Domestic violence in grassroots organizations’ crosshairs

Black, swollen eyes. Puffy, torn, bleeding lips.

A collective gasp rippled through the Internet in February 2011 when photos surfaced of pop singer Rihanna, taken two years earlier, after she reported her then-boyfriend, hip hop artist Chris Brown, assaulted her before that year’s Grammy Awards.

Now, more than three years after the fight, the Internet again buzzes with rumors that Brown and Rihanna, a native of Barbados, are reuniting.

Magazines dedicate their covers to photos of the couple. Gossip bloggers questions whether she should take him back.

But the issue of domestic violence hits home for Sukree Boodram, a Guyana native and domestic violence survivor. She established an awareness group in 2010 for other Caribbean women who have been abused.

“(Rihanna is) a drama of the media,” said Boodram, who established Caribbean American Domestic Violence Awareness (CADVA) in 2010. “But most people are not doing anything about it.”

Domestic violence is a problem not uncommon in the Caribbean. The United Nations estimates a third of women are victims of abuse in intimate relationships in Barbados. [Read more…]

As holidays near, more might go without meals

With Thanksgiving mere hours away, visions of drumsticks, gravy boats and mountains of mashed potatoes are swirling throughout the minds of adults and children around the country.

But for some who are facing hunger and poverty, these visions might be more hopes and dreams than reality.

About 95,000 DuPage residents are considered food insecure by Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. This means that more than ten percent of DuPage residents don’t know where or if they will find their next meal.

“There’s so much need out there – it’s unbelievable,” said Jody Bender, the community relations director at Loaves & Fishes, a Naperville food pantry that provides meals and groceries for DuPage county and Naperville residents. [Read more…]

Homeless remain mostly unseen in the suburbs

Jill Markussen clearly remembers the day she told a Hinsdale woman she was homeless.

“I thought she was going to have a stroke,” Markussen laughed, recalling the woman’s surprised face. “I’m not what you think of when you think of a homeless person.”

Markussen, 49, lives in Bartlett with her three kids. She dresses professionally. She runs her own non-profit. She’ll finish her degree in psychology from Governors State University in December.

Even to herself, she doesn’t seem like a stereotypical homeless person.

But she is. [Read more…]

La Casa housing project offers hope to Latino college students, Pilsen community


Construction begins at La Casa

“Look to your left and right. One of you won’t be graduating. Most of you will end up dead, pregnant or dropping out.”

Monica Lepe was in a room full of freshmen like herself at Benito Juarez Community Academy when her principal announced this the first day of school.

“Wow. That right there said a lot,” said Lepe, 20, who remembers that moment every day she walks through the neighborhood where she was born and raised. “I remember looking to the left and right, and both of those people did not graduate.”

Lepe graduated and is now studying at Malcolm X College, but she says she doesn’t know where most of her freshman class ended up. “Some of those people are dead.”

What with Juarez having three times the state’s drop-out rate, Lepe said she expected resources and encouragement to help overcome the trend. What she remembers is getting a free pass to continue business as usual.

It’s a problem The Resurrection Project homed in on: Not enough students are achieving in high school and going on to college, leaving a dearth of knowledge in primarily Hispanic Pilsen. [Read more…]

Northerly Island plan “awesome” but at what cost?

Downtown Chicago and Burnham Harbor as seen from Northerly Island.

“We don’t want to be Millennium Park.”

Gia Biagi, the Chicago Park District’s planning director, got that point across Tuesday night as she led a group through the grassy fields on Northerly Island.

She was referring to Millennium’s original  $150 million budget that, in the end, topped $475 million. Perhaps that’s one reason why not even a tentative budget has been set for the new Northerly Island Park.

“A lot,” was all  Biagi would say of the ultimate cost. And who could blame her – the city is already facing a more than $600 million budget shortfall for 2012. [Read more…]