Common Ground on Key Issues Among Latino And Black Voters in Chicago Mayoral Race

Early Voting in all 50 Wards opened Monday and the Chicago mayoral election is now less than two weeks away. A new study released today sheds light on which issues are top priority for Latino and Black voters, shaping their vote for the city’s next leader.

The Chicago Mayoral Study was led by The Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD) at Northwestern University and a coalition of local Latino and Black organizations, including Hispanic Federation, Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative, Latino Victory Project and the Latino Policy Forum.

“I was heartened to see that the city of big shoulders embraces efforts to integrate migrants into the community. Seventy nine percent of all Chicago likely voters polled responded favorably to the question to “create a humane and orderly way to allow immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to live and contribute to Chicago,� with 88 percent of Latinos, 78 percent of Black, and 76 percent of white people supporting the effort,� said Sylvia Puente, President and CEO of Latino Policy Forum.

Political analysts often talk about “the Latino vote� or “the Black vote,� but this study of 643 of Chicago’s registered voters found that shared concerns are driving this election, and Chicagoans are not necessarily voting for candidates of their shared race.

Crime is top of mind for many Chicago voters. The poll allowed participants to choose up to three issues they deemed important, with 46 percent of Latinos choosing crime and the majority of Black (54 percent) and white (64 percent) respondents identifying crime as a priority issue in this election.

Inflation and cost of living were the second most important issues, with all three groups in agreement.

Wages, police reform and affordable housing were the next three most important issues, further exemplifying that Black and Latino voters are concerned about the same things.

“Any candidate elected to lead Chicago’s City Hall must be ready to work on policy issues that will help Latino and Black communities thrive, and this poll is crucial in knowing where these communities stand,â€� said Nathalie Rayes, Latino Victory Project President & CEO. 

The differences among the communities show in who they’re voting for. 40 percent of Latino participants said they preferred or were leaning towards voting for Congressman Chuy Garcia. But, the overall vote is cutting close: Paul Vallas with 19 percent; Garcia 17 percent; Mayor Lori Lightfoot 14 percent; and Willie Wilson 12 percent. 

““This latest poll proves once again that Black and Latino voters are not a monolith and the issues that drive our communities to the ballot box are vast and diverse,” said Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of Hispanic Federation. 

Over 20 percent of voters said they are undecided and even after being prompted to choose one, 12 percent of voters still had not made a choice.

20 to 25 percent of each racial community expressed support for a candidate of a race outside of theirs, including 60 percent of Latino voters, 77 percent of Black voters and 75 percent of white voters.

Lightfoot is only the third Black mayor in Chicago’s history and Garcia is fighting to become the first Latino in the city’s executive office. According to the poll, both Latinos and Black voters rate a candidate’s ability to understand their community as top criteria for the position. 

Not only does the poll show unison in [voting priorities?], but it also shows a desire amongst Black and Latino voters to want to work together.

More than 70 percent of Black and Latino voters said that they think Chicago would be better if these two communities worked together on issues. 85 percent of Latinos and 75 percent of Black participants  think that Black and Latino communities have more in common when it comes to government and politics in Chicago. BSP Research, who conducted the study, found that such strong levels of perceived commonality, and the belief that acting on that commonality is mutually beneficial, is the foundation of coalition politics and pan-racial movements for social and political change.

Publisher’s Notes: The 2023 Chicago elections will take place in two rounds on February 28, 2023, and April 4, 2023.

Chicago’s 2023 Municipal Election will decide races for Mayor, Alderpeople in all 50 Wards, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and Police District Councils. All candidates for these positions can be found on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.

Are you registered to vote? No problem. Click HERE to find out.

Find your polling location for voting on election day by clicking HERE.

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health and democracy.

Cover Photo by Sora Shimazaki.

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Period Poverty Transcending Gender: The Call for An Inclusive Approach Towards Menstrual Equity

For many menstruators the cost of bleeding forces them to choose which essential need will be met that month. 

“It was that struggle of do I eat that day or do I buy sanitary products, what is my priority right now?� explained Vincent.

Like others who experience period poverty, socks and wadded up toilet paper became regular alternatives to menstrual products that Vincent could not afford. At one point, he was living in his car, utilizing a gym membership to shower, and showering as often as he could when he was short on products. 

Not only was Vincent houseless and dealing with the stigma of identifying as a transgender man, but he was a transgender Latino man who menstruates, experiencing several layers of marginalization in addition to the shame associated with bleeding. And according to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, LGBT-identifying people, who are also people of color “have a much higher chance of living in poverty compared to both white counterparts and cis straight members of their own ethnic or racial group.�

“Every month that it happened, I felt worse and worse about myself just because I associated it with being a woman,� he said.

Period poverty is an under-discussed public health crisis. It is widely considered a women’s issue, excluding many people who menstruate and assuming that all women do. This leaves transgender and non-binary people excluded from accessing products and resources that they may need. 

Ryann Kaplan is a 23-year-old in East Lansing, MI who identifies as non-binary. Although they have not experienced period poverty themself, they promote menstrual equity, creating gender inclusive dialogue and education through their work at Helping Women Period.

