Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

Gray skies and clouds signal spotted rain showers above the heads of folks bundled in their winter coats, lining their carritos up along the side of a former church on Karlov and Kamerling Ave. They know the drill. Line up and wait for their number to be called, a recent change added to prevent arguments over who was there first or who stepped out of line. It’s the first Friday of October, and although distribution begins at noon– two hours later– the line is already curving around the corner in anticipation of The Bloc’s monthly pantry pop-up.

The Bloc sits in Humboldt Park, Chicago’s West Side neighborhood known for its rich Puerto Rican culture. 55.4 percent of Humboldt Park residents are Hispanic and 30.9 percent have an annual household income of less than $25,000. The statistics are reflected in the line, which consists of mostly middle-aged to elder Latinos.

Prepping the table of hygiene products sparks a comment from one of the volunteers, expressing frustration about her teen daughter who has been giving her period products to other students at their all-girls Catholic high school.

“Well, what if they don’t have products?� Operations Manager Tanya Bermudez asked, matter-of-factly.

This lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, education or waste management is referred to as period poverty, or menstrual poverty. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many people this phenomenon affects, but according to the Journal of Global Health Reports, 500 million people lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities worldwide, and in the U.S.,16.9 million people who menstruate live in poverty.

An obvious contributor to period poverty is cost. Illinois eliminated the tampon tax in 2016, although 22 states still tax menstrual products as luxury items. Prices of products vary depending on brand, preferred product type and flow–but menstruating is expensive. In fact, CVS recently announced a plan to reduce the price of their brand of period products by 25 percent to promote menstrual equity. Monthly tampon use over a person’s lifetime is estimated to cost $1,800 and the price is increasing.

This year, inflation and supply chain issues raised the average price of menstrual pads by 8.3 percent and tampons by 9.8, according to NielsenIQ. For people already struggling to get by, this can be the difference between having a healthy period or having money for groceries.

Product distribution, like The Bloc’s Pantry Pop Up, are community-driven solutions attempting to bridge the gap towards product access. The Bloc originated as a free youth mentor and boxing program, but has expanded its services and now offers free groceries, cleaning supplies, period products and more on a biweekly basis.

When Bermudez joined The Bloc in September 2021, she saw an immediate need to reorganize the type of period products being ordered for distribution.

“Right away I knew we had way too many tampons, I know that this demographic wants pads, like I just already knew that,� Bermudez said.

A study of low-income women between the ages of 18 to 35 showed that 22 percent of English-speaking Latinas and only 5 percent of Spanish-speaking Latinas used tampons in adolescence, citing concerns that tampons were inappropriate for virgins or that they didn’t know how to use them.

Tanya explained her experience growing up in a Latino household, “It was very taboo to even talk about. I was very curious and you know, my mother, me regañaba if I had wanted to use a tampon. It’s like no, you’re not supposed to use that and I didn’t know why, that was never explained to me.�

Ida Melbye runs The Period Collective, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides period products to many organizations throughout the state, including The Bloc. She also noticed this preference.

“I hardly ever get ‘we prefer tampons over pads’ but I get all the time ‘we prefer pads over tampons,’ I think that it is partially cultural, partially it’s an age thing,� she said.

As the distribution begins, this becomes evident. The menstrual product station is the first table in the lineup of donations, and the first few women in line rush over to stock up on boxes of menstrual pads and pantyliners. They glaze over the crates of shiny blue and purple tubes. Tampons are left behind as pads fly off the table. This predominantly Latino community demonstrates an aspect of culture that shies away from insertable products like tampons.

Although this option isn’t as popular, Bermudez is passionate about including as many different brands and product types as possible. She explained that it allows people to test new things without taking a gamble.

“If you’re curious you can try it and not have to pay for a box of stuff you’re not going to be able to use.� she said. “I want to make variety accessible.�

A 20-something-year-old mom approached the table and grabbed two boxes of product, reaching for an additional handful of individually wrapped pads. Her toddler son, wearing a Pickachu-yellow Pokeman jacket, balanced a stack of white maxi pads tucked under his chin for support as his mother guided him towards the next station.

By 12:25 p.m. there was a huge dent in the amount of products left, versus the amount that lined the hallways earlier that morning. Crates, bins, and boxes full of product sat along stairs and training areas of the gym. By the end of distribution, only tampons will be left.

“Those go back in the bin for next time,� said Bermudez.

Community food pantries and free products won’t solve the issue of period poverty alone. Organizers and politicians in Illinois have implemented legislation, and are crafting more, to support menstrual equity in the state. It’s a fight that continues, because whether products are affordable or not, and whether legislation supports it or not, people are going to menstruate.

