Chicago police Officer Ray Tracy opened the September community meeting for police beats 815 and 821 the way he does every month, by going over the good news and bad news in the area’s recent crime statistics.
Tracy noted that crime in the two beats, which make up much of the Archer Heights and Brighton Park neighborhoods on the city’s Southwest Side, remains relatively low.
But the totals had ticked up in a number of areas, Tracy told the 20 residents gathered in a Catholic school classroom, many sitting in kid-size chairs. Several garages had been burglarized. And in the second half of August, there had been three shootings — none fatal, though still troubling.
“We’re on it,” he said.
It happened to be the day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel rocked the city’s political establishment by announcing he wasn’t running for re-election, and hours after jury selection began in the first murder trial of a city police officer in decades. Although neither of those topics came up at the meeting, it was held just blocks from where Officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed teenager Laquan McDonald four years earlier — a case that continues to roil Chicago and surely contributed to Emanuel’s decision.
The issues Tracy and residents discussed at the meeting — involving crime, disinvestment and inequality — offered glimpses of the challenges the next mayor is going to have to address in neighborhoods around the city, and that many Chicagoans never felt Emanuel fully took on.
Former downtown alderman Burton Natarus used to say, proudly, that he was the janitor of his ward, the one who took care of all the little things, starting with making sure the garbage was picked up.
Chicago mayors, by contrast, have widely been viewed as monarchs ruling over their city-state with nearly unchecked power. Even if that’s not strictly true, mayors reign over the massive bureaucracies that run the local schools, social services, streets and public safety apparatus.
Still, Chicago residents expect their mayors to sweat the small stuff, too, before it becomes bigger stuff. They want them to know what’s going on in their neighborhoods, and to use their clout to get those things fixed.
Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard M. Daley, crushed or co-opted his opponents and often ruled as a despot. But people also believed he was all about Chicago. I saw this up close many times. I once visited a social service agency based in a storefront office in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. A picture of Daley with the agency’s leader hung on the wall, right next to a shot of Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor.
Emanuel was born in Chicago and worked for Daley, but he spent most of his political career in Washington, D.C. After surviving a court challenge over whether he was even an official resident of Chicago, he was elected mayor twice, and with millions of dollars to spend attacking his rivals, he might well have won a third term.
His backers note that Emanuel’s Washington connections yielded federal money for the transit system, and his tireless promotion resulted in tourism and jobs. They argue that he elevated Chicago’s status as an international city, and that he’s not popular because he made tough decisions to cut budgets, hike taxes and hire more police while improving accountability.
But to most long-time residents, Emanuel has never fully become Chicago’s mayor.
His penchant for D.C.-style spin — “governing by press release,” as I’ve heard it described — left many in Chicago feeling he was performing for a national audience.
Some of his announcements were tone deaf. Others were simply misleading.
He was on a ski vacation in 2013 when aides announced a list of 50 schools that would be closed, which he alternately said was to save money and improve student performance. After the 17-year-old McDonald was shot 16 times by Van Dyke in 2014, Emanuel’s administration fought releasing the video and other details until ordered to do so by a judge. The mayor then went on an apology tour of black churches and soul food restaurants, even as police and mayoral aides secretly monitored Black Lives Matter and others protesting police shootings.
Part of this story unfolded in police beat 815, which is where Van Dyke killed McDonald as the troubled teen walked down South Pulaski Road holding a knife.
In a sign of how the Southwest Side has been changing, about half the residents at the community meeting were white, mostly middle-aged or older, while the others were younger and Hispanic. A few minutes into the meeting, Silvana Tabares introduced herself to the group as the new alderman of the 23rd Ward, which includes some of the area covered by the police beats. In June, Emanuel picked Tabares, then a state representative, to replace the retiring Michael Zalewski. Tabares is the ward’s first Hispanic alderman after a long line of predecessors with Polish or Eastern European backgrounds.
Tabares took notes as residents talked about illegal apartment conversions and overcrowding. One woman said her street light kept going out, plunging her block into darkness, and she couldn’t get the city to deal with an infestation of rats. And then it was back to crime.
Among the good news, Tracy said, was that a burglar was arrested. “His car ran out of gas,” Tracy said, drawing laughs.
After the meeting, Hector Ayala, a 20-year resident of Archer Heights, said he and his neighbors team up to keep their streets and alleys clean. But his garage has been broken into repeatedly and he worries that crime is rising.
Ayala said that as a Mexican-American, he appreciates the need for better relationships between the police and the community. But he also thinks Emanuel failed to lead the way.
