Oftentimes, zakat is sent abroad to various countries suffering with injustices—but it is important to show that some of that same brutality is happening in the United States to people in jail,” said Nabihah Maqbool, an organizer with Believers Bail Out (BBO) and law student at the University of Chicago, earlier this month at a gathering of Muslim organizers at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park. BBO, a recently-formed coalition of Muslim organizations working with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, collects zakat—the portion of income Muslims are required to donate to charity—for the purposes of freeing Muslims in Cook County Jail who can’t afford to post bond.
Linda Gartz’s family lived three generations in West Garfield Park, from the time her father was born in 1914, when it “was a neighborhood of wooden sidewalks, dirt streets, and butterflies fluttering above open prairies” to her senior year of high school in 1966. By the time the family moved away, racial riots had destabilized the neighborhood, and white residents were fleeing for the suburbs. Gartz’s new memoir, Redlined, combines recent scholarship on redlining with the intimacy of a treasure trove of diaries her parents kept throughout the years. The result is a compelling chronicle of both a neighborhood’s journey and a personal one, as Gartz pieces together her past and works to place the events of her childhood in historical context.
Reparations Won!” a white sheet cake boasted in blue lettering. The names of survivors of torture by detectives within the Chicago Police Department hung from clotheslines draped across the walls. A dozen cardstock letters from CPD torture survivors who remain in prison dangled by pink string from the ceiling. On orange and pink post-it notes, questions like “What do you want the world to know about your mom?” and “What gives you hope?”—and corresponding answers like “Artists give me hope!”—colored the windows. A microphone stand arose from a makeshift stage set up in front of two large banners reading “Consent is Everything” and “You Are Never Alone.” Among all of this, over fifty activists, young and old—torture survivors, their mothers, and their allies—greeted each other, hugged, ate, and mingled.
This week on SSW Radio we talked with two new artists about their new releases and got a recap of Chicago’s bond system
For D’onminique Boyd, it was the 65th Street Community Garden that turned Woodlawn into a home. She had moved there in 2011, and had taken to biking around to familiarize herself with the neighborhood. One morning, she biked by the garden and saw Tony Samford, 65th Street’s “godfather of gardening,” as she would later come to call him, tending to his plot. She asked what he was growing; he told her to come back the next day at 6am, and he would teach her.
On the night of March 20, at the end of a race that had cost candidates a combined $5 million, Joseph Berrios called Fritz Kaegi to congratulate him on his victory. Barring the unlikely introduction and even less likely victory of a Republican candidate in the fall, Kaegi will assume the office of Cook County Assessor in December and attempt to deliver on his reformist platform. What voters may not realize—and what Kaegi will have to contend with—is that the anticipated reforms are years away.
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
Historically, agriculture and urban planning have had a tight-knit but fraught relationship. In the lower-income neighborhoods of nineteenth-century American cities, livestock—necessary sources of food and wealth—were common, as were concerns about the public health consequences of dense tenements clustered with people and pigs. Some early attempts at outlawing animals for sanitary reasons were met with public derision: As the New York Times reported in 1865 in response to the apparent arrest of a cow in New York City, “The spectacle of ten or twelve policemen guarding a solitary cow on her way to the cattle-jail provokes too much merriment even for those who are interested in having the streets kept clear of four-footed nuisances.” But over the course of the nineteenth century, the expanding power of the field of public health in urban planning meant that many forms of urban agriculture, particularly those involving animals, were significantly curbed.
By now, many of us are aware of the increasing conversation around “food deserts” in Chicago and across the country. Food deserts are typically defined as low-income areas in which a significant portion of residents live a mile or more from grocery stores and supermarkets. In Chicago, the majority of food deserts are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods lacking accessibility to fresh food options, with much easier access to fast food, liquor, and convenience stores. While a great deal of the momentum that has emerged around the issue has focused on increasing food accessibility, many of these proposed solutions—including the proposal to increase grocery stores in the city—actually operate within the status quo and fail to make structural change.
At 11:30pm last Wednesday, a group of fifteen people was standing on a street in West Town, watching for the arrival of a truck. They were members of Chicago Animal Save, an animal anti-cruelty group, and they were holding a monthly vigil to protest the animal cruelty that goes ignored in slaughterhouses. Each member was ready to stand until the truck came, which might not happen until four in the morning. The truck would be bringing chickens for slaughter.