On the Campaign Trail with Che “Rhymefest” Smith

by Cornelius Jordan 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood:

Driving around Englewood, pointing out empty lots on Feb. 18, Che “Rhymefest” Smith talked about how these used to be houses. He said he wants to transform the neighborhood and make it a clean and safe environment for kids to play in. He said the neighborhood has no love and care in it, but he wants to change that.

Che 'Rhymefest' Smith on the campaign trail. Photo courtesy of Smith's campaign web site.

Smith is running for alderman of the 20th ward in the April 5 run-off election, after he got 20 percent of the vote in the primary election in February. His opponent is incumbent Willie Cochran. Smith is a Grammy-award-winning rapper, who has met

famous people including Ciara, Bow Wow and Rick Ross. But now, he says he wants to focus his attention on serving his community.

As he went door to door campaigning, some of the gates were locked. He and his assistant put campaign fliers on the locked gates and his assistant rang every doorbell where the gates were unlocked, until she got an answer. For ones with no answer, they would come back the next day. Smith was determined to reach every voter. In his office, he had maps with circles around the homes he’d already been to. After covering an entire block, Smith and his supporters got back into the white van decorated with his name and drove to the next block. Read more »

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Cabrini-Green Residents Say Goodbye

by Quintana Woodridge 

Young people in the Cabrini Connections Marching Band. Photo by Quintana Woodridge

Demolition started today, March 30, 2011 on the last high-rise building standing in the Cabrini-Green public housing development.

Former residents gathered to say their goodbyes to the last visual proof that life and memories were created on the grounds of the building at 1230 N. Burling Ave. Former and present residents gathered in the vacant lot adjacent to the building sharing memories and their thoughts on the art project that was created to commemorate the high-rises – LED lights were placed in the Burling building’s 134 apartments by Jan Tichy, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. Many of those gathered in front of the building talked about the proposed Target Store that may be built on the property where the building currently stands.

There were various views on the store potentially replacing the high-rise. Reginald Grant, a former resident of Cabrini-Green who founded the mentoring organization 100 Men Standing, came back to guide young men and women in the Near North community.

“I see the lights blinking,” Grant said. “It’s a good change from the lights we use to see. It was thunder behind the lights we used to see blinking.”

He went on to say that the building’s demolition is progress. “It’s a lot of sad memories over here and sometimes people want to forget those memories. I could never forget the community because the community is the people,” Grant said.

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Housing Activists Take Action: An Update

by Michael Ibrahem 

This update will provide useful information together with insights into issues that draw the attention of housing activists citywide. I recently took another look at the Chicago Landlords and Tenants Ordinance to see what it was meant to do, exactly.

Really, it is not often possible for those of us lacking specific training to penetrate the sometimes obscure pathways of professional jargon, or language that seems to make more of an effort to conceal information than to reveal it.

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Disability Advocates Target Troubled Nursing Home

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Disability advocates from organizations around the city want to hold accountable a company that operates nursing homes which has had a troubled facility for children closed by the state.

The advocates said they want to make sure current residents of the troubled children’s Alden Village North Nursing Home, 7464 North Sheridan Road, are given better options, and that the Alden Management Company is held accountable for fines already levied against it.

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CHA Board Meeting Crashed with Concerns

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Tenants and their advocates from the historic Julia C. Lathrop Homes, along with residents of the Cabrini-Green Rowhouses and some ex-offenders demanding better hiring practices from contractors, crashed the Chicago Housing Authority’s public board meeting March 15at the Seward Park Fieldhouse, 900 N. Hudson Ave.

In the jam-packed gym, the tenants and their advocates stood along the walls holding signs and shouting slogans against the CHA’s plans to demolish the Lathrop Homes public housing site. Other protestors aligned themselves on the opposite side of the room with video equipment to tape the meeting.

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Illinois Governor Applauded for Abolishing Death Penalty

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Illinois no longer has a death penalty.

It has joined the ranks of the other 15 states in the nation which have abolished executions of convicted people.

The General Assembly passed SB-3539 to repeal the death penalty on January 11, 2011.

Governor Pat Quinn did not immediately announce that he would sign the bill, but he said he would end executions in Illinois after receiving roughly 12,000 phones calls from activists, members of organizations that opposed the death penalty, and various world leaders such as Cardinal Francis George and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn siging into law the bill stopping the death penalty, on March 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of the Governor's office

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Bronzeville Residents Aim for Police Substation on 47th Street

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Bolstered by the results of a vote conducted during the recent citywide election, Chicago residents of the 3rd and 4th wards are expressing “a strong desire” for a police substation on 47th Street, according to a local resident group in the South Side’s historic Bronzeville community.

Young professionals from the Concerned Citizens of Bronzeville stated in a press release last month that the small stretch between the Green and Red CTA lines is now “unrecognizable” compared to its heyday when jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong frequented lavish night clubs along 47th Street.

The area “is filled with debris, used needles and condoms, illicit narcotic activity, rampant public drinking and urination,” the group stated.

This vacant lot, located in the 4700 block of South Prairie Avenue, is among one of those Concerned Citizens of Bronzeville suggest be the site of a sub-police station as a deterrent to crime and loitering in the area. Photo by Mary C. Johns

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Disability Rights Advocates Protest, and Gov. Quinn Retreats

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn heard the cries of the protestors who rallied outside the James Thompson Center urging him to “Stop the Train Wreck” in planned cuts to human services.

Last year, Quinn announced that he planned to impose more than $200 million in reductions to the state’s Department of Human Services, including cuts to mental health services, developmental disability services and centers for independent living.

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