“I think the mayor turned his back on most of the police,” Ayala said.
Michael Kovac, a retired firefighter who now serves as a community liaison for beats 815 and 821, said Emanuel has been held back by the city’s deep indebtedness.
“I think his strongest focus has been on redevelopment in the Loop area,” Kovac said. “I have to say, I don’t think he considers himself a real Chicagoan.”
For all of his political maneuvering, Emanuel could never convince many Chicagoans — of widely varying political views — that he was invested in them or their neighborhoods.
Anyone who wants to replace him should have another plan.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.
A black pastor’s controversial eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral laid bare before the world what black women say they have experienced for generations: sexism and inequality in their houses of worship every Sunday.
In eulogizing the beloved artist known as the Queen of Soul, the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. declared that as “proud, beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do — a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man.”
The backlash was immediate, given Franklin’s role as a mother and a pillar for women’s rights.
Franklin’s grieving family said Williams’ eulogy, which also included references to stopping black-on-black crime, was offensive because it did not focus on her. Social media lit up with criticisms of his remarks as sexist and misogynist.
For many black women, Williams’ eulogy reopened wounds and sternly reminded them that black churches remain male-dominated institutions, where old-school resistance to women holding leadership roles is still alive.
“Women are hurting about this issue,” said the Rev. Barbara Reynolds, an elder at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.
“It’s like we are still not equal. Women fight in every cause for everybody else, but we are not celebrated or even tolerated in sacred spaces,” Reynolds said.
Women not only fill the pews in many black churches, they also serve as church nurses and ushers, and work behind the scenes. Some are trustees, keeping an eye on church finances and making sure bills get paid. Others are evangelists, or are ordained as deacons. But many are denied true leadership roles — and in some cases, women are asked to deliver sermons from the church floor, rather than the pulpit.
Some male ministers “actually deeply believe that men are supposed to be in charge,” said the Rev. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes (JILL-kz), assistant pastor for special projects at Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a sociology professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
“Their reading of the Bible does not have a vision of gender equality,” Gilkes said. “Black women are very conscious of how important they are to the survival, growth and continuity of the church. Very often, to become effective, prominent leaders, they have formed their own organizations and exercised that leadership outside the pulpit.”
Williams, pastor of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, had also eulogized Franklin’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, in 1984. He prefaced part of his eulogy for Aretha Franklin on Aug. 31 by saying “70 percent” of black households are led by black women.
Williams apologized later, but defended his choice of topics. He said he was trying to highlight the struggles that single mothers face and his words were taken out of context.
But even during Franklin’s funeral, the absence of black women in the pulpit was evident. The front row was occupied by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and primarily other black male pastors. No black female pastors were featured on an early speakers’ list for the funeral.
Shirley Caesar, a gospel music legend and senior pastor of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, sang during the service, but also seized the moment to squeeze a little preaching in. Most of the individual singers were prominent female performers.
“There are male leaders in some black churches that don’t allow women to preach from the pulpit and, if they do, it’s typically on special occasions like Women’s Day,” said the Rev. Horace Sheffield, pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship of Detroit.
“Some denominations are more stringent and less likely to affirm women than others,” Sheffield said. “That’s part of our Christian tradition and that has always bothered me. We can be discriminated on the color of our skin and we can discriminate against women because of their gender. It still exists by virtue of the fact that you have churches that don’t allow female ministers as pastors. It … renders us in a lesser position to challenge discrimination in any form or any place when we’re part of it.”
About 70 percent of the 500 members at Sheffield’s church are women. Sheffield said two women serve as associate pastors. Some of the deacons are women and the head of the steward board is a woman.
He said the roles of women in black church leadership are changing, “but we’ve got to open it up some more.”
The Rev. Maidstone Mulenga, communications director for the United Methodist Church Council of Bishops, says having only men in leadership and pastoral roles is part of the theology taught in some churches.
“If it comes from a background that says only male preachers can be in the pulpit, then (the church members) will resist a female preacher — whether white or black,” Mulenga said.
Mulenga said the United Methodist Church is very supportive of female leaders in churches and has a number of female bishops. The church’s Baltimore-Washington Conference is led by Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, a black woman. But he said female black preachers have to work twice as hard as male black preachers.
“For a female black preacher it is almost like standing in the middle of the highway and getting hit by traffic from both directions because they are black and because they are female,” Mulenga said.
For predominantly black denominations, there are smaller gains. The African Methodist Episcopal Church currently has two women bishops.