“I think that education and products are the two big pieces for including other gender identities,� said Kaplan. “So for us, that has been offering menstrual underwear for people who are non-binary or trans. Oftentimes insertion is something that’s wanted to be avoided, so pads, period underwear, those kinds of things can be used in placement of that.�

From inserting products into body parts you don’t feel connected to, to purchasing period products in hyper feminized packaging, both Kaplan and Vincent said that many aspects of menstruation can be triggering and dysphoric

“In the beginning of my journey, I felt really weird having a mustache and buying tampons,� said Vincent. “Even though I know in my mind that it’s normal for me because it’s my life, in my heart I feel like I’ve learned so many things that it makes me feel like I’m wrong and it kind of gives an imposter syndrome.�

For some, this results in avoiding buying products or ignoring potential health issues.

“From my personal experience, from the experience of my friends and those who I talk to, you are less connected to that cycle, you’re less willing to invest your time and energy into self care around the cycle and I don’t just mean taking a bubble bath, but things like tracking your cycle so you know when things are abnormal and when you find something abnormal you could go get medical care,� said Kaplan.

Vincent says that in his experience, among the transmasculine community, periods are extremely taboo.

“I would say the conversation is essentially non-existent,� he said. “Especially people who go on T, it stops being an issue and maybe in that way it aids the ignorance because you don’t have to deal with it anymore, so it’s not your issue anymore. But there are different parts of the transgender community who still do and I think it’s not fair to shut it out.�

Vincent, now 30, currently takes testosterone or “T�, as a gender affirming masculinizing hormone therapy. Transgender men and non-binary or other gender nonconforming individuals can utilize this therapy to increase male hormones in the body, suppressing female characteristics and causing physical changes similar to what one experiences during puberty – facial hair growth, change in voice, increase in muscle mass, etc.

While being on T has stopped Vincent’s period, this isn’t a simple solution. Not every transmasculine individual chooses to pursue hormone therapy and even if they do the change isn’t permanent.

“If I stop taking testosterone now, it’ll just come back,� said Vincent.

Though there is more push for gender inclusivity in ending period poverty in recent years, Kaplan says that non-binary people are underrepresented in this type of advocacy work. 

“I have yet to meet another person who is gender nonconforming really working in this space. I think that that is a part of the stigma too, like not feeling comfortable in it,� they said.

He says that many menstruation-related organizations are led by middle-aged white women, but there is a shift towards younger people taking the reins, and with that shift the potential for more inclusive measures to fight period poverty. 

“I’ve spoken with a lot of high schoolers all over the country and they are considering these things more so than I think older populations are,� he said. “They’re thinking about ‘should we take the products out of the bathrooms and put them somewhere else’ so that regardless of what bathroom you’re going in [you have products]. They’re asking these questions.�

One in three transgender adults in the U.S. experience homelessness, making the threat of period poverty a dire issue for the community and the need for visible trans and non-binary voices in this space.

“People think it’s taking away from women or taking away from women’s rights or what have you but I think it would be stronger to have a collective of people who all experience the same thing in different ways and have different journeys,â€� said Vincent. 

“It’s kind of like the J.K. Rowling argument we’ve seen a lot of like, where by using that term [menstruators] you’re discrediting women,� Kaplan told IL Latino News. “I think there’s always so much room for representation of any queer, gender diverse identity in professional spaces anyway.�


Publisher’s Note: “Period Poverty Transcending Genderâ€� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. ILLN Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S. 

Please consider participating in the Addressing Period Poverty or Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual surveys. We want to know your experiences dealing with menstruation and/or period poverty. In collecting this information, we hope to gain insight on how this issue affects those in our communities. 

For more information please contact

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Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? — Recap and Resource Guide

An estimated 300 million people menstruate around the world on any given day. Still, the stigma surrounding this normal bodily function contributes to the cycle of period poverty that leads many without the products and/or knowledge they need to maintain a healthy period.

Illinois Latino News and WBEZ Chicago collaborated on the January 31 virtual event Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? to explore this issue. Beyond defining period poverty, the event strived to illustrate its effects with video interviews featuring first-hand accounts and expert panelists at both the local and national level. Responses from the Addressing Period Poverty survey shaped the content of this conversation, by catering to the information respondents said they wanted to know.

Panelists included:

Abigail Suleman, Co-founder of Blood Buds and MPH student at UIC

Ida Melbye, Executive director of the Period Collective

Damaris Pereda, National programs director, PERIOD.

Dr. Sameena Rahman, Obstetrics and gynecology specialist at the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics 
Yesenia Raithel Vargas, Certified Nurse Midwife at Esperanza Health Centers

Menstruating people in Chicago describe what period poverty looked like in their lives.

One key finding of the survey highlighted the misconception of what period poverty is. Of 204 responses, 48 percent of people said that they have struggled to pay for period products, but only 39 percent said that they have experienced poverty. If someone has struggled to pay for period products, then they have in fact experienced period poverty.

“Period poverty for those who live on the street looks very different from period poverty for somebody who has most of the things that they need but, maybe there’s a month here and there where they can’t afford product that they need…� said Ida Melbye, co-founder of The Period Collective.

We asked survey respondents what words or phrases they associated with their periods.

Stigma drives negative associations with menstruation and prevents people from openly discussing it. Pain. Discomfort. Embarrassing. Dirty. Gross. Sad. These are some of the most common words respondents of the Addressing Period Poverty survey said that they associated with their periods. Especially in Black and Latinx communities, who are most affected by period poverty, many menstruators are taught from an early age to keep their periods private.

