Hello everyone.  This is the Recovering Immigrant/Interfaith Fool making her blogging debut.  My resolution for this year was to start a blog, and HERE IT IS!! But I think the biggest fool today is John McCain, who has blaimed the Arizona fires on “illegal aliens.”  I dunno, on Univision, I saw interviews with many Arizona Hispanos whose lives have been ruined by these fires.  THEY ARE YOUR CONSTITUENTS, SENATOR!!  hOW ABOUT A LITTLE MERCY TOWARD THEIR PLIGHT?????

In my next few posts I’m going to explore the inequities and inconsistencies for people of color in a neighborhood that on the surface appears a model of urban progressive values amend cultural diversity. I live in Rogers Park, one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods: 1/3 #Anglo white; 1/3 #AfricanAmerican; 1/3 #Hispano. Economically, there is also a split between those who are solidly in the Middle class; those who are working but struggling and those while are truly poor. Many of us moved to Rogers Park or returned as established adults to where we spent our childhoods or college years BECAUSE of this diversity and our commitment to live and raise families in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community whose composition reflects the City of a Chicago as a whole.
But despite this collective aspiration, we find ourselves and our neighborhood —and really the whole north side of Chicago,–in a stranglehold of inequality where white people –and in my neighborhood WHITE MALES hold the power and the public purse strings.
Rogers Park is largely within the boundaries of Chicago’s 49th Ward: The Alderman of more than 20 years is a middle-aged white man whose progressive, independent credentials have been tarnished over time (he votes with the Mayor almost 100% of the time); the President of the Ward’s Democratic Party is also a white male passing from middle age to senior citizenship–he was a leftist political organizer as a young man and is now a part of the Alderman’s juggernaut . The Democratic Party Committeeman ( an elected position) recently died–he was also a white male, slightly younger than the other two, but very ill for several years. It is unclear who will replace him. But as I said, this is similar to much of the north side– the white power elites control the political apparatus in wards and districts where they are the distinct minority. Black and Brown political power is concentrated in parts of the city that are racially, ethnically and economically segregated –and even then, certain white Anglo men are still being elected as Aldermen (see Ed Burke) and state representatives ( see Alderman Burke’s brother Dan and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan) from areas that are overwhelmingly Hispano. What African Americans endured from the 40’s to the 70’s is now happening in the barrios. And in those Chicago wards labeled multi-ethnic, it is happening to all non- whites. Hthe dirty little secret of Chicago’s diversity is that whites are still in control.

On the day that ABC and Univision have launched their media joint venture #Fusion –aimed at #Hispanic #millenials and their amigos, it is obvious to me that we are still awash in prejudice and racism that expresses itself in outrageous statements of hatred from the righting and genteel uncomfortability on the left.
Yes Anglos will gobble up tortillas and jibaritos and paella with gusto and dance to Alston music all night long and look for clothing ANC accessories that have a “south of the border ” flair , but don’t expect them to seriously study Spanish or the politics of immigration or create school boards and parish councils that reflect the true demographic strength of the Hispanic presence in our communities. More to come on this. But consider that over 60% of the students in the LA schools are Hispanic. More than 50% of the school population in Illinois are students of color. Probably more than half of the Catholics in the three dioceses on the Chicago area are Hispanic. This is a silent majority, erased but not eliminated– and waiting patiently for there turn at the table.

I am getting ready to register children for the Religious Education program that I supervise. I work at a primarily Anglo Catholic parish, but my students are almost all #Hispanos. For the next 20 years or so, I think this will be common at schools, churches and other social institutions, especially in the Catholic church: The children who are “consumers” of education or other services will be largely Hispanic; the leadership of the institutions will be Anglo, and often Anglos who are contemptuous of the Hispanos who are the next generation of “their” church. One thing I try to share with Hispanos families and volunteers from my life in the Jewish community: This happened to eastern European Jews as well 100 years ago. The German Jewish community shunned the more recently arrived Ashkenazim who poured out of Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1880: German Jews in the U.S. built separate hospitals and synagogues and settlement houses for the “Ost Juden,” hoping to corral them in a way that wouldn’t embarrass their hard-earned respectability in Anglo-Saxon America. But in the end, it was the Jews “from the east” who defined the American Jewish community and enriched the lives not only of other Jews, but of America as a whole. I hope and pray and know, as a social scientist, that this will also come to pass for Hispanos in the United States: They will come to transform the Catholic church and “gift” it with a spirituality of personal holiness and communal celebration that will revive a groaning institution, and a nation that needs revival and redefinition as well. In the meantime, it’s tough going for the majority of Hispanos who DON’T live in a barrio or suburb where Hispanic adults are in the majority or at least a plurality that grants them some political power. Instead they are kicking away at the box the Anglos have put them in. But ask Sam Cooke sang 50 years ago about an earlier struggle for freedom and recognition (a struggle, that is still, unfortunately, in progress) “A change gonna come.”

