study, and new social service organizations, many of them run by 20- and 30-something American-born Muslims, are thriving as never before.

Doug Stanglin 01-09-2013
RNS photo courtesy www.myjihad.org.

An ad campaign to change public perception of the word "jihad." RNS photo courtesy www.myjihad.org.

An ad campaign on San Francisco buses is aimed at trying to change public perception of the word “jihad,” which the program’s founder says has been distorted by extremists — Muslim and anti-Muslim alike.

Ahmed Rehab, a 36-year-old political activist, started the campaign in Chicago in December and expanded it to 25 San Francisco buses at the start of the year.

Rehab, who heads the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says his MyJihad campaign, which defines jihad as a personal struggle in many areas of life, is aimed at reframing a debate over a word that has become synonymous in many quarters with armed struggle and terrorism.

He said the debate has been taken over “more or less by two extremes — Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim extremists.”

Tripp Hudgins 12-19-2012
John Moore/Getty Image

Rachel Berger (L), and Greta Waag embrace while visiting a makeshift memorial in Newtown. John Moore/Getty Images

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

In 2012 more than one hundred young people were killed by gun violence in Chicago. More than a hundred. If you start adding up the numbers, there was a time there in the summer where Chicago was more dangerous than Afghanistan. Well, parts of it were. It's a big place, you know.

As tragic as the shooting was in Connecticut —and I am truly not interested in minimizing the grief or outrage — we have to wake up and realize that more children are killed every year in the U.S. and we seldom cry in outrage. Not as a nation. There were marches in protest by Chicago churches

The news media covered the march but not the murders. 

Jim Merrell 08-20-2012
Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com

For the second time in Chicago this year, the life of a gender-variant young person of color was lost to violence.

Donta Gooden’s body was found in an abandoned building on the city’s West Side late in the evening of August 14th. Gooden, 19, who also went by the name “Tiffany,” was stabbed to death just three blocks from where Paige Clay, a 23 year-old transgender woman, was shot and killed in April, according to media reports. The police investigation is ongoing.

The tragedy of these senseless killings, still so raw and heartrending for the loved ones of Gooden and Clay, is beyond comprehension and deplorable on every level. But perhaps even more unsettling is how often violent crimes against LGBTQ people occur and how little social outrage they ignite.

For many, these two terrible tragedies may melt into the background in a year when Chicago is scrambling to stem a rising tide of murder across the city (year -to-date homicides are up 25 percent from August 2011 according to data compiled by the Redeye. However, they are part of an alarming trend of violence targeting LGBTQ people of color – and transgender and gender-variant people of color in particular – which directly intersects with the front lines of the HIV epidemic.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dolores Walker leaves the Cook County ME's office after identifying her slain 16-year-old son. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Editor's Note: This piece is part of a longer series on the wave of violence hitting Chicago, with murders for the year reaching the 250 mark this week. Some think the solution is purely over-policing or sending in the National Guard. Mayor Rahm Emanuel may legalize small amounts of marijuana so police can focus on violent crime. We asked some contributors—people who are on the ground in Chicago working for change—to discuss real, creative solutions.

For all its deep dish pizzas and –style hot dogs, The Crib is one of the most violent cities in the world. 

When I say in the world, I mean that 1,976 Americans have died in Afghanistan since 2001, and there have been 5,056 murders in Chicago during the same period. (A specious stat for a number of reasons, but let’s move toward the point people are getting at when they mention this). This is a dangerous town. “How do we stop it?” is the million dollar question, and will net someone a Nobel Peace Prize if they can figure it out. 

 

Connie Jakab 06-11-2012

I want to tell you the story of one brave woman who has given her life to live in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Arloa Sutter is one of my new heroes. Let me tell you why.

I met Arloa through the Redbud Writers Guild to which we both belong. Last month I had the honor of meeting her at our guild retreat. I had no idea what a culture rebel she was.

Arloa didn't begin her days of serving the inner-city poor as the grandmother she is today, but as a young woman. It all began with her church staff not knowing what to do with the many people who came into the building during the week needing assistance. Instead of pushing them out the door, she created a storefront room that provided  food,l friendly conversation and a hot cup of coffee to those wishing to escape the cold. This eventually evolved into her gathering a board of directors to form Breakthrough Ministries in 1992.

She didn’t know what she was doing, but she did it anyways. I love gutsy people like that.

Christopher Sofolo 05-31-2012

Earlier this month, I boarded a train with my brother-in-law and headed to Chicago to protest the 2012 NATO Summit. If you are asking "why protest?" you can find a substantial list here

Security had been ramped up and no food or liquids were allowed on the train. We met some fellow protesters during the trip and when we arrived at Union Station we hustled to make it to Grant Park on time. In transit to the park the sun was already warming our necks and I found myself reaching for the small tube of sunblock that I had stashed in my pocket. 

We arrived in plenty of time to catch the pre-march rally at Petrillo Bandshell. Many stories were shared by fellow activists from around the world. The air was humid, yet vibrating with the passion of thousands as we prepared to march together for peace.

Amidst a swirl of percussion the crowd was chanting: "We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!"

Matt Southworth 05-22-2012
Protestors march in Chicago on Sunday during the NATO summit there. Photo by Spe

Protestors march in Chicago on Sunday during the NATO summit there. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This coming fiscal year, the United States is set to spend more than $640 billion dollars on the Pentagon and war, accounting for more than 60 percent of federal domestic spending. In excess of $85 billion of that will be spent on the war in Afghanistan alone.

This unfathomable amount of money was approved by the House of Representatives in the National Defense Authorization Act. These funds will serve to bring suffering and pain to innocent people, further militarize the world and undermine peace and stability for generations to come—all on the backs of those who struggle at home.