The National Baptist Convention says on its website that it leaves the matter to its member churches because interpretations about who can serve in the ministry “tend to be particularly emotional and divisive.” Its most recent roster of state presidents, from January 2017, is all male.
The Church of God in Christ, based in Memphis, Tennessee, on its website identifies only black male pastors as members of its general board and its board of bishops.
Last year, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World promoted two women to bishop and gave them responsibility over churches in Sierra Leone and South Africa. The presiding bishop at the time, Charles Ellis, told the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville that the two women, whose home churches are in the U.S., would “actually oversee and they will govern male pastors.”
Ellis’ church in Detroit hosted Franklin’s funeral.
But some male pastors and preachers wield so much power in their churches that they rarely are confronted, said Reynolds, of Washington, D.C., who was ordained in 1996.
“We don’t really challenge the pastors,” Reynolds said. “We either go home and don’t go back to church or some brave women start their own church.”
A Jerusalem museum is breathing life into the ancient city with a new virtual reality tour that allows visitors to experience how archaeologists believe Jerusalem looked 2,000 years ago.
The Tower of David Museum, which is housed in the Old City’s ancient stronghold, plans to launch the high-tech guided tour this month ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
The virtual reality guide, “Step into History,” offers visitors a chance to “walk in the streets of Jerusalem and enjoy the present and take a look back to the past,” said Tower of David Museum director Eilat Lieber.
Working with archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Lithodomos VR created 360-degree simulations of how Jerusalem’s citadel, palaces, streets and ancient Jewish temple are believed to have appeared during its heyday under King Herod in the first century B.C. and during the life of Jesus.
Herod, a Roman vassal who ruled Judaea from 37-4 B.C., invested heavily in large construction projects across his realm, including a major expansion of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the fortress and palace where the Tower of David stands today. His monuments, including the mountaintop fortress at Masada and the port city of Caesarea, are among the most visited sites in Israel.
“Especially with Jerusalem, I think the biggest challenge was getting it right,” said Simon Young, founder of Lithodomos VR, an Australian startup. “There’s a lot of different opinions about how Jerusalem looked in the ancient world… Of course, we want to do justice to Jerusalem and to make it as accurate as possible.”
Lithodomos VR’s team of archaeologists and artists has produced similar projects in London, Rome, Athens and other cities.
The Tower of David Museum also houses an innovation lab in a chamber at the top of a Herodian-era keep that once served as the chambers of Jerusalem’s Ottoman governor. The lab, launched in October 2017, hosts startups such as Lithodomos VR that are developing technologies to enhance visitor experience, with a particular emphasis on virtual and enhanced reality. The site also holds an elaborate light show that projects moving images in intricate detail on the ancient walls of the Old City.
Accompanied by a guide, visitors will be able explore nine different vantage points in the city, starting at the citadel — an Ottoman-era fortress built atop remnants of several earlier bastions — then meandering through the Old City’s Jewish Quarter down toward the remains of the Second Jewish Temple. In order to keep from crashing into modern Jerusalem, visitors carry the goggles between sites, then put them on once they are stationary.
At each point, a narrator explains the historical significance of the structures they can see in the goggles: the columned marketplace of the Cardo, the heart of the ancient city; the soaring towers of Herod’s citadel; the opulent pools of his pleasure palace; and the temple. The VR tour around the Old City takes approximately two hours, the museum said.
The tour is confined to the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. The Old City lies in east Jerusalem — an area captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as their future capital. Israel rejects any division of the Old City — home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.
Young says the Lithodomos VR team would be interested in adding additional historical layers to the virtual reality guide that would allow people to explore Jerusalem during other periods, such as the Crusades.
Judy Magnusson, an Australian tourist who previewed the tour on Monday ahead of its launch, said the virtual reality-enhanced experience “brings history to life” and makes the stories about the city “more real.”
A fiery, old-school pastor who is under fire for saying black America is losing “its soul” at Aretha Franklin’s funeral stands firm by his words with the hope critics can understand his perspective.
Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday he felt his sermon was appropriate at Franklin’s funeral Friday in Detroit. He felt his timing was right, especially after other speakers spoke on the civil rights movement and President Donald Trump.
“I was trying to show that the movement now is moving and should move in a different direction,” he said. “… What we need to do is create respect among ourselves. Aretha is the person with that song ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ that is laid out for us and what we need to be as a race within ourselves. We need to show each other that. We need to show each other respect. That was the reason why I did it.”
