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Chicago Police Cannot Stop Killings

Fri, 2016-06-10 14:11

This post is not intended to serve as a criticism of the Chicago Police Department, but a learning opportunity for police and the community at large.

Since the beginning of 2016, shootings and homicides have escalated in Chicago. The current strategies being implemented by the police has fallen short as it relates to stopping the killings on the front end. The police are taught to respond to a crime and not to prevent it. It is hard to know when someone is about to take a life, which is not good for the public. The police can only do so much and now is the time for us to begin the dialogue in regards to addressing what it will take to stop the killings before it even happen.

If you look at the historical data in Chicago, you will see that this city has always experienced an increase in homicides. From 1928 to the 1990s, the average homicide rate ranged from 450-800 per year. One may argue that the numbers were down in the past. However, we know that homicides still exist and the question remains: How can we reduce the homicide rate by 70%? The police are doing more undercover work, beefing up patrols, cracking down on gangs, intercepting illegal guns, marching throughout the community, and using other collaborative efforts, even though the numbers continue to soar.

This represents a new problem for the police since the gangs are not structured like the old days. There are many different cliques that exist and motives behind the violence. How can you effectively stop killings on the front end when you do not know anything about the motives or when the person will commit the act? The Chicago Police Department should take a look at hiring a younger Police Superintendent with a background from a crime ridden community and one who understands the youth of today.

It's easy to keep playing a broken record because it's your favorite song, but when people are losing their lives, then it's time to stop playing the same old song. This is very important if the Chicago Police expect to get a handle on this issue. There are ways to stop the killings on the front end, but transparency from the community and police is crucial for this to happen. The Chicago Police Department is currently in the process of making several changes from the top to the bottom. Hopefully the changes will lead to a stronger relationship with the community which in turn can help reverse this epidemic of violence citywide. The only barrier in the way would be the old versus the new.

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The Water Circus is Coming to Town

Fri, 2016-06-10 09:25

Chicago is about to dive into the magical world of Cirque Italia, the first ever Italian water circus, when it returns to town with a brand new show June 9-12 and June 16-19.

This amazing traveling, European-style circus is filled with aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, high wire acts, giant bubbles, jetskis, a laser man, a mermaid, and even a dinosaur to add a little extra excitement.

As if that weren't enough, the entire show takes place on a custom built 35,000 gallon water stage which features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, "curtains" of rain, lasers, lights, and fountains which dazzle the audience. And of course, the show takes place under a majestic white and blue big top tent as any spectacular circus should.

For comparison, Cirque Italia's water circus is similar to Cirque du Soleil - although drastically more affordable, more family oriented, and more interactive with the audience - and nothing like the Ringling Brothers as there are no animals involved at all. The show makes for a perfect afternoon or evening for the family, a group of friends, or even a date night, and is guaranteed to bring a smile to every audience member's face, regardless of age.

The show's owner and founder, Manuel Rebecchi, has a deep seeded history in the circus industry as his late aunt ran one of the largest circus shows in Europe. When Manuel came to the states several years ago, he decided that Americans needed to experience a European-style show and had the brilliant idea to create the first traveling "water circus" in the US. He immediately wanted to create something special and memorable and has managed to put together an astounding stage production with some of the finest performers from around the world.

Each show takes place under a grand, swirling white and blue tent which seats about 1,200 people who are all welcomed into the big top setting as if it was their own home. The variety show can be fun, intimate, and romantic and truly appeals to all ages.

Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to meet and take photos with the performers, as well as bring home some special Italian souvenirs.

Tickets are extremely affordable, ranging from $10-$50 per person, and certain seating areas even have a "free child" offer with the purchase of an adult ticket. Basically, the show provides loads of entertainment for less than the price of a trip to the movies, enabling families, friends, and couples to make memories without breaking the bank.

Cirque Italia takes place in Cicero, IL and will be in town for a limited run, so make sure to experience the family-friendly, Vegas-style circus and variety show before they drain the massive pool, pull up to the tent poles, and take their water show on the road to the next town.

This article by Party Earth.

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How One Trip To Africa Forever Changed Harry Belafonte's Life

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:56

Legendary actor and singer Harry Belafonte has belted out many great hits and graced many stages throughout his illustrious career of 60-plus years. However, it’s how he used his voice outside of music and acting that has truly inspired millions around the world.

On Tuesday, the famed global activist -- who has fought relentlessly for decades for equality and justice everywhere -- was honored in New York with the 2016 Humanitarian Award. The honor was made on behalf of the Children’s Health Fund, an inspiring organization working to provide healthcare to underserved and vulnerable children across the country. Actor Morgan Freeman helped to make the moment even more special by presenting Belafonte with the award and praising his amazing accomplishments.

“Harry Belafonte is an example of potential that will not be stopped,” Freeman told the crowd, which included former New York Mayor David Dinkins and current mayor Bill De Blasio.

“What a talent he is. What a heart he has. What a life he has lived and what a difference he has made in millions of lives,” he added.

Upon accepting his award, Belafonte thanked Freeman, a long-time friend of his, for the warm introduction. “I love Morgan Freeman,” he said, before cracking a joke about the Oscar-winning actor. “He took all my best parts and never asked for permission.”

Belafonte then shared his longtime connection with the fund and told of one eye-opening trip he took to Africa in the early 80’s that forever impacted how he saw the world.

“What struck me about that experience was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference,” Belafonte said of witnessing the devastation of famine and drought. “When I came back to America, the thought constantly tugged at me...what could I do? I knew there was no way to fix the problem, but that didn’t motivate or justify doing nothing about the problem.”

