The Other Pandemic in Chicago: Gun Violence

July 2020 was the deadliest month in Chicago history in the last 28 years, with 105 people killed, mostly by firearms. It ended with the shooting death of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who was playing outside in a parking lot near his Cabrini Green home.

ABC 7 Chicago reports that this marks “a nearly 139% increase from the 44 reported in July 2019.”

The majority of these victims were from Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Gun violence erodes communities and the feeling of safety to walk outside to go to the store, or even be safe in one’s own home. Children should not have to grow up with this level of trauma and fear.

Black Lives Matter, so we must demand accountability and justice to end racist police violence and murder. We must also take the funding that goes to weapons, military equipment, and defending lawsuits for police departments, and instead use it for communities that are in desperate need of social services.

Black Lives Matter, so we must also demand resources for small business development,accessible social and mental health services, and violence intervention organizations that are so needed in many of our Chicago neighborhoods.

Mayor Lightfoot and our city leaders need to hear from us every day. In her 2020 budget, she dedicated $11.5 million to community-based safety efforts in the 15 Chicago neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. This is much less than what  Los Angeles and New York invested in equivalent programs that helped reduce gun violence in those major cities. More needs to be invested in these communities, and especially in violence interruption, which we have seen in Chicago can have tremendous impact. For a spending comparison: the police budget is $1.5 billion.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic crisis we can anticipate further economic hardships for families in underserved communities due to closed businesses, unemployment, and the loss of productive lives. With economic hardship comes increased rates of domestic violence and criminal activity, which are both drivers of gun violence. 

We can expect gun violence to only increase and more deaths in our Chicago community until these two intersectional issues are addressed in an ethical manner with adequate funding.

Get Involved

Chicago NOW is supporting the efforts of the youth leaders of March for the Hood on August 15th. They are collecting school supplies and menstrual supplies for kids in the underserved south side neighborhoods. 

To donate:

Picture of youth at rally with text, March for the Hood

Here are some other great organizations in Chicago that address this intersection between communities dealing with multiple levels of trauma and gun violence that you can also lend support to as well:

Our Vote Is Our Voice! Join CNOW to Get Out The Vote (GOTV).

The clock is ticking down to November 3, 2020. These are times of reckoning—from the top of the ticket to the bottom. We’ll need your help to win. We need to Get Out The Vote (GOTV).

Our sneaks-on-the-streets method to reach voters may have shifted, but our focus has not. In-person canvassing has been suspended, but there are other effective and safe social distancing GOTV actions you can join. From writing postcards to voters or phone banking, your time can make a significant impact in our area, especially in Midwest swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The work looks different in this environment, but it’s just as effective! What won’t work is standing on the sidelines. So c’mon. Together we’ll restore a government that works for all people—in the Midwest and in Washington, DC.

Ready to make change this November? Our friends at Indivisible Chicago Alliance have great ways you can get involved. Inspired by the Indivisible Guide, Indivisible Chicago is a progressive, grassroots all-volunteer group of Chicago residents with chapters in neighborhoods all across the city committed to resisting the regressive Trump agenda.

Get Started Today:

Write postcards to Midwest voters. Indivisible Chicago is mobilizing volunteers to help get out the vote in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania. Join a grassroots, volunteer-led campaign to engage our Midwest neighbors in crucial swing states with Indivisible Chicago’s “Three States, One Mission” campaign.

Get Out the Vote to Wisconsin

Help increase voter turnout, and encourage mail-in ballots, by writing postcards to voters in key swing states. With volunteers like you, 13 million handwritten postcards will be sent to voters, which can lead to over 200,000 votes.

The Midwest is critically important in the 2020 election. In 2016, Wisconsin and Michigan were lost by just 30,000 votes combined. And combined with other chapters across the U.S., Indivisible Chicago, with support from Progressive Turnout Project, will send 13 million postcards to voters—and they keep adding swing states! That’s a lot of votes. We can do this!

How it works: If you live in Chicago, Indivisible Chicago will provide you with postcards, addresses and instructions. Once completed, they will make sure your handwritten postcards are mailed in October for you. No-contact pick-up and drop-off options are available throughout Chicago. Heck, they will even drop off/pick up at your doorstep!

Order your postcards today and start writing. Indivisible Chicago is serving as a Postcards to Wisconsin and Michigan distribution point for those in Chicago; order your postcards directly here to save on shipping costs. If you live outside of Chicago and want to write postcards for other swing states, order your postcards directly from Postcards to Swing States.

Get Out the Vote to Michigan

Interested in a little competition to get started? Join Indivisible Chicago’s Postcard Posse—the only postcard writing league in the U.S. Invite your friends, create a fun team name, start winning prizes (RBG bobblehead, anyone?). Host a virtual postcard party at your next friends or family Zoom hangout.

Write some postcards. Have fun. Save democracy.

