Chicago should be proud to honor Ida B. Wells

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Ida B. Wells was born into slavery and became a leader in the struggle against racism. | Sun-Times files

There are several organizations that have proposed renaming Balbo to honor my great-grandmother Ida B Wells-Barnett. I understand that there are some with strong feelings about the city of Chicago continuing to honor Italo Balbo with both a street name and monument in the downtown area.

My great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, should be able to receive honor from the city without it causing ire from anyone. She was born a slave and spent over 45 years of her life fighting for justice and equality for women, African Americans and other marginalized people. She was a journalist, civil rights activist, and suffragist, among other things. After fleeing the South as a result of death threats, she married and settled in Chicago where she worked and raised her family for the last 35 years of her life.

I am hopeful that we will figure out some kind of solution regarding street names that makes everyone feel that things are fair. In the meantime, I want to believe that those who are passionate about honoring my great-grandmother will support the efforts to create a monument in her honor. The Ida B Wells Commemorative Art Committee, of which I am a part, has been involved in this project for 10 years and counting. That is way longer than I ever expected, considering the fact that my great-grandmother was one of the most well-known of her day and the sculptor Richard Hunt is world-renowned. Let’s work to get the Ida B. Wells monument funded by her July 16 birthday and completed as soon as possible after that.

With a monument on the land where the Ida B Wells Homes once stood, plus whatever honors will be bestowed upon her downtown, Chicago should feel proud to honor an African-American woman who was a trailblazer and national leader. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a longtime resident of Chicago and spent her life fighting for truth, justice and equality.

To support the monument visit

Michelle Duster, South Side

Another school shooting

Last Thursday, I was in Noblesville, Indiana, watching my granddaughter graduate from pre-K. Oh! How she loves school. On Friday, I was with her at the YMCA for a gym and swim class. I watched panicked parents rush out to be with their children at Noblesville West Middle School. Another school shooting dominated Indiana local news after a 14-year-old walked into his science classroom with two guns, with the intent of killing his fellow students. I watched a great teacher willing to sacrifice his life for the children, as a little girl is shot. I saw a community in action with love and support for each other.

Our lawmakers make light of these horrible events with scripted responses directly from the NRA. “A law would not have prevented this shooting.” The Sun-Times is showing us 31 ways to help stop gun violence and every lawmaker should take heed. My congressman, Rep. Randy Hultgren, has demonstrated that he is more concerned about special interest groups and the financial support he receives than he is about the health and welfare of the people he represents.

As I put my granddaughter to bed Friday night, a firecracker went off a few doors down. She sat up and asked if that was a gun. It’s sad to think that any 5-year-old would ask such a question. Every child in that school district has been affected by this violence. My granddaughter’s right “to the pursuit of happiness” is being threatened because of the preventable risk of being murdered in her school. That is being ignored by our elected officials.

Arlene Salamendra, Plano

Key Fascist founder

The Sun-Times editorial board opposes the effort by Ald. Sophia King (4th) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) to rename Balbo Drive, saying it would pit Italian Americans against African Americans. The board defers to a few Italian-American leaders in Chicago who object to the renaming, pointing out that while a fascist, Italo Balbo opposed Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws and his alliance with Germany.

What these leaders fail to acknowledge is that Balbo was a key founder of the fascist movement, leading bands of thugs who attacked and killed political opponents. Hitler himself praised Balbo, saying without him there would have been no Black Shirts – and no Nazi Brown Shirts. Eight years after Balbo’s flight, we were at war with the regime he helped install.

Balbo was met with mass adulation when he landed his squadron at the 1933 World’s Fair. Mayor Edward Kelly in particular was a fan of Mussolini, later banning a demonstration against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. But a small band of Italian Americans courageously protested, distributing leaflets linking Balbo to the fascist murders of a progressive Italian priest and a leading socialist deputy. History tells us it was the protesters who were the true heroes of the day, and I suspect that by now, many Italian Americans in Chicago would agree. I urge King and Reilly to continue their effort – and proponents to be more judicious in choosing individuals to be honored.

Curtis Black, Hyde Park


It was appalling to learn that 41 animals grievously died because of abandonment and neglect at an Illinois “pet store.” We were educated to believe that “pet stores” were safe and humane places for the animals that they house. Lamentably, there is a rising incidence of animal abuse being perpetrated at too many pet stores. All of us need to recognize and respect that animals are our fellow sentient beings and creatures of God. They are not inanimate objects to abuse and kill for profit, greed and vainglory.

Brien Comerford, Glenview

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