Southern abortion activists collab with local groups, R. Kelly trial continues, Blues Brothers prep for con 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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Lakeesha Harris, co-executive director of Lift Louisiana and lead organizer of the “Black August Freedom Rides,” stands at Union Station ahead of the arrival of reproductive rights organizers from Mississippi and Tennessee yesterday morning.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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 mostly sunny with a high near 83 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 65. Tomorrow will also be mostly sunny with a high near 86.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Southern abortion rights advocates arrive in Chicago for ‘Black August Freedom Rides’

More than 100 years after Black residents fled racial and social injustices in the South during the Great Migration, some individuals may have to make similar journeys to Chicago and other cities to seek access to legal abortions since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a hard reality that we are still here in 2022,” said Lakeesha Harris, the co-executive director of Lift Louisiana. “People say when Roe (v. Wade) fell, we went back 50 years. Actually, when Roe fell — for Black people — we are rolling back over 100 years.”

She noted that the fight for access to abortions is tied to the fight for civil rights of Black and LGBTQ individuals. She and about 30 other activists from Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi — states that already or will soon ban almost all abortions — traveled via train 13 to 23 hours to Chicago this week as part of “Black August Freedom Rides” to show how far some people may need to travel to get safe, legal abortions.

Yesterday, about a dozen people arrived at Union Station, some wearing T-shirts demonstrating their support for abortion rights. They planned to stay through today to strengthen relationships with Chicago reproductive rights groups, and to create a petition to present to the United Nations related to abortion access.

The group wants to create a vision for a new type of Roe v. Wade that centers on the needs of an individual who is pregnant, not just abortion providers.

Harris, who previously lived and worked in Chicago, said having a direct relationship with organizations in Chicago such as the South Side Birthing Center will become critical.

“The idea was so that activists can meet with one another so that when we are sending people up, our community members up, that they know who is on the other side that we’re sending them to,” Harris said.

Elvia Malagónhas more with the activists here.

More news you need

  1. The alleged victim who declined to testify against R. Kelly during his original criminal trial 14 years ago finally took the witness stand today in a highly anticipated moment during Kelly’s new trial in Chicago’s federal court. Andy Grimm and Jon Seidel are at the courthouse and have more on her testimony and the latest developments in the trial here.
  2. A former supervisor of lifeguards admitted to committing sex crimes against underage employees who he supervised, becoming the first Chicago Park District employee convicted in the year-old investigation by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Mauricio Ramirez, 32, was sentenced last month to three years of probation, 40 hours of community service, electronic monitoring and lifetime sex offender registry,WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos reports.
  3. Water at Illinois state prisons is contaminated with toxic metals and other potentially harmful contaminants, a coalition of activists said today, urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to take action. Our Brett Chase has more from the prisoner rights, environmental and social justice groups that demonstrated downtown today here.
  4. A Chicago police sergeant has been charged with aggravated battery for allegedly kneeling on the back of a 14-year-old boy outside a Park Ridge Starbucks. Sgt. Michael Vitellaro faces a count of official misconduct aggravated battery in connection to the July 1 incident, according to the Park Ridge police.
  5. Authorities this morning resumed searching for a person who fell into Lake Michigan near the “Playpen” boat hangout downtown. The search came just hours before a body was pulled from Montrose Harbor— marking the third apparent drowning in Chicago this week.
  6. Tom Coffey, a trusted campaign advisor for Harold Washington who later became part of the administration of Chicago’s first Black mayor, died yesterday at his home in Hinsdale at age 77. Read Neil Steinberg’s full obituary for Coffey.
  7. Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi are teaming up tomorrow and Saturday for the first-ever Blues Brothers Con at the Old Joliet Prison. Aykroyd told the Sun-Times that although the setting of the convention is dark, “This is about fun — music, laughter, food, camaraderie and celebrating Chicago.”
  8. Thanks to a $20 million federal grant, a plan to convert 1.75 miles of an unused railroad corridor in Englewood into a nature trail for the community is closer to becoming a reality. The federal grant to support the Englewood Nature Trail was widely applauded by local leaders, who say it will revitalize the area and be a beacon for Black Chicagoans.
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A bright one

Chicago CRED grads celebrate high school diplomas and look to future careers

For Dimaris Smith, 27, yesterday was cause for celebration — he received his GED after joining Chicago CRED. Smith had to redo the entirety of his high school education and finished in two years.

The anti-violence organization takes young men and women recovering from involvements in gun violence and gives them stipends, job and soft skills training, in addition to trauma therapy.

This year’s ceremony outside the South Shore Cultural Center saw 58 graduates receive diplomas after previously dropping out of high school. In between hula-hooping and singing and dancing, graduates and their families pulled up in cars, walked across a red carpet and posed with loved ones on stage after being handed their diplomas.

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People cheer for Dimaris Smith during Chicago CRED’s graduation ceremony outside the South Shore Cultural Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“These are guys who missed their high school graduation,” CRED spokesperson Peter Cunningham said. “They’ve been through a lot of hard times, and now they’re having their moment. They get to feel that excitement and be recognized for having accomplished something.”

Smith is using his training in CRED to go to trade school for HVAC.

“CRED let me know it’s never too late to start,” Smith said. “You can make it happen regardless of whatever the circumstances are.”

Mariah Rushhas more on CRED and its class of 2022 here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

As a Chicagoan, what do you think of the Air and Water Show? Explain.

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

Yesterday, we asked you: Parents and guardians: How are you feeling about sending your children back to school next week?

Here’s what some of you said…

“It’s crummy. They should have two more weeks of summer!” —Jason Betke

“I am ready for her to go back. The last two years going back to school were more terrifying as a parent. But this year I am not as concerned. I know there are many things as parents for us to worry about (gun violence in schools, COVID, etc) but an education for our children is so critical I am hoping for a normal year — fingers crossed. I cannot fear what may not come.” — Terri Riley

“We’re ready.” — Marie Yazzie

“Always a little sad when the summer ends and kids go back, but looking forward to the routines again and them reconnecting with friends.” — Sandra Judith

“Pissed off. It's both my kid’s and my birthday week and we never had to deal with this. We usually have fun that week — vacation, brunch, dinners, party. Now that last week of fun was snatched. 😭 You know us Chicagoans like to hold on to our short Summer days. Re-vote is needed for next year. I'm not ready to help with 6th-grade math either. 🤣” —Che Stlawrence

“Not happy. They barely had a summer. I prefer after Labor Day.” —Joey Lynn Battaglia-Pinaglia

“Hesitant. My son is a type 1 diabetic and has been remote for 2 1/2 years. There is not much of a protocol in schools for COVID, and if there is, it is not enforced. So it concerns me.” —Stacey Roman

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

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