Other Ways to Mobilize Voters In the Midst of a Pandemic

Join a virtual phone banking event. Whether you’ve worked campaigns or are a rookie, Indivisible Chicago will make sure you have the support to make an impact. If you’re new to phone banking, they offer “Phone Banking 101,” a 30-minute, virtual training session.

Check out the schedule and join an upcoming phone banking event. All virtual phone bank gatherings start with an orientation, talking points, and end with a group debrief when the calls are done. Your phone bank leaders are always available online to solve problems and answer questions. Get started now!

Listen to the Indivisible Chicago Podcast: Featuring weekly convos with Chicago representatives, newsmakers, activists, scholars, and Indivisible Chicago neighborhood chapters to learn more about what is happening in the pushback against the Trump agenda.

Participate in “The Big Send” campaign led by Vote Forward, a volunteer campaign that aims to send 10 million handwritten letters to ask voters in super states such as Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and others to win the electoral college.

How it works: The Big Send provides a printable PDF for you to add a handwritten message on each letter, sharing why you vote—and why it’s important they do. Once complete, address, stamp (it’s a bring-your-own-stamps operation) and hold them in a safe spot until given instructions to mail in October. So far, one million letters have already been written!

Still need inspiration? Read Stacey Abrams’ NYT opinion piece, “I Know Voting Feels Inadequate Right Now,” and hear her thoughts on the importance of GOTV.

There is only one question you can answer on November 4: Did you do all you could to stop this madness? Sign up here to make sure the answer is YES.

There is no choice between voting and protesting. We need to do both!

Our vote is our voice!

Legislative Update: Illinois General Assembly and Sexual Assault Survivors Act Amendment

CNOW would like to highlight the work of two of its Women Who Dared honorees—Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (’18) and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy (’19)—who respectively championed and sponsored a bill supporting survivors of sexual violence during COVID-19. The bill authorizes specially trained staff at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to provide evidence collection and medical treatment to sexual assault survivors during the pandemic. This amendment to the Sexual Assault Survivors Act provides that an approved FQHC may provide medical forensic services to all sexual assault survivors 13 years old or older who present for medical forensic services in relation to injuries or trauma resulting from a sexual assault during the duration, and 90 days thereafter, of a proclamation issued by the governor declaring a disaster, or a successive proclamation regarding the same disaster, in all 102 counties due to a public health emergency.

The act also provides that under specified circumstances, an FQHC’s areawide sexual assault treatment plan must include a procedure for ensuring a sexual assault survivor in need of medical or surgical services receives the services at the treatment hospital. In an interview with the State Journal Register, Cassidy said, “[T]his bill provides much-needed options for survivors of sexual assault, and it is time-limited, it is specific to this crisis that we’re in, but it is equally critical that we ensure that these survivors have access to services.” We applaud our Women Who Dared, who continue to lead and inspire us through their dedicated public service.

Legal Update: LGBTQ Rights Victory at SCOTUS

June 15, 2020 was a celebratory day for LGBTQ rights when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6–3 decision in favor of the most expansive federal protections provided to the LGBTQ community to date. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, included the prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The opinion, which was penned by Justice Gorsuch, was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts.

This case had been consolidated with two other LGBTQ rights cases, Altitute Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The facts were undisputed that Plaintiffs Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda were terminated when their employers learned of their sexual orientation, and Plaintiff Aimee Stephens was fired when she informed her employer that she would be transitioning. The U.S. Supreme Court held that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies law.” This decision provides millions of individuals with the respect and protection they deserve in the workplace. UCLA’s Williams Institute reports that approximately 1 million U.S. workers identify as transgender, and approximately 7.1 million U.S. workers identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual. A study by the Human Rights Commission found that almost half of LGBTQ individuals are closeted in the workplace. Every person deserves the right to work with dignity and should not fear that at any time they could be legally fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This landmark decision is an enormous legal victory for the LGBTQ community and a necessary step toward overdue equality under the law.

However, the fight for equality is far from over. The Equality Act, which has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, must be enacted. The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity beyond the workplace and extends to the marketplace, public services, housing, medical insurance coverage, public accommodations and federally funded programs. These protections are especially important to those individuals who face many other discriminatory barriers. Without such comprehensive legislation, true equality under the law cannot be reached.

For now, we relish in a long-fought victory. To Plaintiffs Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, who unfortunately passed before they were able to witness this groundbreaking decision in their favor, rest in power.

Nominate your favorite local feminist superhero: Women Who Dared 2020

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

The Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women is seeking nominations for Women Who Dared, our annual awards gala celebrating feminist superheroes dedicated to making our city and state a better place for all women and girls. Each fall, we honor one elected official and one community organizer working to serve and uplift women and girls in our city and beyond. This year’s event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know of a badass Chicago shero who’s fighting to transform the lives of women and girls? Nominate her for Women Who Dared! Please include her name and a brief summary explaining your nomination Sherwood by July 15.

Join us in the fight for equality and justice for all women and girls. Nominate your favorite feminist superhero for Woman Who Dared today!