In the backdrop of such spending, we’re told that we’re in a financial crisis. Elected officials tell us it is time to make tough choices. There isn’t enough money for programs like “Meals on Wheels” and for ensuring everyone has access to adequate healthcare. Our schools and bridges must wait to be repaired.  New roads and schools must remain unconstructed.

Yet some of us know better.

CLICK HERE TO HELP PROTECT POVERTY PROGRAMS FROM FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS (and get an "End Poverty" or "Wage Peace" bumper sticker.)

the Web Editors 05-21-2012

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Several thousand protesters spent five hours peacefully chanting, singing and marching against war. At the end, nearly 40 young veterans dramatically took their military medals and hurled them toward McCormick Place, where world leaders met behind closed doors.

It was supposed to end there — at Michigan and Cermak.

But a “Black Bloc” of about 100 anarchists wanted something else. The group, which chanted “What do we want? Dead cops!” as it left Grant Park at 2 p.m., surged to the front of the protest crowd and tried to break through the imposing line of Chicago cops in riot gear blocking its path.

Watch more videos from protests in Chicago inside the blog.

Yvonne Yen Liu 05-01-2012

Low-wage work and racial inequity are rife in jobs that move food to your table.

Vicki Jones 03-20-2012
Grocery store image by Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

Grocery store image by Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

I am on food stamps. This will surprise almost everyone who knows me. I have hidden it from friends, from family, from classmates.

I use self-checkout at the grocery store so I don’t have to face judgment from the cashiers. I read countless posts on Facebook and receive political emails telling me that being on food stamps makes me a degenerate, someone who is dependant and useless. I hear about how I should be kicked off of food stamps so I won’t be so lazy and will get a job.

At the time the economy crashed, I was studying to be a chiropractor. My (now ex-) husband was laid off from his good job. It took him over a year and a half to find a new job. During that time we lost our house and had to declare bankruptcy. Our marriage fell apart.

I’m now a single mom struggling to make ends meet. I was faced with the decision to quit school and go back to work and pray that somehow I’d be able to make the payments on more than $100,000 in student loans or to press on with my education. I prayed about it. I applied for aid. And through the grace of God, I received food stamps.

Tripp Hudgins 03-19-2012
(Mandolin image by greggsphoto/ Shutterstock.com)

(Mandolin image by greggsphoto/ Shutterstock.com)

I'm on the flight home now.

"Home."

It's a curious idea, really. Home.

As children we might make a game of it. You know, like when you play tag with your friends and you create a safe place where you can't be tagged. Even when we play games it's important to have a place to be safe...a "home."

When we played this game as children, however, we had another rule. You could not stay at home forever. You had to venture out. Sometimes the rule would be that you could stay home for 30 seconds and no more.

Home.

It's safe. You can't be tagged there.

But you can't stay forever, either.

Omar Sacirbey 02-28-2012
Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Jewish leaders on Monday denounced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after he delivered a four-hour speech on Sunday that was laced with anti-Semitic statements about Jewish control of the media. 

Speaking to thousands of supporters during the 82nd annual Saviors' Day celebration in Chicago, Farrakhan accused "Zionists" of trying to push America into war with Iran and dubbed Al-Jazeera, the Dubai-based news channel, as "Al Jew-zeera."

"I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm just telling the truth," Farrakhan asserted, alleging that Jews were responsible for a controversial 2008 cover of The New Yorker that depicted President Obama in Muslim garb.

Piet Levy 02-22-2012
People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Fl

People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/5204148454)

Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts. If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cell phone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.

This year, at least 49 Episcopal parishes across 12 states will offer ashes to passersby at train stations, bus stops and college campuses on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) as Danieley's "Ashes to Go" concept spreads nationwide.

Ruth Hawley-Lowry 01-10-2012
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1964. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/zBt6dr

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1964. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/zBt6dr

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King did not give his life just for Black Americans, but for all Americans. He knew America could be better. He knew the America that was birthed with the hope of “liberty for all” excluded hundreds of thousands of people. 

As he said in his famous sermon that is so often referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech,

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....

the Web Editors 11-16-2011

Stefan Fritz, a second-year seminary student at North Park Theological Seminary, speaks to Covenant Media Services on November 16, 2011 about North Park University Justice League discussing their partnership with the Sojourners Circle of Protection campaign.

"The time has come to put actions to our prayers, our values and act our morals," Fritz said. "And it's time for us to call upon our political leaders to act justly....We will fight together to protect these social programs that our country needs so desperately."

Watch video of Fritz's interview about today's Human Circle of Protection action in Chicago inside.

the Web Editors 11-16-2011

Sojourners' CEO Jim Wallis visited Chicago's North Park University today to march with students, faculty, and staff to form a “Human Circle of Protection” at the North Park Friendship Center. Jim shared his thoughts with Covenant Media Services after the march.

"We are saying, 'God is watching how you decide to cut a deficit,'" Wallis said." A deficit is a moral issue. But how we cut it — what we do, who suffers, who bears the pain of it — is a moral issue too."

Watch video of Jim's intervirew with Covenant Media inside.

the Web Editors 11-15-2011
Human Circles of Protection

Human Circles of Protection

At noon TODAY (Wednesday 11/16) in every time zone faith leaders, parishioners, advocates, community lead-ers, and their constituents will come together to join hands and create human circles around agencies and programs at risk of deep budget cuts in the supercommittee and appropriations processes.

The Circles will form in towns and cities across the country at 12 noon in every U.S. time zone. Through this rolling national action, people of faith will signal to the congressional super committee and all congressional representatives that the nation’s budget must not be balanced on the backs of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

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