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Afternoon Edition: June 23, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

A self-portrait of Patrick Reponse, a Congolese refugee and Columbia College photojournalism student.
Patrick Reponse

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be partly sunny, with a high near 76 degrees and a chance of showers. Tonight’s low will be around 59 degrees. Tomorrow, more showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast, but it will be mostly sunny with a high near 79 degrees.

Top story

From African to African American: How a brush with police changed this Congolese refugee’s life — and his camera’s focus

Patrick Reponse came to the U.S. in 2007 as a child refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But it wasn’t until a Sunday night about four months ago that he made the mental switch to thinking of himself as an African American rather than an African.

That was the night Chicago police stopped Reponse, now 21, as he was about to enter the front door of the Rogers Park apartment building where he lives with his older brother. Reponse was coming home from his job at a Lake View restaurant, a job he has held the past five years while attending school.

From a certain perspective, nothing much happened that night. Police questioned Reponse, checked his identification, then allowed him to go. But it was the first time Reponse was consciously aware of being racially profiled. And that has made all the difference.

“I asked them: What did I do?” Reponse recalled.

“You looked suspicious,” he says they told him. “They kept repeating: You fit a description.”

The incident caused an awakening of sorts for Reponse, who graduated from Alcott College Prep and now studies photojournalism at Columbia College: “Now, I’m an African American. I’m not African no more. Because the skin is all they see,” he said. “I just feel something change in my life.”

Motivated by this newfound cultural identity, Reponse has been attending the George Floyd protests and documenting the events with his photography. For now, it’s an outlet for self-expression at a time when he has much to express.

“I think this is a moment for me and my generation,” he said. “It’s a wake-up moment. This is the moment to understand what’s really going on. You’ve got to help or you don’t.”

Reponse’s family was among thousands of Banyamulenge forced to flee the Congo in the face of persecution of their ethnic Tutsi tribe. They relocated to a United Nations-run refugee camp in Burundi.

On August 13, 2004, the camp was attacked by Hutu rebels. Reponse’s mother and six other relatives were among 166 refugees murdered in what is known as the Gatumba massacre. The victims, singled out on the basis of their ethnicity, were shot and burned to death.

The survivors were moved to a new camp in Rwanda, and later Reponse’s family was brought from there to Chicago by the relief agency RefugeeOne.

“I learned at a young age there is hatred everywhere,” Reponse said. “You can’t escape the hatred. You just have to treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

Read the full interview with Patrick Reponse from columnist Mark Brown.

More news you need

  1. After the pandemic scrapped the end of the school year for Illinois’ 2 million-plus elementary and high school students, schools can resume in-person classes this fall, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced today. The state will provide more than 2.5 million cloth face masks for students to use.
  2. You’re not just hearing things. A lot more fireworks are being set off in Chicago neighborhoods this year — and July 4th is still more than a week away. Complaints about those loud blasts are up more than 736% compared to the same time period in 2019.
  3. A lawsuit filed today alleges the Chicago Police Department has been denying arrestees access to phone calls and lawyers during the coronavirus pandemic and recent protests. The suit, filed by activists and the Cook County public defenders office, seeks a court-ordered mandate for CPD to follow the law.
  4. Ald. Chris Taliaferro said he was outraged but not surprised by the Father’s Day weekend violence that continued yesterday. The former Chicago police officer said that during the stay-home order, crime and drug sales decreased. As the economy reopens, drug markets do too, he said.
  5. A group of prominent ministers and activists wants Mayor Lori Lightfoot to publicly oppose the rehiring of fired Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo, who is waging a legal fight to get his job back. Rialmo was terminated in October for his role in the fatal shooting of Bettie Jones.
  6. Northwestern University is offering employee buyouts in hopes of cutting between 150 and 200 jobs, part of the continuing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a university spokesman said today. The buyouts are intended to head off the possibility of further furloughs or layoffs.

A bright one

For this Chicago Dreamer, a ‘big sigh of relief’ over Supreme Court’s DACA ruling

Karla Robles lay awake in bed for much of the night before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that shields thousands of immigrants from deportation, allowing them to work in this country lawfully.

A first-year teacher, Robles is among the “Dreamers” covered by the Obama-era policy, and she’d been worried about how the ruling would go. The Loyola University Chicago grad just finished her first year as a Spanish teacher at Palatine High School. Until the court ruling, she didn’t know whether she’d soon be forced to leave the country and find work elsewhere.

Karla Robles, 23, a DACA recipient who graduated from Loyola University Chicago and recently finished her first year as a Spanish teacher at Palatine High School.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

But the 23-year-old woke up Thursday to the news that the nation’s high court had rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end the program. “My brother also has DACA,” Robles says. “We also hugged and cried in celebration. It’s a big sigh of relief.”

In high school, her older brothers were detained by immigration agents while visiting a friend in Boston. That event prompted her to start speaking out about her immigration status. Now, in her classroom, Robles is open about her story. She doesn’t want other students to feel the way she once did. Instead, she says she wants them to know this: “There is someone in the building who is rooting for them.”

After the Supreme Court ruling, Robles planned to make a video for her students about the news: “I wish that I could find a way to tell them in person,” she says. “I just have a smile on my face.”

Elvia Malagón talked to two more Dreamers about the ruling. Read their stories here.

From the press box

Lachavious Simmons, the Bears seventh-round pick who goes by the nickname “Pig,” has been spending an unusual offseason working out at his family’s farm in Selma, Alabama. “I’m a blue-collar guy who grew up on a farm, throwing hay bales — disciplined,” Simmons said. “My hard work, it can match anybody’s.”

Your daily question ☕

With gyms reopening Friday, will you be returning to yours to work out? Tell us why, or why not.

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you if you plan on flying this summer, and what you’ll do to stay safe. Here’s what some of you said…

“Hoping to get married in Jamaica in August after we were forced to cancel April’s date. We already bought a bunch of airplane bottles to fill with sanitizer and are making custom masks for our guests. Keeping our fingers crossed that everything will go as planned.” — Jon Gusanders

“Yes, planning to travel from Ireland to Chicago to be with family. Will wear masks, plenty of sanitizer and quarantine for 14 days on each side of the journey.” — Josh Schultz

“I’m a frequent flyer and won’t be getting on a plane any time soon.” — Rich Ramey

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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