“My mom would always tell me nobody should know when you have that, no one,â€� said 51-year-old Trinidad Elisa Sanchez, who is originally from Chicago but now lives in Houston, Texas. 

This suppression has lasting effects. Instilling this taboo prevents folks from learning how to best care for their bodies or use menstrual products the recommended way. It also keeps those in need from seeking resources to help and leads to lasting internalized shame.

“I think it started my journey to not liking myself at that age, actually,â€� said 27-year-old Chloe Story from Elk Grove, California.  

This community conversation covered a variety of additional topics from access to products to gender norms and sexual health education. The full Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? can be viewed on both IL Latino News and WBEZ’s Youtube channels. Follow this link to rewatch the event in Spanish.

IL Latino News has created the list of resources below to continue this conversation and help point those in-need of products to local organizations who are able to help.

Organizations offering period products 

The Bloc (during their food pantry, every first friday of the month): ​​

Fourth Presbyterian Church Meals Ministry:

Gyrls in the H.O.O.D Foundation:

Nourishing Hope (ask for hygiene products):

Nourishing Hope (free home delivery for seniors and people with disabilities):

The Period Collective:

If you’d like to add an organization to this list, please contact

Learn more about menstruation and period poverty

Glossary for the Global Menstrual Movement:

It’s a Curse: Menstrual Shaming Needs to End Everywhere by Dr. Sameena Rahman:

Information about menstrual cups:

Locate your local PERIOD chapter:

Menstrual Hygiene Day:

National menstrual equity legislation: 

She Votes IL Menstrual Equity in IL Toolkit:

Tampon Tax Tracker:

What is Menstruation?:

Queer period activists:

Your first period:


Publisher’s Note: This event was supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Editor, reporter Annabel Rocha was named a 2022 National Fellow and committed to a series focused on period poverty in Illinois. 

More reporting on period poverty in Illinois by Rocha and Illinois Latino News

Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

ILLN Opinion+: Ida Melbye, The Period Collective 

What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?

Addressing Period Poverty survey

Encuesta Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual

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The Journey for a New Life: A Venezuelan Asylum Seekers Reveal Chicago’s Sanctuary City Integration Limitations

On a cold October night in Chicago, Javier Collina searched for shelter after traveling for six weeks by foot, bus, truck, and train from Colombia to the United States. Collina fled Venezuela earlier in 2022 due to the unlivable situation in Venezuela fueled by an economic crisis. The economic inflation fluctuated and even reached as high as 65,000% in 2018, according to the BTI transformation index

“I couldn’t feed my family when I lived in Venezuela or Colombia,â€� Collina said. 

Collina was initially turned away from the Salvation Army Freedom Center in Humboldt Park, one of nine shelters paid for by the City of Chicago and managed by the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS). Staff at the shelter told him they were full.

“I will sleep on the floor,� Collina pleaded. So, he did.

Collina is one of  3,854 Venezuelan asylum seekers to arrive in Chicago since Aug. 31, as reported by DFSS. Those fleeing Venezuela are part of the second-largest migration crisis in the world, according to the United Nations

Inadequate communication between city and state officials fell on the shoulders of asylum seekers searching for work and a new life. Abrupt and unannounced changes to shelter locations within the Chicago area and unseen indoor shelter conditions reveal a sanctuary city with an unsustainable long-term plan. 

A comprehensive plan is necessary to provide for these migrants, said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez. “[The City and State] are coordinating efforts without disclosing what is really going on in these locations,â€� he said. 

 The Reverberation of No Communication

In late August, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bussed Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to sanctuary cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. This was without any notice to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

Lightfoot and Pritzker publicly welcomed the migrants, per Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, and condemned the unannounced and disorderly decision by Abbott.

“The other states may be treating them as pawns; here in Illinois, we are treating them as people,� Pritzker said in a speech he gave on Sept. 14.

Gov. Pritzker’s asylum seeker welcome speech, initiating a disaster proclamation two weeks after they first arrived. Pritzker enlisted the help of the National Guard

During a Committee on Budget and Government Operations meeting on Oct. 15, DFSS Commissioner Brandie Knazze said the department is applying for a $16 million grant to support Chicago’s nonprofits for migrants. This grant would come from a $150 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) food and shelter grant. 

The City of Chicago set aside a $5 million contingency fund to cover costs associated with Venezuelan asylum seekers. It’s unclear how much has actually been spent between Aug. 31 and Dec. 1, according to Rose Tibayan, the director of public affairs, at Chicago’s Office of Budget Management.

After the asylum seekers arrived at Chicago Union Station, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) coordinated health screenings at intake centers. After a few days at intake centers, the asylum seekers were relocated to either hotels in suburbs under the state’s jurisdiction or shelters in the city managed by DFSS, Marisa Kollias, spokesperson for IDHS, said.

In early September, Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso found that Pritzker sent dozens of asylum seekers to the Hampton Inn hotel in his suburb without any warning.  Similarly, Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson was unaware of the decision to house asylum seekers at La Quinta Inn in his village, according to the Elk Grove newsletter, in September.

Letter from Mayor Grasso sent to Gov. Pritzker on Sept. 14.

“We can empathize with these refugees and want to help them, but we cannot do that effectively unless we properly communicate,� wrote Grasso.

The asylum seekers lived in Burr Ridge for 11 days before moving again to another location, according to a Burr Ridge Village press release.  