Williams, who is the pastor of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, said his words about black women being incapable of raising sons alone were taken out of context. He described as “abortion after birth” the idea of children being raised without a “provider” father and a mother as the “nurturer.”
Many thought Williams took a shot at Franklin, who was a single mother of four boys. But the pastor said a household can become stronger with two parents rather than one.
“Here’s the root of what I’ve been talking about: In order to change America, we must change black America’s culture,” he said. “We must do it through parenting. In order for the parenting to go forth, it has to be done in the home. The home.”
Williams also received backlash for his thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some called Williams’ eulogy a “disaster” as his speech caused an uproar on social media and in the funeral crowd, including Stevie Wonder who yelled out “Black Lives Matter” after the pastor said “No, black lives do not matter” during his sermon.
“I think Stevie Wonder did not understand what I said,” Williams said. “I said blacks do not matter, because black lives cannot matter, will not matter, should not matter, must not matter until black people begin to respect their own lives. Then and only then will black lives matter. That’s what I said, and again, and again, and again. We need to have respect for each other. Once we start doing that, then we can begin to change.”
Some questioned why he was chosen to honor Franklin. The pastor, who eulogized Franklin’s father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin, 34 years ago, said he was appointed by the family to handle the eulogy at her funeral. The pastor said the last time he spoke with Aretha Franklin was a few months ago.
Williams was blasted on social media for misogyny, bigotry and the perpetuation of false science on race. He blamed integration and the civil rights movement for ripping the heart out of black micro-economies that once relied on black-owned small businesses such as grocery stores, hotels and banks.
Williams said he hasn’t heard “one way or another” from the Franklin family, but knows about the social media criticism of him.
“I’m sure much of the negativity is due to the fact that they don’t understand what I’m talking about,” he said. “Anybody who thinks black America is all right as we are now is crazy. We’re not all right. It’s a lot of change that needs to occur. This change must come from within us. Nobody can give us things to eliminate where we are. We have to change from within ourselves. It is ludicrous for the church not to be involved. The church is the only viable institution we have in the African-American community. We must step up and turn our race around.”
Even though Williams spoke for nearly 50 minutes of the eight-hour funeral, the pastor said he didn’t have enough time to delve deep into his sermon. He said he will expound more on his sermon and how Franklin was originally named the “Queen of Soul” for the next two Sundays at his church.
“I think if she’s immortalized, she should be immortalized,” he said. “If we can turn black America around, it would be the greatest and best immortalization we could properly give to her for what she did for black America and the world when she lived.”
Bishop Talbert Swan, the leader of the Church of God in Christ’s Nova Scotia jurisdiction, addresses a summit of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 21, 2018. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
An African-American bishop of the Church of God in Christ and frequent critic of President Trump said his personal Twitter account has been permanently suspended, apparently for using a racially sensitive term.
Bishop Talbert Swan, a Massachusetts pastor and a Nova Scotia jurisdictional leader for the predominantly black Pentecostal denomination, said he received an email from Twitter on Friday (Aug. 24) informing him of the suspension.
“Your account has been suspended and will not be restored because it was found to be violating Twitter’s Terms of Service, specifically the Twitter Rules against hateful conduct,” the company told him.
Swan, who said he had more than 70,000 followers, suspects the specific cause of the suspension is his use of the word “coon,” a term the website etymonline.com says is sometimes used as an insult about a black person. The word in this sense stems from the word “barracoon” and is based on the Portuguese word “barraca” that refers to an enclosure for slaves who were transported in West Africa, Cuba and Brazil.
But Swan says the meaning of the word depends on the context.
“I think Twitter needs to be educated culturally to understand that when black people use that term they mean it in the context of someone who’s African-American that they consider to be a traitor or a sellout or someone who is speaking or doing things that is not in the best interest of the African-American community,” he said. “And, in my instance, those who parrot alt-right, racist ideology.”
On June 2, Swan tweeted in response to a suggestion that he follow someone with whom he disagreed, “No thanks I’m on a no coon diet.”
Last week, more than half a dozen Twitter users noted that they had reported Swan and posted screenshots of responses they had received confirming that @TalbertSwan had violated Twitter’s rules of discourse.
One, @Gerald_Anzano, specifically connected Twitter’s notice of suspension with Swan’s “coon” tweet, adding, “Using God as a shield to promulgate spewing hatred? Expect to be called out.”
Swan, who is president of the NAACP’s Springfield, Mass., chapter, said he first got wind of his suspension from these posts. He calls those users “my detractors”; several describe themselves on Twitter as supporting Trump.