“We would need trucks full of pallets to fill the need. It’s never enough.�


Publisher’s note: “Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions Fighting Against the Issue� 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 Reporting Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S.

ILLN views our audience as collaborators and in covering this topic, we need your help.

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. Please consider participating in the Addressing Period Poverty or Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual surveys.

We hope to use the data collected from this survey to shape our storytelling and provide the answers you most want to hear.

For more information please contact

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“We Don’t Feel Represented”

Voting in the United States can often be an inaccessible process preventing eligible voters, particularly in marginalized communities, from casting their ballot. This is especially true for Hispanic Latinos. Many of them are new to the electoral process, either because they just came of age or in the case of foreign-born members of the group – they just became naturalized citizens.

Nationally, college students voted at nearly the same rate as all adults in the 2020 general election — 66 percent to the national average of 67 percent.

Still, both major political parties favor older Americans as they tend to outperform young people at the polls; leaving many young people feeling ignored, disconnected, and uninterested.

Giana Aguilar-Valencia, a journalism student at DePaul University, and also an Hortencia Zavala Foundation fellow in the Journalism Camp: Covering Race, ethnicity, and culture – hosted a special edition of the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…”

The episode was a roundtable discussion about youth voting at the midterm elections, with Sara Cabral, a 21-year-old, Communications Student at DePaul University and Dylan Duncan, also 21-years-old and a Film Student at Columbia College. 

There are high expectations for young voters to get to the polls this year. According to CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University’s Tisch College, voter turnout in Illinois among young adults ages 18 to 29 increased from 42percent in the 2016 election to 46percent in the 2020 election.

Publisher’s Notes: Part of the Latino News Network’s mission is to mentor young journalists, providing them real work experience. LNN partners with the Hortencia Zavala Foundation to that end.

IL Latino News, and sister markets under the Latino News Network (LNN), have put together voter informational guides with the help of our partner Be The Ones, to assist voters make informed decisions not only at the polls, but in their engagement with democracy going forward.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

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Democracy in Illinois: Reproductive Justice in the Midwest

With this election riding off the wave of Roe v. Wade being overturned just a few months before, it’s safe to say that reproductive justice is one of the biggest issues impending in this election.

Voter turnout tends to be lower during midterms, although over 5.5 million Americans have already cast their vote in this election. Still, evidence supports the existence of voter suppression in communities of color, making voter access another important topic in this election.    

“For people of color, historically, elections have not benefited them. Promises are broken, racism exists to where they say ‘why bother, my vote doesn’t count’,â€� said Maureen Keane, co-founder of She Votes IL. “And so we all need to take a hard look at what that means. And how do we make those corrections to make marginalized communities be able to use their power and vote.â€� 

There’s power in these numbers. Latinos are the fastest growing racial-ethnic group in the country. According to Pew Research Center, 34.5 million Hispanic Americans are eligible to vote this year. This number has increased by 4.7 million from the Midterm Election in 2018, accounting for 62 percent of total growth of eligible voters.

What’s at stake in this election?

While Wisconsin health providers ceased performing abortions, enacting an 1849 abortion ban after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, these procedures remain legal in Illinois. This prompted a partnership between Planned Parenthood in these states to fill the need for the influx of people traveling across state lines for treatment.

Reproductive justice is most often associated with abortion rights and access. In the broader sense, this term encompasses a human’s right to control their own body and make decisions regarding reproduction, sexuality, gender, childrearing and more. 

As Keane explained, “Reproductive justice is the access to reproductive healthcare, the affordability of reproductive healthcare, [and the freedom from] discrimination [and] racism that creates those barriers.” 

When asked which issues were “very important� to their decision-making in this election, Pew reports that 71 percent of Latino registered voters said healthcare and 57 percent said abortion.

Several bills in the works could have an impact on reproductive rights in Illinois, including HB1464 which protects Illinois reproductive healthcare providers from treating out of state patients. Those placed in power during this election can enact bills and policies that directly impact the future of reproductive justice going forward.

Which are some important roles to know?

Graphic courtesy of Be The Ones

How can these positions impact reproductive justice?