The La Quinta Hotel in Elk Grove is a two-hour train ride Northwest of downtown Chicago. 

People staying at the hotel are seen exiting the lobby to smoke cigarettes. After entering the hotel, we confirmed Venezuelans were staying there.  Credit: Kala Hunter.

“I directly asked the mayor’s office and state representatives if I could visit the shelters to verify the conditions that the refugees are under. Not once was I given the opportunity to see these facilities,â€� said Sigcho-Lopez.

The Unsustainable Process

The Chicago Mexican American center Little Village Community Council (LVCC) aims to serve the community through social services. The placement of asylum seekers in the suburbs was nonsensical, LVCC President Baltazar Enriquez said.

“The mayor put them as far as possible, [away from] Latinx neighborhoods like Little Village, Back of the Yards, or Pilsen,â€� said Enriquez. 

Caption: Yorvi Rivas, 35, describes his journey from South America at a Subway in Little India. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

Yorvi Rivas, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, was in a shelter in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood and accessed free legal assistance and a CityKey. He found these resources through northside city nonprofit Centro Romero. 

CityKey is a government ID that has benefits, including transit passes and discounts from business partners and prescription drugs. Since August, the Chicago City Clerk has printed 9,000 CityKeys that help Chicago residents, including asylum seekers, according to the Office of the City Clerk.  

However, CityKeys are not available to asylum-seekers placed in the ten state-sponsored suburbs.

Hidden Conditions Within 

Rivas resides in a makeshift shelter that was once a public library. The shelter accommodates over 100 asylum seekers and lacks basic necessities, said Rivas.

“We have the option of using a shower at another location, but it can take up to an hour to travel to and from; so I just don’t shower,â€� Rivas said. 

Sigcho-Lopez and Enriquez said they encountered challenges trying to check the conditions within city and state shelters. Sigcho-Lopez visited a shelter in Harvey after not receiving any response from officials. 

“What I saw was shameful,â€� said Sigcho-Lopez. 

The children at this shelter were not able to go outside, he said. Sigcho-Lopez also heard reports of drug use inside the shelter. The asylum seekers at the shelter have since been relocated to Bridgeport. 

City shelter placement is also unreliable. Rivas said he has been moved 15 times. 

The Salvation Army, where Collina stayed, addresses emergency homelessness, drug addiction, rehabilitation and other social welfare programs, according to the organization’s official website.

“They aren’t helping them find jobs, and they are not interested in these people,� Enriquez said. “[It] has become like a little jail.�

The Salvation Army and DFSS declined to be interviewed about the conditions within the shelters. 

The Salvation Army at 825 N Christiana Ave where Collina eventually found refuge. As of Nov. 16, 2022, asylum seekers were no longer being housed in this shelter. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

They Are Here to Work

“They [Venezuelan asylum seekers] want to work,â€� said Immigration Legal Assistant Frank Sandoval with the Spanish Community Center, a United Way nonprofit agency. “That’s why they are here.â€�

An isolated Holiday Inn on Cumberland Avenue has given refuge to family asylum seekers since September. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

Delmar Janampa and his wife, Nairubi Janampa, were sent to the Holiday Inn near the Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 4, nearly two months after the family left South America on foot. Nairobi Janampa interviewed to work as a cleaning person at a hair salon a few blocks from the hotel.

Yorvi stood outside a Home Depot near his shelter with a sign that said, “I am looking for a job,â€� and found a painting job that lasted only a few weeks. 

Collina had no legal help in applying to seek asylum since arriving in Chicago. He is working at a restaurant under the table, meaning he receives payment in cash and isn’t registered in the employer’s payroll. 

Janampases, Collina, Yorvi have one year to apply for asylum since entering the United States, according to Sandoval. 

“What usually happens is that asylum seekers come by themselves, and they fend for themselves,� said Helena Olea, a human rights lawyer at Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations.

Eduardo Caceres translated interviews for Collina and Yorvi, and Johan Gotera translated for the Janampases.

Collina helps hold the Venezuelan flag between two other Venezuelans at an Illinois Venezuelan Alliance (IVA) meeting at the University of Illinois Chicago) Credit: Kala Hunter.


Between 2014 and 2020, the Venezuelan economy shrank by two-thirds due to failed social policy, spurring a humanitarian crisis causing 9.3 million Venezuelans to go hungry, according to Human Rights Watch. 

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro committed human rights violations ranging from the persecution of political opponents, to attacks on demonstrators, and killings in low-income communities, according to Human Rights Watch.  

Maduro rose to power in 2014 and maintained it through censorship, repression, and electoral manipulation. In 2018, Maduro was reelected despite the condemnation of an unfair election. Throughout the last eight years, 7.1 million Venezuelans, 25 percent of the country, have fled to neighboring countries such as Colombia and Peru, according to the United Nations.

In May, Title 42, which prohibited migrants from entering the country out of

concern for the spread of contagious diseases, was terminated. This allowed thousands of Venezuelan and other South American asylum-seekers to enter the country for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Two ways of obtaining legal work authorization are possible in the U.S. One way is by applying for Temporary Protective Status. The alternative is to apply for asylum. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides both asylum and TPS cases. 

According to the data-clearing organization at Syracuse University, only 7.2% of the 3,720 asylum seekers who arrived in Chicago in September and October applied for asylum.

The asylum application process can take anywhere from six to nine months and require a professional to help navigate, said immigration legal assistant Frank Sandoval. 

