Glass blowing studio connects with youth impacted by violence, city hosts its largest US citizenship ceremony and more in your Chicago news roundup

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

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Dantrell Blake (left) works on a double-walled bowl with the help of Julian Solis (center) as project manager N’Kosi Barber (right) heats up his glass cup at the glass blowing studio at the Firebird Community Arts at 2651 W. Lake St. in East Garfield Park yesterday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a high near 43 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with a chance of rain mixed with snow and a low near 35. Tomorrow will be rainy with a high near 39.

Top story

West Side glassblowing studio for youth impacted by violence plans holiday bazaar

Handling molten glass requires razor-like focus — and that’s one of its benefits, said N’Kosi Barber, a veteran glassblower.

He runs a program at Firebird Community Arts, a West Side glass and ceramics studio, teaching glassblowing to youth impacted by violence. The attention to detail that glassblowing demands is key to helping them heal.

“Everything else going on in your life gets put on pause,” said Barber, 29.

They also can make a little money.

On Saturday, the work of the program’s current participants, along with that of other artists, will go on sale at an annual holiday market, open from noon to 5 p.m. at the East Garfield Park studio, 2651 W. Lake St. Works range in price from $20 to $200, with proceeds going to the artists. Admission is free, though for $75, visitors can take a glassblowing lesson and make their own holiday ornament.

Barber took up glassblowing after seeing it as a student at Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy in Kenwood. An instructor drew the molten glass out of a vat with a pipe and it spilled on the floor — “like it was honey” he recalled.

The South Side native was later hired in 2015 by the Firebird to lead Project Fire, their program for youth recovering from violence. 

Participants usually find the program through trauma specialists at Stroger Hospital or University of Chicago Medical Center. Many arrive shell-shocked and shy, but the work draws them out, Barber said.

“People have to engage because it’s a safety risk if you don’t communicate,” he said. “You have to put your trust in somebody.” 

Offering youth a safe space to heal is part of the program, said Karen Reyes, Firebird’s longtime executive director.

“Our mission is about connecting people through the healing power of glass blowing,” she said.

Michael Loria has more on the Project Fire program here.

More news you need

  1. Javonni Jenkins, a young mother, and her father, Curtis Hartman, were found shot to death in East Chatham early yesterday morning, after her 2-year-old answered a call from concerned friends. Police have released few details, and as of this afternoon, no one was in custody.
  2. A federal judge today rejected Heather Mack’s request to be released from jail while she awaits trial for conspiring to have her mother killed overseas in 2014. Mack, who made a dramatic return to the U.S. in November 2021 after serving seven years in Indonesia for helping kill her 62-year-old mother, has been in U.S. custody ever since. Our Jon Seidel has more on the latest development in her case here.
  3. A federal judge last week dismissed a defamation lawsuit stemming from alleged sexual misconduct by former Chicago radio personality Eric Ferguson. It’s the second defamation suit to be dismissed against Ferguson’s former employer, Hubbard Radio Chicago, the company that brings “The Mix” to morning airwaves at 101.9-FM.
  4. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago today announced it had rescinded an honorary doctorate it awarded the artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. The school’s move comes a week after a group from the SAIC community formed an online petition that pointed to Ye’s hate speech in recent weeks, calling on SAIC to make the move.
  5. Food service and sanitation workers at the United Center filed dozens of labor complaints against the venue’s concessionaire Tuesday, alleging the company violated labor law by working some employees 35 days straight. About a dozen workers — employed by Levy Restaurants, a subsidiary of Compass Group — and Unite Here Local 1 members picketed outside United Center yesterday.
  6. In other labor news, air cargo workers for Swissport International staged a one-day walkout today at O’Hare Airport, alleging unsafe working conditions and company retaliation for favoring union membership. About 20 workers were involved in the walkout, said a spokesperson for Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union. 
  7. After smelling cannabis-scented oils at Ivy Hall, a new, Black-owned Bucktown dispensary, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said yesterday he hopes the stage is set for diversity to finally weed its way into the state’s nearly all-white marijuana industry. “As the first of 192 social equity licensees to launch, Ivy Hall is paving the way for even more success in this new industry,” Pritzker said.” Our Mitch Dudek and Tom Schuba have more on the rollout of the licenses here.
  8. Beloved nun and Loyola University Chicago’s biggest athletics booster Sister Jean, 103, is publishing a memoir, set for publication in late February. Titled, “Wake Up with Purpose!: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years,” the book will be part life story, part philosophy text and part spiritual guide, publisher Harper Select said.
  9. And, although winter doesn’t officially start until the Dec. 21 winter solstice, Chicago will see the earliest sunset of the year this evening — at about 4:19 p.m., astronomers say. The sun will then set later each day moving forward, taking a more than a week for the change to become noticeable.