What struck me about that experience [in Africa] was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself, but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference"
Harry Belafonte

What Belafonte did when he returned to America was rally some of his celebrity friends to sing the iconic song, “We Are The World.” The album featuring the song went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and raise around $60 million for health needs in Africa. The song, which was written by Michael Jackson and featured countless of other celebrity cameos, was performed by celebrities as part of a benefit concert for Belafonte’s USA For Africa campaign.

It was through the USA For Africa campaign where Belafonte met public health activist Irwin Redlener, who, at the time, was a pediatrician who practiced in underserved communities around the globe. Redlener joined USA for Africa project as its medical director and helped to lead its health efforts abroad. 

“Most of the people who were part of [USA For Africa] were artists,” Belafonte said. “We had to reach out to other segments of this society to guide us in this effort.”

Redlener and Belafonte returned to Africa together and visited various countries, clinics and camps to better understand the harsh health conditions people faced and do what they could to administer aid. Belafonte said it was an overwhelming experience for them both, and one that eventually prompted a pretty powerful revelation for Redlener.

“It was a solemn moment,” Belafonte said. “But I could see that in Irwin Redlener, something was churning.”

Belafonte described how Redlener was so moved by the trip that he expressed to him a need to “do something that will eternally be a declaration” of what they experienced in Africa. It was then that Redlener decided to launch of the Children’s Health Fund in 1987 as a way to provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of kids in America who need it most.

“This evening celebrated the outcome of that story and that journey… it’s an extension of the experiences that we’ve had," Belafonte said of Redlener. "And that the reward, and my having to be here tonight, is because of [Redlener] and what his team has done.”

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Fierce Conversations - Be Intentional About Developing Poor Communities

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:27

Chicagoans weekly brace for news reports with the latest shooting death tally, public school funding crisis or failings on the part of elected officials. But they're not sitting idly waiting for answers.

As common is the expectation of bad news, Chicago residents are keen to author their own solutions. The venerable Chicago Community Trust is one such organization that provided a platform to help residents do just that in a series of On the Table civic discussions. The location and composition of people who attend the talks, however, were emblematic of Chicago's problem: They're segregated and siloed with communities unable to get an airing of their issues and solutions with neighbors across town.

I attended several and sensed resident skepticism about any value added outside of networking and the free food. I and many people I spoke with didn't feel they walked away with anything substantive. I understand why. As a result of crises facing schools, public finances, police, criminal justice and City Hall, black communities are experiencing its version of the Arab Spring. Though much of Chicago expresses righteous indignation, so, too, their faith in government has all but disappeared. Is anybody listening?

In Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott says life's most important conversations must be "robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager and unbridled." The most consequential heart-to-hearts demand the courage to interrogate reality and provide an impetus to change behavior. Fierce conversations require broaching subject matter other people can't say, won't say, haven't said or don't know.

"When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation is over," Scott writes.

A sense of fierceness was lacking at many of the On the Table discussions. Participants coming from business, not-for-profits, and neighborhoods are often nice and politically correct when engaging in the topic at hand. "Fierce" attempts at forthrightness are often met with backhand compliments meant to thwart discussion: "We really appreciate your passion, but ... " Candor should be the litmus test for accomplishment. Instead the standard is whether attendees leave the table comfortable. This type of exercise will never accomplish anything because fierce conversations require discomfort and anxiety.

So in true "fierce" form, let's interrogate reality and be real about where we've gone wrong in Chicago civic life, economic development and social support for all it residents.

Chicago has failed its poor, and since they are predominantly black and brown, we act like we don't care. Poor communities are managed, not developed. Development in poor communities is an afterthought, rarely intentional. Racial segregation has and continues to be a dead-end management strategy. Symptoms of bad management show up in chronic unemployment, decrepit schools and broken families. Too many times government manages poverty by breaking the law, and poor people break the law to manage their poverty.

Cynicism and inaction are destructive when it becomes an impediment to what is possible. For example, while Mayor Rahm Emanuel's unveiled law enforcement strategy, public safety changes and recent appointment of Andrea Zopp as deputy mayor may ease tensions, it won't be enough. Being intentional about developing poor communities requires collaboration between the private sector and government. To be successful, they must work in concert with and not on behalf of the poor.

A case in point: To avoid a missed opportunity that would benefit underserved communities, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art development plan should be salvaged -- not scrapped --with compromises, to spur development.

To be sure, Chicago has more important priorities (education, violence, civic engagement) than helping "Star Wars" billionaire couple, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson build a $1.17 billion tribute to his legacy along the lakefront. And Friends of the Parks certainly has a point in opposing lakefront development that honors the Burnham Plan to keep that public treasure forever open and free, but we have options, including the following:

• Relocate the project to the vacant U.S. Steel site along the South Shore's lakefront. The museum could be the economic stimulus to spur development in a part of the city desperate for it.

• Create a Lucas violence prevention match fund, in collaboration with area foundations and employers, focused on year-around job training, placement and mentorship for high school youth residing in designated communities.

• Fund a civic literacy and advocacy curriculum initiative for CPS students between grades 6-12, culminating with automatic voter registration at 18 years of age.

We are all connected, and the negative activity and symptoms of poverty in certain parts of the city manifests itself in other parts, ultimately affecting us all.

Scott expresses it best: "I apologize to all those with whom I learned a thousand and one ways not to have a fierce conversation. Thank you for all you taught me."

Our challenge is to master the same fierce lesson.

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