Temporary Protective Status is available to Venezuelans due to the severe humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. On July 11, USCIS extended TPS for Venezuelans by 18 months. The extension is in effect from Sept. 10, 2022 to March 20, 2024. 

Between January 2021 and Oct. 21, 237,000 Venezuelans attempted to enter the U.S. In September, 34,000 Venezuelans entered Texas, according to the Migration Policy Institute. 

Since December of last year, New York City has received 32,000 migrants from Texas, more than eight times the amount than Chicago. Washington D.C. received a total of 8,400 Venezuelan asylum seekers since September of last year.

New York Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency on Oct. 7. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has employed 147 members of the New York National Guard. 

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested help and was rejected twice by the National Guard. The D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine stated $150,000 designated funds as grants to six local groups for expenses related to housing, clothing, and transportation, according to a Sept. 1 press release

Thousands of asylum seekers ended up in the shelter system. NYC opened an 84,000-square-foot tent camp on Randall’s Island, according to the New York Times on Oct. 22. 

Cover Photo: Volunteers help migrants bused from Texas to Washington, D.C. endure their first winter. Credit: Danna Matheus

Kala Hunter is an environmental journalist passionate about climate change mitigation and environmental justice. Kala writes about regenerative food systems, endangered species, and urban forestry. She is currently earning her Masters in Journalism at Northwestern University.

Chelsea Zhao is a graduate student of health, science and environment journalism at Northwestern University. Her previous work appeared in Cicero Independiente, Southside Weekly, and the Caregiving magazine. She is passionate about topics of environmental racism, climate change and sustainability. 

Publisher’s Note: Illinois Latino News is dedicated to covering the social determinants of health. A social determinant of health approach has seldom been applied to immigration. A report in Annual Reviews finds that global patterns of morbidity and mortality follow inequities rooted in societal, political, and economic conditions produced and reproduced by social structures, policies, and institutions. The lack of dialogue between these two profoundly related phenomena—social determinants of health and immigration—has resulted in missed opportunities for public health research, practice, and policy work. 

Part of Illinois Latino News’ (ILLN) mission is to provide mentoring and real work experiences to students. ILLN also amplifies the work of others in providing voice and visibility to the Hispanic-Latino community. ILLN is grateful to collaborate with schools of higher education like Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in fulfilling that commitment.

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Voters will choose District Council to improve public safety and police accountability

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health and democracy.

120 candidates filed petitions
 for Chicago’s newly-created District Council positions on Nov. 28, a few months ahead of the February 2023 municipal elections. City voters will be able to elect three members in their police district for the first time, along with the next mayor, city clerk, city treasurer, and alderpeople.

These positions form part of a new system for police oversight, accountability, and public safety in the city. Called Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS), this coalition encourages community engagement and input to hold police accountable and create safe neighborhoods. 

ECPS now oversees the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the Police Board.

“We believe that it’s necessary for the community to have not just a voice, but a decisive voice in what happens in their communities around policing and public safety,â€� said Dod McColgan, Co-Chair of Chicago Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARP). 

The ECPS ordinance passed through City Council in July of 2021. It was created by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) with support from thousands of city residents and several churches, labor unions, and community and faith-based organizations.

Under the ordinance plan, District Council positions were created in each of the city’s 22 police districts. Voters will be able to elect three members in their district in the upcoming local election, a total of 66 positions citywide.

District Council members will have several key roles:

â—� Serve as the eyes and ears of the community

â—� Hold monthly public meetings

â—� Collaborate in the development and implementation of new safety initiatives

â—� Get input on police department policies and practices

â—� Ensure that the city-wide Commission gets input from the community

� Nominate members of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability

“No, you can’t do that�

Report by Stephania Rodriguez, Depaul University

William Guerrero is a 21-year-old native of the Southwest Pilsen neighborhood and is running for District Council in the 12th District. He is the youngest candidate running for the position and is motivated by the needs of people in his community as well as setting an example for young people.

The 12th Police District includes east parts of Pilsen, parts of the West Loop, Near West Side and Wicker Park. Between 2019 to 2021, the district saw a substantial increase in carjackings and murders, according to Block Club Chicago.

“A lot of events have happened to the point where I see youth getting killed by the police,� Guerrero said. “And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t do that’. You signed an oath to protect and serve the community and by killing the kids … it’s not right.�

ECPS also created a city-wide, seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) that will decide CPD policy, establish public safety goals, and play a central role in selecting police leadership. Members on this commission are nominated by District Council members and the mayor, and are confirmed by City Council.

CPD, historically known for police misconduct and abuse, was placed under a federal consent decree in 2019, following a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014. This court-mandated settlement was initially set for five years but was extended out to eight years in March.

The early years of the consent decree were beset by missed deadlines and lagging compliance, according to WTTW.

“Long overdue� and a “step in the right direction�

McColgan said ECPS is the “most democratic police accountability structure that exists anywhere in the country.â€� 

“There are other attempts at civilian oversight in other cities– what makes ours unique is specifically cops being barred from participation,� McColgan said. “Frequently, when cities attempt to implement some form of civilian oversight, they want to bring police together at the table with residents and that is a table that is going to be by its nature tilted toward the police.�

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who supported the passing of the ECPS ordinance, said the new system is “long overdue� and a “step in the right direction.�

“This was something that Mayor Lightfoot campaigned on when she ran for office– civilian oversight of the police,� Sigcho-Lopez said. “In fact, Mayor Lightfoot promised to do this within the first 100 days in office. I mean, we’re barely implementing this towards the end [of her term].�

For the upcoming municipal elections, Sigcho-Lopez stresses the need to not only support progressive police accountability structures but also to demand that candidates running for mayor support police reform. 