A bright one

Nearly 2,000 granted U.S. citizenship in largest Chicago ceremony ever: ‘I consider this my home’

When Svjetlana Kiponjic left Bosnia nine years ago, she was looking for a better life.

She got a green card, worked a cleaning job, then met the love of her life. They married six years ago and had a child, David, now 2. Yesterday, she clutched a bouquet of flag-themed balloons minutes before she was granted U.S. citizenship in the largest naturalization ceremony ever held in Chicago.

“I was dreaming about this day,” she said. “I love this country and I’m very excited about this.”

She was one of 1,984 people from 120 countries who were naturalized at Wintrust Arena. The ceremony was three times bigger than the next largest, held in July at Wrigley Field, when 656 people took the oath of allegiance and became citizens.


Candidates cheer after reciting the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at Wintrust Arena in South Loop yesterday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the federal courts to get creative with naturalization ceremonies. To comply with social distancing rules in federal courthouses, where many swearing-ins had been held, ceremonies were moved outdoors, such as to Daley Plaza, or into large indoor public spaces including Northwestern University and the Auditorium Theatre.

Larger ceremonies free up space for trials at federal courthouses that would otherwise be needed to host additional ceremonies, according to Julie Hodek, spokeswoman for the U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Kiponjic brought her husband and a few friends to support her as she became a citizen of the country she has embraced.

“I consider this my home,” she said.

David Struett has more with some of these new citizens and their path to the ceremony here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

If you could trade places with any city employee, what job would it be and what’s the first thing you’d do?

Send us an email at and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Growing up, what was the best part about your Chicago neighborhood?

Here’s what some of you said...

“I grew up in Uptown. So close to school, the park district and the lake. So much fun to be a kid growing up in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other, the adults knew you and your parents. We went to the park district almost every day after school and took classes like arts and crafts, drama, dance, acrobatics and apparatus. We played ping pong. In the summer we went to summer camp and went to Foster Ave Beach almost every day. It was great fun and I loved it.” — Regena Ellis

“I loved how on my block everybody basically knew each other. So people looked out for you. I miss this Black-owned corner store we used to go to and then there was a garage candy store by this beautiful older lady. I miss that my cousins and I could play in the alley because the old men would be back there in the garages kicking it, playing spades. I miss the sounds of James Brown in the alley or B.B. King.” — Cory Rimpson Jr

The bakeries were the best. Each neighborhood had its own bakery and the rivalry was ferocious. The sweet rolls and fry cakes were tantalizing and fresh rye bread. I miss that so much.” — Irena Nowak

“The best thing about growing up in my northwest side neighborhood, Montclair, was the local small stores about a block away. The local IGA, owned by a family that we knew from our parish; the local dry cleaner, named Rick, the local drugstore run by Guy. We could walk to school, walk to church, walk to the local movie theatre and the local small public library. We could take a bus to the closest big park that had a swimming pool in the summer. And 4 or 5 blocks away was a fairly large shopping area with a local department store now long gone. And we knew the names of all the neighbors up and down the block. People sat outside on their porches in the summer evenings.” — Kaye Grabbe 

“In Englewood, those block parties and parades through the neighborhood and feeling safe.” — Elexis Bowden

“The best part of growing up in south shore was Rosenblum Park. Never more than a few blocks from our apartment, it had ice skating in the winter and St Philip Neri football games before that. Of course, then there was Funtown, which was bike riding distance when we moved to Jeffrey Manor.” —  Sharon R.

“The Summer ‘Free’ Fair — at 47th and Damen — and the building of the Damen Ave overpass that allowed us to directly and safely walk from 47th and Damen to McKinley Park are highlights of my childhood.” — Carol G.

For me, Marquette Park was the best part of the neighborhood growing up. Feeding the ducks, visiting the rose garden, playing basketball and softball, fishing for carp and bluegills in the lagoon were all on the activities list for the summer. Sledding in the winter and hanging out in the field house in the winter.” — Joshua Miyake

For more trips down memory lane, you can take a scroll through some more answers here.

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

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