'Sleep' and sweeps
To the Editor:
Now that Windy City Times ( WCT ) editor Tracy Baim's one-night, feel-good extravaganza called "Sleep Out Chicago" is over, it is time to evaluate its impact. The positive developments were that reportedly 200 people rallied to sleep out in the park for a night in an effort to highlight LGBT youth homelessness, and $40,000 were raised for 19 Chicago-area charities badly in need of funds due to the ongoing state budget crisis.
But a price was paid. The event was held yards away from where several illegal police sweeps have harassed the homeless in past weeks, rousted them out in the early morning hours, and forced them to move. In addition, the cops have ticketed these destitute individuals under bogus ordinances knowing full well they cannot pay and will have extreme difficulty showing up miles away in court.
Angry homeless advocates on the Internet in the preceding weeks had called for Baim and the other organizers to use the event to forcefully condemn the illegal cop coercion. In an apparent attempt to placate the advocates, the organizers allowed a "petition ... addressed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling for an end to the sweeps" ( WCT ) to quietly circulate among the throng of guests that night. In addition, several speakers reportedly denounced the police sweeps from the stage.
Unfortunately, however, in the article that appeared immediately following the "sleep-out," WCT did not feel it necessary to mention these passionate speeches. Why not? Given Baim and her newspaper's close ties with Chicago's Democratic Party, could it be that she wished to mute criticism of the police department, spare further embarrassment to the city's mayor, and not put public funding for the charities involved at that night's event at any risk?
Furthermore, our suspicions are only compounded when Baim and the others provided a platform for Democratic Ald. James Cappleman, in whose ward the sweeps are taking place. This is the same guy whose office had been targeted by the homeless and their advocates demanding he take immediate action and go on record condemning the sweeps, which he refused to do. Indeed, this is the same guy who is pals with well-heeled real estate developers and is responsible during his tenure for eliminating more low-income housing from his ward than the rest of the city of Chicago combined.
When called out about these matters, Baim responded that she only wanted to "bring everybody to the table" to address the homeless issue. This is disingenuous. As she well knows, not everybody at the table, or on her stagecertainly not Cappleman or the cops who protected her eventis of equal good will toward the homeless. It is necessary to take sides and call out those who are not and expose them for what they are. "Sleep-Out Chicago" could have been billed as an event that would do this in a loud and principled way so the mayor's office might have listened, but that was not its goal. Instead, it was billed strictly as a fundraiser and promoted as such.
Challenging powerful interests in Chicago responsible for creating and sustaining homelessness was treated as an incidental side issue and barely mentioned in WCT.
We feel a real opportunity was lost.
* * * *
A Letter from Affinity Community Services
As We Give Thanks...
Thanksgiving, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since a presidential proclamation in 1863.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been a day to acknowledge and celebrate the blessings of the yeara joyous occasion when families and friends come together [sometimes in prayer], partake in an elaborate meal, and give thanks. In more recent times, Thanksgiving has also become a time when many people vigorously rush to their favorite retailer( s ) in hopes of securing Black Friday deals. Even some of the most refined people lose their decorum in the name of "getting a deal."
It is on Thanksgiving Day that many families sit back and watch two people snap the wishbone of the turkey with hopes of receiving the larger piece. Families frequently gather around their televisions on Thanksgiving Day to watch the Macy's Parade and stare in awe of the various floats. Others use the holiday to gather with their family and friends, wear their favorite football jersey, and enjoy the action of professional football games on television. For many Americans, these things are the source of their thankfulness, as well as their entrance to the holiday season.
Well, the reality is as much as the founders, board Members, staff and constituency of Affinity Community Services share many of these traditions with other Americans, we must acknowledge a very lonely road we take that rarely intersects with others. As women of color, primarily Black women, on the LGBT continuum, many of us are thankful for being simply alive. Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of reflecting over the past year and feeling blessed without our thoughts being embedded in the reality of a systematic genocide of our people. Our blessings come from the fact that it wasn't our son THIS TIME or our daughter THIS TIME. We give thanks that it wasn't our partner THIS TIME or it wasn't us THIS TIME-and for that we are grateful.
The onslaught of Black lives is no longer imminent; it is contemporaneous. How do we give thanks when, as Black women, we fear driving alone because of the uncertainty of being arrested one day and dead the next? How do we give thanks when our sons and daughter cannot receive a college education without having to protest the institutional racism on their campus? How do we give thanks not knowing if we, too, will be victims of inner-city gun violence? How do we give thanks knowing that our babies are being laid to rest from violence at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect EVERYONE? How do we give thanks when the phrase "Don't shootI want to grow up" is now directed toward street gangs and so many of the boys in blue? How do we give thanks knowing that we live in a society where payoffs are the modern-day reparations for murder at the hands of law enforcement?
Our thankfulness this holiday season is neither for the food we will eat nor the deals of today. It is not from watching football or a parade or television. Our thankfulness derives from knowing that the lives of Kaylyn Pryor, Tyshawn Lee, Hadiya Pendleton, Ashton O'Hara, Michael Brown, Tamara Dominguez, Tanisha Anderson, Blair Holt, Keyshia Blige, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Amadou Diallo, Ron Lane, Sakia, Gunn, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Sandra Bland, Eric Gardner, Jamar Clark, and Laquan McDonald and so many others were not in vain. We are their mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and cousinstherefore, they are us!
As you congregate with family, friends and co-workers this holiday season, before you sit down to break bread, we implore you to stand with us in solidarity and give thanks for those whose lives were commandeered. We ask you to take a moment of silence in their honor. They were! You are! I am!
We are Affinity.
See related "OP-ED by Andy Thayer: An un-civil war; Ald. Cappleman response" at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/OP-ED-by-Andy-Thayer-An-un-civil-war-Ald-Cappleman-response-/53575.html .