“Ha  Lachma Anya”

This is the phrase that is proclaimed at the Passover Seder when the leader of the seder raises a piece of matzah for the first time.  The usual translation is, “This is the bread of affliction,” or, “This is the bread of poor people.”  But it can also be translated, “This is the bread of ANSWERS.” And today, as we gather at theBroadviewDeportationCenter, we have questions, and we are looking for answers from the Obama Administration.

In the Seder ritual, the youngest person present asks four questions, that are subsequently answered during the evening.  We also have four questions today:

 Why are deportations continuing at a rate of 400,000 a year, when the vast majority of detainees are law-abiding residents, working productively, and raising families of American-born children? Y

Why are detainees continuing to be held as a prisoners, under draconian conditions, when government officials have promised that detainees will be treated as status offenders, NOT criminals? Y

WHY ARE FAMILIES STILL BEING TORN APART, impoverishing spouses and children, creating social chaos and burdening local governments and social services? Y


Four years ago, when President Obama was CANDIDATE Obama, a small group of his young Jewish staffers gathered in the basement of a hotel to share a impromptu Passover meal.  As they were about to begin, Senator Obama entered the room and asked, “Where’s the Seder?”  And he stayed to celebrate the Jewish holiday of freedom with his staff.  Since then, the Obamas have hosted a Seder at the White House each year, inviting friends, colleagues and various Jewish leaders.  THIS PRESIDENT UNDERSTANDS, as few presidents have, the meaning of the Passover Seder, and how the values embodied in the Passover holiday propel us to take up the cause of those who are enslaved, who are marginalized, who are scapegoated for being “strangers.”  On this Passover holiday, we call on our President to be a MOSES, not a PHAROAH: To care more about those who are enslaved under our present immigration policies, rather than cater to the oligarchs who  will disrespect him NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE HIS ADMINSTRATION DEPORTS.   The Passover Seder traditionally ends with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.”  Let us add: “Next year may we celebrate an end to useless deportations and  an end to America’s version of the Nuremburg laws, as we rededicate ourselves to that Biblical verse engraved on the Liberty Bell:  PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT THE LAND!”  CHAG SAMEACH  —May we continue to ask questions, and create the answers that lead to freedom.

Broadview Deportation Center: Friday, January 6, 2012:

          This Saturday, at synagogues around the world, we complete the reading of the Book of Genesis, and conclude the story of Joseph and his family:  Not Joseph of the “Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but also Joseph who was thrown into a pit and taken forcibly to Egypt and separated from his father; Joseph the indentured servant; Joseph who was unjustly imprisoned and who languished there for years.

          The Hebrew word for prison is “beyt tzor,” a place of narrowness:  And the beyt tzor could have killed Joseph, but what kept him alive and ultimately saved him was his DREAMS.  Because he shared his dreams, he was remembered by a fellow prisoner who told the Pharaoh of Joseph gifts, and ultimately he was freed, he rose to great power and was able to save his whole family from the famine that gripped the whole region.

          And today we stand here in front of another beyt tzor —another narrow place—here at Broadview.  And if you doubt this is a prison, I hope you saw the agents leaving while we were praying the Our Father, carrying the chains and handcuffs back to the sheriff’s van parked across the street.  And we pray for those imprisoned within this deportation center, that they will continue to dream and to re-form their lives after the trauma they have experienced, and will especially experience today.  And let us pray for ourselves, and the prison walls that surround us all:  the walls of racism, of xenophobia and fear of the immigrant; of anti-immigrant legislation; of mindless hate that diminishes us all.  Let us all HOLD FAST TO DREAMS, especially in the coming ten days, as we prepare to honor the life and message of our country’s GREATEST DREAMER: For it is in our dreams that we keep hope alive.

Quelino Ojeda died on New Year’s Day.  The Cause of Death, frankly, was Christ Hospital, Oak Lawn.  Ojeda didn’t die at Christ Hospital, but the policies of Advocate Health Care, which administers Christ Hospital, killed him just as surely as the cardiac arrest, brought on by septic infection, bed sores and inadequate care for his quadraplegia, as listed on his death certificate.  Quelino was only 21 years old:  He had come to the Chicago area in 2010 in search of work, to support his family back home in Oaxaca.  And he found employment in the construction industry, working near Midway Airport.  He had a terrible, terrible accident at work, falling 20 feet and suffering massive spinal injuries.  He was sent to Christ Hospital, and for the months he was at Christ, he received state-of-the-art care, which gave him and his friends and appointed guardian hope for some long-term recovery.

