RIP Karen Lewis

Notes from the 2/18/21 issue

RIP Karen Lewis

On February 7, Chicago lost its most ardent labor leader in recent memory. Karen Lewis left her mark on the city by building coalitions North to South, riling up crowds while speaking from the heart, and reinvigorating CPS teacher organizing and mayoral politics. “We are the city of big shoulders and so we will put up a fight,” Lewis said as she condemned Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s mass school closures before exploring a challenge to his reelection in 2014. She will be remembered for her daring integrity and her compassion for and defense of Chicago’s families. At South Side Weekly, we immediately said “Rest in Power,” but Chicago Teachers Union vice president Stacy Davis Gates put it another way on social media: “I keep hearing people say ‘rest in power,'” she said. “No, Karen gets to rest in peace because she lived in power.”

 

The Black Messiah

No Chicagoan should not know who Fred Hampton isexcept his story was a tragic one, a stain on the legacy of Mayor J. Daley, the Chicago Police Department, and the FBI, and is largely absent from school textbooks or mischaracterized by traditional media. So it’s monumental that at this moment the chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party is being portrayed by actor Daniel Kaluuya on big screens across America, including at cinemas in Ford City and Cicero, and on HBO.  Judas and the Black Messiah is not a documentary, it wasn’t filmed in Chicago, and like all Hollywood movies, the facts are condensed or embellished. But Hampton’s passion shines through, the gritty mood of the late ’60s is reflected throughout, and his revolutionary message is heard loud and clear. The film has been endorsed by Fred Hampton, Jr.

 

Southeast Side Hunger Strike

A hunger strike by activists opposing the city’s plan to move a metal scrapper from the North Side to the Southeast Side is entering its third week. The hundred-year-old General Iron site in Lincoln Park, operated by Reserve Management Group (RMG), was closed on December 31, 2020, after multiple explosions, fires, and environmental violations. RMG is now awaiting city approval for a permit that would greenlight the move of the business to the predominantly Black and brown East Side neighborhood, where two Superfund sites already exist. George Washington High School science teacher Chuck Stark, United Neighbors of the 10th Ward member Breanna Bertacchi, and Southeast Youth Alliance co-founder Oscar Sanchez began the hunger strike, and they have since been joined by United Neighbors of the 10th Ward member Yesenia Chavez, Rebel Bells Collective co-founder Jade Mazon, Coalition to Ban Petcoke co-founder Kate Koval, and others. 

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Notes