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North Lawndale a viable site for Obama Library

A version of this article ran in the Austin Weekly News.

By La Risa Lynch
Echoing Dr. Martin Luther King’s principal of economic justice, a group of North Lawndale residents held a Jan. 15th rally on the corner of Kildare and Roosevelt Road to stress the economic impact building the Obama presidential library will have in that West Side community.

“Martin Luther King had a dream and … that dream was that economic disadvantage neighborhoods would rise up and become those places where people could live out their American dream,” said Dennis Deer, of New Covenant Community Development Corp. “We believe Barack Obama has that same dream.”

Deer believes that's why a prerequisite for the library's location be in underserved communities was part of the bidding process. Deer noted the president wants the site to  benefit not just residents but entire communities.

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Treasurer Summers proposes investing in Black neighborhoods

City Treasurer Kurt Summers

City Treasurer Kurt Summers

By La Risa  Lynch

A day after taking office, City Treasurer Kurt Summers hit the ground running launching a 77 communities in 77 days listening tour throughout the city.

That tour brought Summers to the Bronzeville Dec. 5 where he met with residents and business owners to discuss Black communities getting a slice of the $50 billion pie the city has to invest each year. Summers spoke to a group of 50 at the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, 3501 S. King Dr.

Summers told the crowd that his office manages a combined $50 billion in investments from the city’s treasurer’s office as well as employee pension funds and retirement plans. He said he would like to see some of that money invested in neighborhoods like Bronzeville.

“I don’t view a neighborhood investment strategy as a risky strategy,” said Summers, a product of Bronzeville. “I don’t view that as any more risky than investing in Korea’s debt which we do or investing in a cement company in Mexico. I don’t believe investing in Bronzeville is any riskier than that.”

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Residents want community benefits agreement for Lakeside development

By La Risa Lynch

Lakeside DevelopmentIt’s the last and considerably the biggest parcel of lakefront property  to be developed on the city’s south side creating nearly 140,000 jobs and more than 13,000 housing units.

But residents of the southeast side communities that ring the Lakeside Development want a community benefits agreement (CBA) to ensure they are not cut out of jobs or displaced by possible gentrification that could come to the South Chicago community.

“Our goal is to prevent gentrification…,” said Amalia NietoGomez, executive director of Alliance of the Southeast (ASE), a member organization of Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, a partnership of 17 community organizations pushing for the agreement.

“This CBA is important because we want the folks that have stayed in the community, that have built the community continue to be able to live in the community as the development proceeds,” NietoGomez added.

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Ray Charles immortalized on U.S. postal stamp

RAY CHARLES STSMPWASHINGTON — On what would have been his 83rd birthday, the “father of soul,” Ray Charles, was the latest inductee into the United States Postal Service’s Music Icons Forever Stamp Series on Monday, September 23rd.

“Frank Sinatra, himself a stamp honoree, once characterized Ray Charles as ‘the only true genius in show business,’ and certainly, if anyone was a musical genius, it was Ray Charles,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell who dedicated the stamp at the Atlanta ceremony.

“Despite being blind and having a young life marked by tragedy, hardship and tremendous challenges, Ray Charles went on to have a remarkable 58-year career playing music that blurred the lines of jazz, gospel, blues and, in later years, country. In doing so, he became the personification of the American Dream,” Campbell added.

Born Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, GA, Ray Charles Robinson was raised in the small town of Greenville, FL, where a local boogie-woogie pianist gave him his first piano lessons. At the age of five, Charles began to go blind. His right eye was surgically removed. While he  received lessons in classical piano and clarinet, Charles taught himself to play saxophone while continuing to listen to a mix of jazz, blues and country music.

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KKK-Kin Killin’ Kin: Artist James Pate’s protest against Black on Black violence

KKK-Kin Killin’ Kin is artist James Pate’s private, but now very public protest, against Black on Black violence in urban communities nationwide. The Ohio artist uses stark charcoal drawings to visually compare Black on Black violence to that of the terrorism perpetrated against Blacks during the Jim Crow era by the Ku Klux Klan.

The metaphor is profound, Pate says, because Black on Black violence has become the new KKK, where Blacks are committing genocide against their own kinfolk. In KKK-Kin Killin’ Kin, Pate evokes a visual call to action to stop the violence. He hopes arts and culture play a role in that movement.