“When people are campaigning as a progressive, I think that we have to ask people for a plan: what is the plan when it comes to working with ECPS? Working to hold CPD accountable and actually changing the practices of the department?,� he said. “Not to come and, unfortunately, as we saw in the last three years, to say one thing in public but do a separate, completely different thing when they’re governing.�

ECPS faced many struggles and opposition from city officials in informing the public about its existence before the ordinance passed last year, including obstruction from certain alderpeopleto get the ordinance passed. Now, McColgan says the city is “dragging its feetâ€� on informing the public on the District Council positions. 

“We’re spreading the word as much as we can about their existence,� McColgan said. “But any help that people can provide in spreading that word and letting people know, ‘when you go to vote in February, you’ll have a district council member on your ballot, and that’s the person that’s supposed to represent you and your community on issues of police accountability and public safety’.�

“[These are] really important issues that are relevant to all of us. So, pay attention to that, pay attention to who your district council members are.�

Stephania Rodriguez

Stephania Rodriguez is a Depaul University student majoring in Journalism and minoring in Latinx Media and Communication.

Stephania was one of six fellows in the inaugural Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture sponsored by the Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF).

The annual first-in-class free 12-week program led by the Owner/Publisher of the Latino News Network and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Hugo Balta provides practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

IL Latino News partners with DePaul University and many schools of higher education in providing students mentoring and real work experiences.

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What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?

Scotland made international headlines in August becoming the first country to provide free period products to its citizens. While the U.S. isn’t there, legislation supporting menstrual equity has been cycling through multiple states increasingly over the last few years. Illinois has been progressive on this issue, becoming the third state to end the “tampon tax� in 2016, and introducing and implementing several bills into law in 2021 and 2022.

States highlighted in red currently implement the “tampon tax” on menstrual hygiene items such as pantyliners, tampons and menstrual pads.

With so many bills being introduced, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s become the law of the land. IL Latino News spoke to legislators and other parties involved to figure out who these laws are designed to support.

Low-income people

16.9 million U.S. menstruators live in poverty, making the price of hygiene products extra costly. Without government aid, some people in need rely on community-driven initiatives for pads, tampons and pantyliners. 

“I’m hoping that the bill HB 155 can close a part of that gap because right now you can get menstrual hygiene products in food pantries or little donation events here and there however, it’s not enough,� said House Representative Barbara Hernandez.

Rep. Hernandez introduced the bill to allow SNAP and WIC recipients to use their benefits to purchase diapers and period products. It is already a public act, effective January 2022. In theory, it would benefit a percentage of the 1,090,161 Illinois households receiving SNAP. In actuality, no one is benefitting right now. 

Because SNAP and WIC are federally funded programs, the state initiative cannot be enacted upon without a waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. 

“I’ve been trying to contact a few Congress individuals that can push this to increase the funding for SNAP but also include menstrual hygiene products in SNAP in order for us to apply for this waiver and make it legal in Illinois,� said Hernandez.

People experiencing housing insecurity 

House Representative LaToya N. Greenwood sponsored the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act in 2021, providing free products in all shelters that serve temporary housing to women or youth.

She said hearing stories of what people used to supplement products prompted her into action.

“The reusing feminine napkins, makeshift napkins, paper towels and newspapers, it was like where are we living? We’re living in the United States, why is this happening? I couldn’t comprehend it but I knew that it was something that needed to change.�

This law states that shelters are only required to comply if they have availability of funds in their general budget for products. Rep. Greenwood expressed her desire to follow up and hold institutions accountable.

“I think sometimes we pass legislation and we just think everything is going the way we intended it to go and then you find out it’s absolutely not going the way you intended it to go, so we need to have some real conversations about that with directors of departments to find out where we are at,� she said.

Public schools students

2017’s Learn with Dignity Act mandated public schools (grades 6-12) to provide free “feminine hygieneâ€� products in restrooms. 2021’s House Bill 156, led by Rep. Hernandez, switched the original gendered language to “menstrual hygieneâ€�, expanded coverage to fourth grade, and required boys and gender-neutral bathrooms to contain free products as well.  

“That one got the most pushback because the concept of the whole ‘what is a woman’ and ‘men don’t have periods.’ That was a big effort to create awareness, educate the public and really get people to get on board,� said Maureen Keane, Co-founder of She Votes IL.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) introduced girls+ and boys+ restrooms in 2021 as a gender-affirming initiative for students, despite backlash from some parents.

“The reality is that in a few years we might see more transgender youth and I want to make sure that we’re taking those steps ahead now to make sure that they feel comfortable going to those restrooms whenever they need,” said Hernandez.

“Our goal is really [to have products] in all buildings, all bathrooms,� said CPS Executive Director of the Office of Student Health and Wellness (OSHW) Tarrah DeClemente.

The products are stored in metal dispensers traditionally found in public restrooms. According to DeClemente, a supply chain issue of these dispensers has slowed the integration of free products in all required restrooms.