Swan provided Religion News Service with recent tweets from his account that were critical of Trump and the president’s Christian supporters.
“Real Christians don’t make excuses, support, dismiss, or defend pathological lying, sexual deviancy, malignant narcissism, white supremacy & bigotry,” he wrote in an Aug. 19 tweet that received more than 26,000 likes. “I don’t give a hell how many conservative judges you get, you cannot be a Christian & defend @realDonaldTrump. Plain and simple.”
Swan recently used his account to post an open letter criticizing pastors who met with Trump. Swan said he has also complained that liberal Democrats take blacks’ votes for granted. A fan of the Boston Celtics and Pittsburgh Steelers, he also posted his musings about sports.
Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the matter.
In its email message to Swan, the company wrote, “It is against our rules to promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.
“Additionally, if we determine that the primary purpose of an account is to incite harm towards others on the basis of these categories, that account may be suspended without prior warning.”
Others questioned Swan’s suspension, including @ReignOfApril, who tweeted: “He’s a COGIC bishop, for goodness sakes.”
Swan himself said he doesn’t understand why the personal Twitter account of conservative radio host Alex Jones was recently suspended for a week for violating rules about inciting violence, while his account appears to have been suspended permanently.
“When you get the president calling a black woman a dog or Roseanne (Barr) calling a black woman a gorilla and they still have their accounts on the forum,” the bishop said, “to say that me making a reference to a coon is the catalyst for a permanent suspension, then you have to question how they enforce their terms of service.”
Could your medical treatment one day be tailored to your DNA? That’s the promise of “personalized medicine,” an individualized approach that has caught the imagination of doctors and researchers over the past few years. This concept is based on the idea that small genetic differences between one person and another can be used to design tailored treatments for conditions as diverse as cancer and schizophrenia.
In principle, “personalized” is not meant to mean one person but not another, though that may not turn out to be the case. Existing genetic and medical research data conspicuously underrepresent certain populations.
This finding turned long-held assumptions about racial imbalances in mental illness on its head. It could not be explained by economic circumstances, suggesting that there are other factors at play, perhaps even genetic factors. Suicide is a complicated personal act, but science has shown that genes play an important role.
This unexpected result may have implications for prevention and treatment based on genes – in other words, personalized medicine. But the state of current genetic research suggests that African-Americans will likely miss out on many of the potential future benefits of personalized medicine.
Few experts have studied the possible genetic causes for African-American suicide, focusing instead on environmental and social reasons.
While most mental illnesses such as depression are first diagnosed in adulthood, they actually have their origins early in development, as genes and the environment interact to shape the brain of a growing fetus. For example, my colleagues and I published a study in May showing that genes and pregnancy problems combine to increase the likelihood of schizophrenia.
This should cause some alarm, because African-American women have much higher rates of pregnancy complications. Black infants die at twice the rate of white infants. Again, this is not explained by socioeconomic reasons.
In short, a higher rate of pregnancy problems likely puts African-Americans at increased risk of developing mental illnesses, perhaps explaining the noticeable increased rate of suicides. Additional genetic data on this population could potentially illuminate the issue.
To better understand genes that increase the risk for mental illness, researchers study the brains of people who have died. They examine how genetic differences could have led to changes in the brains of people who developed these conditions. This is one of the best ways to understand any brain disorder at a biological level.
But African-Americans are underrepresented in large-scale genetic and neuroscience studies. One 2009 analysis revealed that 96 percent of participants in large genetic studies were of European descent. When researchers looked at the matter a couple of years ago, they found that the proportion of people with African ancestry in these studies had increased by only 2.5 percent. Similarly, studies of African-American brains are almost nonexistent.
Why the low participation rate? One reason is that researchers favor populations that are genetically more homogeneous to ensure a study’s accuracy. Individuals of European ancestry are more alike genetically than are African-Americans.
Some experts have posited that African-Americans are less likely to participate in genetic studies due to a lack of trust with the medical community.
At the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, where I work, people can donate the brains of family members who wished to contribute to scientific research. We have the largest collection of African-American brains donated to study mental illness, though it’s relatively small in comparison to the availability of Caucasian brains. In our experience, the donation rate for African-American families is comparable to that of white families, suggesting that lack of trust may not be as widespread as believed.
Without studies focused on the African-American brain, scientists will struggle to fully understand how any possible unique genetic risk in the African-American population translates into prevention and treatment for virtually all disorders that involve the brain, including suicide.
Researchers have to invest in correcting this shortcoming before the personalized medicine train is so far out of the station that the African-American community cannot get on it.