The self-taught, self-described “techno-cubist” uses a storyboard format to illustrate young Black men wearing pointed white hats, similar to KKK headgear. The images represent flying bullets suspended in air, children caught in crossfire. Those same images are juxtaposed with historical references to colored Union soldiers, Civil Rights demonstrations and ancient African imagery . The juxtaposition, Pate explains, belies African-American’s potential and the destruction of that potential. Read full story.

 --La Risa Lynch

Fantasia: In her own words

Singer gets personal with latest CD Side Effects of You

This article originally appeared in Austin Weekly News.

By La Risa Lynch
Singer Fantasia Barrino proves she can't be boxed in.

Her latest album Side Effects of You is an eclectic mix of soulful R&B, heady hip hop and reggae beats that creates what she calls "rock soul."

The Grammy-wining artist drew inspiration for her latest work from old-school R&B. She grew up in a musical family where Pattie Labelle, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Elton John and Bonnie Raitt were constantly played on the radio. Those influences are weaved throughout the album.

"I always like to give honor to those legends, like Lionel Richie and Aretha Franklin…because they inspired me," Fantasia told the Austin Weekly News in a recent interview. "Even though I'm young, I am an old soul when it comes to music."

Side Effects of You, released in April, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart and No. 2 on the Top 200 Albums chart. Listen what the singer has to say about her latest endeavor.

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When reporters do harm: Body count reporting

This article initially ran under the "We Are Not Alone - No Estamos Solos" campaign and was first published at

By La Risa Lynch

Derrion Albert’s death made international headlines in 2009 when the Fenger High School student was beaten by a gang of teens in Roseland.

But a story that got little headlines was the collateral damage the media coverage had on the community.

Communities like Roseland, Englewood and Austin are often penned in the media as violent and dangerous places, a stereotype with lasting effects on youth.

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Youth raise alarm on violence with Project Orange Tree

by La Risa Lynch
On April 1st a group of Chicago youth want to drape the city in orange as part of an anti-violence awareness campaign, called Project Orange Tree.

The group wants youth and adults throughout the city to wear orange to symbolize unity against gang and gun violence that has claimed so many young lives. The effort is under the auspices of the Lupe Fiasco Foundation.

The youth chose orange because hunters wear that color in the woods to prevent from being shot by fellow hunters.

“What we want is people to realize that violence is a serious issue and violence has been brushed off,” said Vernita Bediako, 18, a youth member of Project Orange Tree. “On April 1st we are getting people to realize that I’m wearing this orange so you don’t shoot me.”

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Second Congressional District candidates make their case at forum

This article has been updated to correct the date of an upcoming forum held at Bethany Lutheran Church on February 19, 2013.

Mel Reynolds

Mel Reynolds who once held the Second Congressional District seat and then left it under controversy, wants his old job back. He attended a candidates' forum in Dolton Jan. 12th.

by La Risa Lynch
Dolton -- Fifteen of the 22 individuals seeking the vacated seat of former Cong. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. attended a candidates’ forum at a south suburban church Saturday, January 12th. The forum, hosted by Developing Communities Project, a community development organization, was moderated by WVON’s Cliff Kelley.

The forum’s topics ran the gamut of issues from jobs, foreclosure, to youth violence. The responses varied as much as the candidates themselves as to how they would address these issues that are impacting the Second Congressional District.

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Black retailers lose out on $1 Tril. of Black buying power

By La Risa Lynch
Here’s a math question for you: How many Black-owned Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants are in the Chicago area. The answer will surprise you.

Oak Park resident Maggie Anderson, who along with her husband, John,  took on a bold challenge to shop Black-owned businesses for a year has penned a book on their bold experiment. The book called “Our Black Year” details the family’s struggle to find basic necessities to keep a household running just by shopping at Black-owned retailers and stores.

Their experiment drew headlines as well as criticism – some labeling the family as racist for shopping Black. But for Anderson the goal was to spark a debate about self-help economics and Black conscious consumerism that harkens back to Marcus Garvey.

The reason for this discussion is simple. Black America has an unrealized capital gain in their collective buying power that tops a $1 trillion. Of that money that Black people spend only about six percent stays in the Black community or touches Black-owned retailers. The remaining hard-earned cash that Black Americans make line the pockets of other ethnic groups who open businesses in Black communities rarely giving anything back.

Anderson calls that lopsided fiscal austerity a “racial divided economy.” Do you agree? So in 2013 make an effort to at least shop Black four times a month. Sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me. Listen to an excerpt of Anderson’s speech given at the Oak Park Library on Nov. 18th. Read the full article here.

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