“All schools have product, it’s just a matter of getting it into the boys+ restrooms, but all schools have dispensers and products in girls+,â€� she explained. 

Anecdotal research by NPR Illinois suggested that products were not available in all public Illinois schools in 2020. IL Latino News is investigating the current status of implementation in CPS.       

Incarcerated Illinoisians

Rep. Hernandez’s HB 4218 passed in December, requiring all Illinois Department of Corrections facilities to provide menstrual hygiene products for free and as needed, for all incarcerated people who menstruate. 

She Votes IL worked heavily on drafts of this bill and Keene says they were adamant about including underwear as period supplies – an item that usually isn’t included on these lists and an essential that isn’t accessible to all committed people. 

“If you need new underwear you need to buy them at the commissary. If you need more than six pads you need to buy them at the commissary,� she said. Under the new policy, free underwear must be given free of charge, and upon request, including multiple requests.

“It’s a denial of basic human rights to expect incarcerated Illinoisans to manage on a limited supply, said Rep. Hernandez

The future of menstrual equity 

2022 closed with initiatives produced by Illinois legislators at the federal level.

“It’s picking up. People are being open minded about this and I know here in the state some people looked at me like ‘why are we talking about this? Why are we legislating about it?… But I realized that it is a big issue, not only in Illinois but across the country,â€� said Rep. Hernandez.

IL Congressman Sean Casten and NY Congresswoman introduced the Period PROUD Act of 2022 to make menstruation more affordable for all Americans. 

In the press release, Rep. Casten stated “The Period PROUD Act removes that cost-barrier for the 22 million women living in poverty and ensures that a period will never have to prevent someone from going to school or showing up to work. Menstruation is a natural process and the products it requires should be freely accessible.�


Publisher’s Note: “What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?â€� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. ILLN Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S. 

Please consider participating in the Addressing Period Poverty or Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual surveys. We want to know your experiences dealing with menstruation and/or period poverty. In collecting this information, we hope to gain insight on how this issue affects those in our communities. 

We hope to use the data collected from this survey to shape our storytelling and provide the answers you most want to hear during our upcoming event with WBEZ “Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?� on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

For more information please contact

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Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?

About 26 percent of the world population menstruates. Shame and stigma inhibits education and access to essential hygiene products for people who menstruate, and it happens everywhere. In the U.S., nearly two-thirds of low-income women couldn’t afford tampons or pads in 2018. Period poverty particularly impacts low income and unhoused communities, as well as people in Black and Brown communities.

Join Illinois Latino News and WBEZ for a free virtual conversation defining period poverty and exploring its covert effects on people across Chicago and around the world. During the program, we’ll hear from panelists like Ida Melbye, the executive director of the Period Collective, and Abigail Suleman, co-founder of the Blood Buds UIC initiative, plus more. Reporter and editor of ILLN Annabel Rocha will host the event.

You can participate by sharing your experiences with menstruation through this survey.

SUGGESTION: Period Poverty In Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

Publisher’s note: “Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. IL Latino News Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S. 

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El Mercado Navideño

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Lower West Side is home to one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections, including more than 18,000 seminal pieces from ancient Mexico to the present.

The museum hosted its annual Mercado Navideño highlighting hand-crafted holiday gift ideas from Mexico including ornaments, nativity scenes, art, jewelry, apparel and toys.

Story by Citlalli Magali Sotelo, Columbia College Chicago

In 1982, Carlos Tortolero organized a group of fellow educators and founded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, which opened its doors in 1987. The goal was to establish an arts and cultural organization committed to accessibility, education and social justice.

In 2001, the museum expanded to a 48,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Pilsen and in 2006 we unveiled a new name, the National Museum of Mexican Art.

National Museum of Mexican Art,
1852 W 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608

The National Museum of Mexican Art also hosts cultural programs — including symposia, theater, dance, music, authors and performance companies — that share the rich diversity of the Mexican culture.

For more information click HERE.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, is a 21-year-old Mexican-American and a first-generation college student. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago and aspire to be a bilingual or trilingual journalist.

Sotelo is one of the students in the Creating the TV News Package class taught by Hugo Balta. Balta is the Publisher of Illinois Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

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Gentrifying Latino neighborhoods see taxes jump dramatically

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic stability means that people have the resources essential to a healthy life. Factors affecting economic stability include affordable housing; employment that provides a living wage; things that support employment, like worker protections, paid sick leave, and child care; and access to reliable transportation.

CHICAGO | Property taxes are up in Cook County; on average, homeowners saw an increase of 8 percent this year.

According to an analysis from Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office, taxes levied on real estate rose by 3.8 percent, to $16.7 billion, in 2021. The total amount billed countywide increased by $614 million over the previous tax year. As a result, homeowners are picking up $330 million.

Some gentrifying working-class Latino neighborhoods in Chicago saw their taxes jump dramatically. On the primarily Latino Lower West Side, homeowner’s median tax bill rose to $7,239 from $2,275 in 2020.

“The system is broken,â€� said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward covers much of the Lower West Side that saw the biggest hikes. â€œThis is simply unethical.â€� Sigcho-Lopez blamed corrupt politicians and called for reforms to the property tax system.

“‘My property tax is too damn high’ – they have to pass it on to the renters,â€� said Moises Moreno, who runs The Pilsen Alliance, a social justice organization. Moreno said homeowners will feel the effects of the spike first, and renters will feel it on their next lease.

