Afternoon Edition: Sept. 28, 2021

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

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Jacqueline Stewart (left) and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor are among this year’s 25 MacArthur Fellows, unofficially dubbed the “genius grant.” The two women say Chicago influenced their careers and the way they thought about the world. The $625,000 grants, awarded annually, come with no strings attached.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 74 degrees. Tonight will be clear with a low around 56. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 81.

Top story

Two women who say Chicago shaped their work among MacArthur Foundation fellowship recipients

Two women whose work was influenced by their time in Chicago are among this year’s MacArthur Fellows.

Historian and author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Jacqueline Stewart, who studies the history of cinema, both focus their work on the Black experience and uplifting Black voices. They are among 25 recipients of the no-strings-attached $625,000 fellowships, unofficially dubbed the “genius grants,” announced today.

Taylor has lived in Chicago for more than a decade. Stewart was born and raised in Hyde Park. Both said their experiences with Chicago’s Black neighborhoods played a pivotal role in their intellectual development.

Taylor moved to Chicago from New York City to join activist movements focused on ending the death penalty and exonerating Black men on Illinois’ death row. She also organized for Chicago tenants’ rights in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis. Taylor is the author of “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership,” a book she says was influenced by her time living in Chicago and noticing the city’s stark segregation. She now lives in Philadelphia and teaches history at Princeton University.

Stewart, a professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, also says her work on the history of African American filmmaking was influenced by her upbringing.

She directs the South Side Home Movie Project, which preserves amateur films shot by Chicago residents, and serves as chief artistic and programming officer at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, set to open Thursday.

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has granted billions of dollars to “creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks” since its founding in 1970. Fellowships are awarded to “extraordinarily talented individuals” each year, and winners are free to use the grant however they choose.

You can’t apply for a MacArthur Fellowship. Instead, recipients are selected by a team of anonymous nominators. The process is confidential, and recipients usually don’t know they’ve been picked until the congratulatory phone call.

Jason Beeferman has more on the recipients and their work here.

More news you need

  1. Police say an 8-year-old boy playing in front of his home in Markham yesterday was shot and killed when someone stepped out of a car and fired, apparently aiming at his older brother. Demetrius Stevenson was in the third grade and looking forward to the new school year, according to city administrator Derrick Champion.
  2. Some state lawmakers and activists hope to pass legislation next month that would restore voting rights to people in prisons. It’s a change proponents say could help connect incarcerated people “to a process that’s for the betterment of society.”
  3. The Obamas returned to Chicago today for the official groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, calling the center a “university for activism and social change.” Amid the excitement, a plane flew overhead with a banner that read “Stop cutting down trees — move OPC,” a reminder of the controversy that’s followed the project.
  4. With his guilty plea to wire fraud and money laundering yesterday, former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz became the 36th member of the City Council to be convicted of a crime since the early 1970s. Muñoz is the first former or sitting Chicago alderperson to be convicted since Ald. Willie Cochran’s 2019 guilty plea.
  5. A 25-year-old accused by the feds of running a “significant bookmaking operation” at Illinois State University avoided prison during his sentence hearing today. Instead, Matthew Namoff — the youngest person charged in connection with a massive gambling ring — was given six months of home confinement and a $10,000 fine.
  6. The Illinois Prison Project filed a petition today with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to commute the sentences of 43 people, all of whom have struggled with mental illness. At one time or another, they ended up in solitary confinement for misbehaving — often for arbitrary infractions that either led to longer prison terms or the elimination of “good time,” the Prison Project said.
  7. The arrival of October on Friday means the start of awards season for theatrical releases, so film critic Richard Roeper pieced together a fall preview of his most anticipated films. From “The Last Duel” and “Dune,” to “The Harder They Fall” and “Spencer,” the films cover a wide range of genres, offering a little something for just about everyone.

A bright one

Zyra Gorecki revels in historic ‘La Brea’ role as a teen with a disability

Zyra Gorecki is well aware of the historic nature of her first series regular role on the NBC series “La Brea.”

“There’s not a lot of representation for disability in media, and to have a character actually be played by an amputee actor is huge,” said Gorecki, who is one of the few amputee series regular/lead actors on a broadcast TV series.

“Being an amputee, you have a different mental state and how you react to things and how you experience things. And to be able to bring that to a character who is an amputee is something that a fully limbed person would not necessarily be used to because they haven’t experienced it.”


Izzy (Zyra Gorecki, left, with Natalie Zea) sprints to escape an expanding sinkhole in the opening moments of the new NBC series “La Brea.”


“La Brea,” which premieres at 8 p.m. tomorrow on WMAQ-Channel 5, details how a massive Los Angeles sinkhole upends the lives of a family, separating them in the process. Gorecki plays Izzy Harris, a teenager whose mom and brother tumble into the hole.

Gorecki, who splits her time between Chicago and her native Michigan, lost her left leg below the knee at 13 in a lumber accident. She says some people miss a level of understanding when it comes to ableism.

“I think people try to be good; they try to be caring and understanding of other people, and that’s not always the case,” said Gorecki, 19. “And that’s totally fine — you can come back from that, absolutely. It’s just a matter of going to the people who have disabilities, going to the people who are different and understanding. Take something from a conversation with them and going: ‘Oh, I did do wrong. Now I can fix this.’”

More from Evan F. Moore’s conversation with Gorecki here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

How would you describe autumn in Chicago to someone who’s never experienced it before?

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: Who is your favorite “Saturday Night Live” cast member of all time? Why? Here’s what some of you said…

“Hard one. I felt the first year’s cast was outstanding! They set the sights high. John Belushi — outstanding in his contributions. Chevy Chase — amazing! Gilda Radner — one in a million. They all worked together to make this outstanding program.” — Robin Hickman

“Kristen Wig. Well between her character of The Target Lady and The Californians, she really knows how to capture those personalities. It’s probably why she is a movie star now. ‘Bridesmaids’ is one of my favorite movies.”— Mike Lebron

“Eddie Murphy is the GOAT, but he was on there before my time. So I’ll say Norm Macdonald.” — Nathan Marshall

“Chris Farley, because there has never been another cast member like him. May he rest in peace.” — Joel NK Aleman

“Phil Hartman. He was just so gifted.” — Jennifer Payton

“Keenan Thompson is the longest-running and most versatile cast member ever!” — Miguelito Hartman

“Maya Rudolph. I think she’s awesome. She’s smart, witty, and funny.” — Wilishah Ayana

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

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