A rise in after-school shootings, Black Restaurant Week kicks off 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.

SHARE A rise in after-school shootings, Black Restaurant Week kicks off and more in your Chicago news roundup
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A.J. Davis, a sophomore, sits in a classroom Tuesday at Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville on the South Side.

Ashlee Rezin/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.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 51 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 34. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with showers likely and a high near 52.

Top story

Victims, families and school leaders seek answers after increase in after-school shootings

Right after school on a snowy Tuesday last February, A.J. Davis shook hands with a friend he calls Lil’ Mike. A.J. headed one way and Lil’ Mike went the other way.

A.J. made it home. His friend, 15-year-old Michael Brown, didn’t.

Michael was shot and killed less than two blocks from their school, the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville on the South Side.

“For the two months after that, it was just stuck on sadness,” A.J. said. “And it was really a reality check for us. Like we really have to watch our back and we can’t be kids anymore.

“Like we’re not even safe at school. We can’t even walk to school and come back home. Like, dang.”

Before Michael’s killing, A.J. said he knew Chicago could be dangerous, especially for Black teenagers and young men. But he said it felt different for a shooting to take place so close to school, just moments after walking out of class, like they were “ducks, just waiting to be shot.”

Even in a big city like Chicago where gun violence is prevalent, fatal shootings of students near a school as they make their way home have been rare. But in the last year there was a spike, culminating Dec. 16 with four students shot — two of them killed — at afternoon dismissal right outside Benito Juarez Community Academy High School in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Last year, nine children 17 years old or younger were killed on a weekday in the hours that students head home — between 2 and 4:49 p.m, according to a WBEZ/Chicago Sun-Times analysis of shooting records and media accounts of killings over the last decade. That does not count a 17-year-old Kenwood Academy student who was killed while on his lunch break or the shooting outside Schurz High School that left a teenager critically hurt.

In the decade before 2022, the worst year for murders had been 2016, when six children were killed. Between 2012 and 2021, there was an average of three murders of kids 17 and younger each year, the WBEZ/Sun-Times analysis found. WBEZ and the Sun-Times focused on this age group because school is compulsory in Illinois for children 17 and under.

The total number of shootings, which include fatal and non-fatal shootings, were also up slightly last year over recent years.

It’s difficult to track non-fatal shootings of children 17 and younger, some of whom could have been fatalities had the bullet hit differently. But in 2022, there were 41 shooting incidents, which can include multiple victims, involving children 19 and under within two blocks of a school. Police do not identify shooting victims by name and age, only by age group. This was the second highest number of non-fatal shootings for children 19 and under over the last 10 years. There were more shooting incidents in 2016.

Chicago Public Schools officials say they are working on plans to address the violence. Leaders don’t think anything particularly new is happening at schools, but rather it’s in the context of high levels of gun violence in Chicago and around the nation.

But the heat is turning up on district and city officials to take action.

Our Nader Issa and WBEZ’s Sarah Karp, Ola Giwa and Matt Kiefer have more here.

More news you need

Elections 2023

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Chicago mayoral candidates attend the Project H.O.O.D. and Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s mayoral forum at New Beginnings Church in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The mayor’s race

Mayoral candidates kept it cordial at another forum Saturday morning that primarily focused on issues impacting the city’s Black and Brown communities, including preventing the exodus of Black Chicagoans.

The forum was hosted by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition at New Beginnings Church in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. Jackson attended and led the audience in prayer. Seven of the nine candidates participated. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Willie Wilson were absent. The discussion was mostly civil, though occasional boos from the audience were directed at former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.

Our Kaitlin Washburn details the forum here.

City Council races

North Side residents of two lakefront wards will choose new City Council members to represent them for the first time in 12 years — and they’ve got a combined 16 candidates to choose from.

The scramble was sparked by the decisions of Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) not to seek re-election, part of an exodus that will result in leadership turnover in nearly a third of the city’s 50 wards. Ten people are elbowing for position in the 48th Ward, while six are eyeing the 46th in the election now just over two weeks away. A candidate needs a majority to win, or else the top two vote-getters head to an April 4 run-off. Our Kade Heather has more on who’s running in these competitive races here.

In the 25th and 29th wards, incumbent City Council members Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and Chris Taliaferro (29th) are being challenged on their records on public safety.

Sigcho-Lopez and Chris Taliaferro aren’t keeping their constituents safe, their challengers say. But the data tells a more complex story, our Michael Loria reports here.

For a fuller picture of who’s on your ballot, how you can vote and more, be sure to use our free Voter Guide.

A bright one

Chicago Black Restaurant Week: Steeped in history, the event is ever-evolving

Black History Month brings with it many celebrations of Black culture, including the annual Chicago Black Restaurant Week.

This year, dozens of restaurants are taking part in the two-week event that will take place Feb. 12-26, with cuisines spanning from traditional soul to vegan to Cajun to Jamaican to much more.

Before there was a Black History Month Celebration (officially recognized nationally in 1976), historian Carter G. Woodson had created Negro History Week exactly five decades earlier. That earlier event was the impetus for publicist Lauran Smith to found Chicago Black Restaurant Week (CBRW) eight years ago.

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Chesaree Rollins, chef and owner of CheSa’s Bistro and Bar, is photographed at her Chicago restaurant earlier this week. The eatery is among the two dozen scheduled to participate in Chicago Black Restaurant Week.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

One of the businesses taking part in CBRW this year is CheSa’s Bistro & Bar (3230 W. Addison St.), an Avondale restaurant that opened last October and that specializes in gluten-free Cajun and soul offerings. Guests can savor such items as char-broiled Cajun oysters, crispy-skin salmon with sweet potatoes, cheddar jalapeño cornbread, fried honey butter chicken (with donuts!) and blackened lemon-pepper catfish.

Owner Chesa Rollins relied on at least two factors when determining her menu: travel (specifically, to New Orleans) and health. Regarding the former, “When I was in college, I would spend quite a bit of time in New Orleans with one of my sorority sisters,” she said. “I loved the cuisine. When I opened CheSa’s, I wanted someplace that was unique and different in Chicago but also good. I didn’t want to do [traditional] soul food so I thought of a Creole restaurant.”

As for the health aspect, Rollins said the gluten-free cuisine is a result of her own experience with celiac disease, which she didn’t discover she had until she was pregnant.

Andrew Davis has more on CBRW and CheSa’s for the Sun-Times here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What are your Valentine’s Day plans?

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

On Friday, we asked you: What do you think this year’s Super Bowl will be remembered for?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Two history-making moments, the Kelce brothers playing against each other and two Black quarterbacks playing against each other.” — Maurice Snell

“It won’t be remembered. Can anyone really remember any recent Super Bowls? Most people will remember what they are or maybe a commercial, but otherwise the game is usually an afterthought.” — Jeff Edstrom

“The commercial hype that overshadowed a great football game. It would be nice if the football game became the focus again.” — Will Bergmann

“Sheryl Lee Ralph singing.” — Stephanie M. Johnson

“Absolutely nothing with enough beer.” — Robert Baader

“Rihanna!” — Cristina Vega Mondragón

“Rowdy Eagles fans.” — Danny Ziemann

“Chris Stapleton!” — Cindy Curylo Baldocchi

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

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