     Although Quelino was undocumented, his employer would have contributed to Workmen’s Compensation in his name, and therefore his care would be covered by the Workmen’s Comp trust, but Christ Hospital didn’t see it that way.  It appears they viewed Quelino as a debit on their accounting ledger, and so  —without the permission of his guardian, his Chicago friends or Quelino himself, he was sent back to Mexico, to languish in an inadequate medical center, attached to a ventilator, still away from family and without the assistance of the friends who were his advocates here in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune and Hoy, its sister publication in Spanish,  wrote a number of articles about Quelino’s situation.  Advocate Health Systems finally “apologized” and vowed to do better next time, but it didn’t save Quelino:  Although he was transferred to a more technologically equipped facility in Oaxaca, his condition deteriorated and he died  just a year after leaving Chicago.  He was on the cover of Hoy Tuesday, January 3rd, and the Tribune wrote a final article the following day. 

Advocate and its hospitals operate with a 501C(3) tax exemption and are ostensibly not-for-profit, charitable institutions.  Under this tax stipulation they are required  to provide care for people who cannot pay.  And, as a faith-based institution, they are morally required not to lie and not oppress and exploit the poor and the stranger.  Advocate flunks all requirements.

For those of us who work for faith-based institutions, it is our responsibility to police our own:  When our places of worship, our charities, our traditions exploit the poor, it is our duty to stand up and say:  NOT IN MY NAME. NOT IN THE NAME OF MY GOD: This is not the way we live out our ethical promise.  Rest in peace/descanse en paz, Quelino.  May the angels lead you into paradise.  You will not be forgotten. 

Now that Rod Blagojevich has received his justice, perhaps things can go back to normal here in Chicago, but not quite yet:  Some of you may have seen the new item in the June 22nd Chicago Tribune or elsewhere about the catty remark made by writer Margo Howard (aka: Ann Landers’ only child) who wondered why Telemundo (one of the Spanish language television networks in the U.S.) was sending out tweets about deliberations in the Blagojevich trial.  Margo’s response was,”Not sure why Telemundo cares.  their soap operas off?”  Illinois State Rep Patty Mell (aka: Blago’s sister-in-law), retweeted, “Wow,that’s so racist.” Margo’s reply was that she didn’t think “people in Mexico” would care about the Blagojevich trial.

 As pointed out by a Telemundo staffer, Telemundo (like Univision and others) is an North American network that broadcasts in Spanish, primarily to an audience that lives in the U.S.  But beyond that, the BBC, Deutchewelle and many other international radio and television enterprises and the foreign print press have covered the Blago case from the beginning.  Clare Balderson and the other BBC anchors have become quite adept at pronouncing Blago’s name correctly, without a stop or start.  And if you want to talk about soap operas, well Rod and Patty and company can give any television drama in any language a run for their money in terms of plot twists.

I don’t watch Telemundo, because my little antenna tv doesn’t pick up the signal, but I do watch the news every day  —usually twice a day—-on Univision.  Both its local (5-5:30 and 10 t0 10:30 PM) and national/international (5:30-6:00 PM and 10:30 to 11:00 PM) is excellent.  Its coverage of the “Arab Spring” was serious and thorough.  Its weather reports, sports and entertainment reporting is as good as anything youwould see on Chicago’s other outlets, and in terms of soccer/futbol, MUCH BETTER.  I no longer read the Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune on a daily basis: I get most of the print new I need from Hoy, the Spanish language daily (owned by the Tribune) that is available free all over the place.  Blago and Patty were on the cover today, and on the inside was a detailed list of all the criminal counts  and the verdicts on each one.  Like the Forverts (aka: Jewish Daily Forward) and other serious journalism for immigrants currently or in generations past, the Spanish language press in the United States takes current events all over the world very seriously. If you look at the pictures from Blago’s post-verdict press conference, you will see the microphone from Univision right up there with all the other American networks.

I recently sent an e-mail to NPR after All Things Considered had a piece on Spanish television that reduced its product to the overly dramatic soap operas that are only a PART of what is offered on the Spanish stations.  I didn’t call NPR racist, but I said it was a shame they weren’t really examining what was broadcast on Telemundo and Univision.  I also told them that when Univision began its afternon news hour, I switched off NPR, because there is news on Univision (including immigration updates, foreign news and local happenings) that I can’t get anywhere else.  If you are at all able to understand Spanish, I suggest you watch the news on Univsion or Telemundo anytime you can.

Now back to Margo Howard:  I briefly knew her, when I was a teenager and she was in her late twenties, over 40 years ago, when she and my parents were working on a political project together.  She was  —and is— a witty, talented writer with a sharp intelligence, but back in the late 60’s she also had a great sense of social justice.  She also was trying to make her own way as a creative person, not judged by her beauty or her status as Ann Landers’ daughter or her life as a young society matron.  The Margo I knew understood how deadly preconceptions about others were and how harmful sterotypes of anyone can be.  Margo made an escape from the world of the “ladies who lunch,” and became a working journalist and writer.  It’s just too bad she doesn’t remember that struggle now.