Pilsen neighborhood (Pictures by Hugo Balta)

“There are still inequities in our property tax system and we need to straighten it out,â€� Pappas said. The increased tax burden is not shared equally. Homeowners will pay 54 percent of the rise, while businesses will pay 46 percent, the treasurer said.

Not all taxes are going up. Relief is coming to owners in predominantly Black neighborhoods. In West Garfield Park, homeowner taxes dropped by almost 45 percent. Decreases of $1,000 or more in commercial median taxes occurred on the South Side, including the Pullman, Burnside, Chatham, Calumet and South Chicago areas, reports The Real Deal.

Purple shows the parts of Chicago seeing the sharpest spikes in property taxes.
The areas in pink saw the sharpest drops. 
(Cook County Treasurer)

Pappas pointed to several reasons behind the hikes:

  • Tax increment financing districts
  • Rising property assessments
  • New state law allowing local governments to recoup losses from reassessed property taxes

The Cook County Treasurer called the law, known as a recapture provision, an “automatic tax increaseâ€� with “no oversight whatsoever.â€� That provision alone added $131 million to the county tax bill and accounted for one-fifth of the increase.

Pappas said the majority of property tax money goes to funding schools. To save homeowners from being priced out, she said county residents need to consider funding schools in other ways.

Property taxes also go toward infrastructure, public works projects, first responders, and more. Bills are calculated after several steps:

  • Local governments, including school and park districts, set their property tax levy to help pay for operations
  • The assessor sets the values of properties, then makes adjustments for exemptions or other incentives. 
  • The clerk then determines tax rates based on various levies and overall assessed values for each unit of government. 
  • The treasurer then sends out the bills, collects payments and distributes the money to local governments.

“The lack of political willingness to address this issue has cost us,â€� said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who represents the Lower West Side. “Thousands of residents have been displaced, and when is it going to be enough? 

Editor’s Notes: Homeowners can find their property tax bill by clicking HERE.

IL Latino News sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


This story was first published as “Neighborhoods Gentrifying Fastest See Property Tax Skyrocket� in The Chicago Reporter (TCR).

ILLN and TCR, partners in best serving the Latino community.

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Sazón De IL: Los Hermanos Sotelo

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic stability means that people have the resources essential to a healthy life. Factors affecting economic stability include affordable housing; employment that provides a living wage; things that support employment, like worker protections, paid sick leave, and child care; and access to reliable transportation.

Bordering the Chicago River on the Lower West Side is Pilsen, a neighborhood rich in Latino culture and decorated with dozens of ornate murals and as many award-winning restaurants.

One of the many Mexican-inspired eateries is “5 Rabanitos” in the historic district’s West 18th Street. It’s there that Alfonso Sotelo, the first part of the story of two brothers, immigrants achieving their “American dream,” begins.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, Columbia College Chicago

It is at the Pilsen restaurant that you will find Alfonso plating his favorite dish, Puerco Al Rancho: slow roasted pork with Mole Estilo Guerrero, Mexican rice, and green beans. A few minutes south, you will find brother Jaime Sotelo doing the same at “Chile Toreado” in McKinley Park.

Puerco Al Rancho (Photo Courtesy: 5 Rabanitos)

Both men honor the cuisine that they grew up with in Mexico by offering hand-made and hand-pressed tortillas to regional dishes like tlayudas from Oaxaca.

The Sotelo brothers are two of the 1.7 million immigrants who call Chicago home. Many, like the Sotelo’s small businesses, keep Main Street vibrant, regardless of the economy, including when COVID-19 basically shut down the City.

Alfonso Sotelo (Photo by Citlalli Magali Sotelo)
Jaime Sotelo (Photo by Citlalli Magali Sotelo)

“We have seen 4,700 new businesses get new licenses since the beginning of … the pandemic,â€� said Isabel Velez-Diez, in an interview with WTTW’s Latino Voices. “We’ve also seen the license renewal stay at the same percentage as it was pre pandemic. So we are very hopeful, optimistic that things are looking up and things are getting slowly but surely back to normal,â€� said the director of economic recovery at the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Still, inflation has been squeezing small businesses that made gains from the economic strain caused by the pandemic.

“I think one of the things that we’re seeing right now is the cost of rent, utilities, payroll, it’s going to continue going up and we’re looking at different types of businesses that are creating different business models that have adapted since the pandemic,� Pilsen Chamber of Commerce secretary Jackson Flores said.

Inflation has especially hit hard the restaurant industry. In August, the cost for consumers to purchase food away from home rose by 8.3 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to a report by Modern Restaurant Management. Additionally, menu prices at casual dining establishments rose by an average of 9 percent year over year from 2021. This inflation at the customer–facing end of the restaurant business has primarily been driven by rapidly increasing operating costs – by as much as 11.7 percent. Worse, inflation isn’t forecast to ease until late next year. It is predicted to fall to 3-to-4 percent by the end of 2023, according to economic projections by Kiplinger

For the Sotelo Brothers, one of 80,000 Latino business owners in Chicago, authenticity is on the menu and key to weathering any economic storm.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, is a 21-year-old Mexican-American and a first-generation college student. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago and aspire to be a bilingual or trilingual journalist.

Sotelo is one of the students in the Creating the TV News Package class taught by Hugo Balta. Balta is the Publisher of Illinois Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

Cover Photo courtesy of Chile Toreado

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