The Governor can:

  • Sign/veto bills increasing access and opportunity
  • Influence state legislature on direction and priorities (abortion access, contraception, insurance coverage, Title X, gender-affirming care, etc.)
  • Include funding in state budget for reproductive justice policies and programs
  • Hire or fire some senior-level state roles
  • Champion insurance policies for state employees (bereavement including miscarriage, paid family leave, medically necessarytransition-related care)

The District Attorney can:

  • Prioritize defending civil rights and reproductive justice through decisions on health-related investigations and prosecutions
  • Influence the future of mass incarceration, death penalty and diversion programs (incarceration of birthing people, access to diversion programs for transgender individuals, etc.)
  • Support programs and training for staff to be humane and fair

The Sheriff can:

  • Decide to arrest people wanting, needing, or offering reproductive healthcare and how to sentence them
  • Decide how to enforce state abortion bans and if they’ll work with out of state inquiries/investigations
  • Control what health services people in prison have access to
    (contraception, menstrual products, pregnancy care, routine health services, etc.)
  • Determine if birthing people are forced to give birth in jail
  • Control treatment/care of transgender people in prison
  • Provide security and protection at healthcare centers

The School Boards can:

  • Support comprehensive and medically accurate sex education 
  • Expand funding and access to medical and mental health services for students 
  • Pass policies protecting LGBTQIA+ students 
  • Support pregnant and parenting youth 
  • Work with local elected officials to make reproductive healthcare accessible to teens and overcome barriers including transportation, limited income and language access


This year’s General Election takes place on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Early Voting in IL started on Oct. 24. You can participate in Early Voting through Nov. 7.

Early Voting in WI (by absentee ballot) opened on Oct. 25. You can participate in Early Voting through Nov. 5. 

Additional resources: 

Be The Ones nonpartisan voter guide in English

Be The Ones nonpartisan voter guide in Spanish

She Votes IL Why Your Vote Matters voting info guide 

AARP How to Vote in WI’s 2022 Elections guide

Early Voting in Chicago here

Early Voting in Illinois here 

Find your polling place in Illinois here

What’s on your ballot? Ballotopedia tool Illinois


Publisher’s note: WI Latino News and IL Latino News, sister markets under the Latino News Network (LNN), have put together this informational guide with the help of our partner Be The Ones, to assist voters make informed decisions not only at the polls, but in their engagement with democracy going forward.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

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‘Great resignation?’ Not among Latino workers

September began with the yearly recognition of workers on Labor Day, a celebration of those whose labor keeps our economy moving. And now, during National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is appropriate to recognize just how critical Latino workers are to the economy and the lives of all Illinoisans.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and recent labor shortages, Latinos have been working. Labor force participation rates among Latinos are the highest of any racial or ethnic group. Yet, a disproportionate share of Latino workers are segmented into low-wage, essential positions with no benefits and few protections. As the state of Illinois looks to lead the nation in planning and policies related to the future of work, improving quality job access for Latinos is of crucial importance for the overall health of Illinois’ economy.

A unique constellation of social and economic factors impacts many Latino workers, making them essential workers without crucial protections. As we saw during the height of the pandemic, Latino workers experienced the devastation of COVID in essential jobs that left them vulnerable to illness but kept the economy running.

Earlier in the year, as talk swirled about a “great resignation,” Latino labor force participation was as strong as ever. The economic burdens faced by Latino families were likely driving more Latinos into the workforce, rather than out of it. This is a logical step in a community where half of all workers earn $15 an hour or less. In addition, as the nation continues to grapple with a broken immigration system and a refugee crisis, Illinois has an opportunity to lead in providing access to quality jobs for all who settle here.

The recent report, “A ‘Great Resignation’ Not Due to Latinos: Latinos Still Working the Essential Jobs and Earning Too Little” from the Metropolitan Planning Council and The Latino Policy Forum, outlines five key policy recommendations that will help raise the floor for Latino workers while also strengthening the overall state economy:

• Address the barriers to homeownership and the decline in educational attainment by creating pathways for more Latinos to have jobs that pay wages allowing for homeownership and an ability to pay for educating children beyond high school.

-Address COVID-19’s economic devastation on Latinos and the role that workers and workplaces played by strengthening and enforcing policies to ensure workers are safe and not placing their lives at risk while on the job.

• Enable more Latinas to contribute to the growth of the workforce by enhancing wages and benefits, including access to affordable child care.

Address the massive disproportionate rates of COVID in the Latino community by providing access to an array of benefits, including paid time off, so that Latino workers can care for those dependent on them.

• Address worker shortages, stabilize the workforce and make significant economic contributions through immigration reform that resolve the process by which workers can move to and remain in the U.S., including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.

The future of work in Illinois is only bright if all our workforce has decent wages, benefits and protections.

Sylvia Puente is president and CEO of The Latino Policy Forum. Daniel Cooper is director of research at the Metropolitan Planning Council.

Cover Photo: Pexels

Publisher’s Notes: This Op-Ed was first published in the Sun-Times:

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ILLN Opinion+: Ida Melbye

Welcome to another episode of Illinois Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Illinois. This week we spoke with Ida Melbye, the Executive Director of The Period Collective. 

The Period Collective is a nonprofit organization committed to supplying menstrual hygiene products to houseless and low-income people throughout Chicagoland. With period poverty being such a widespread issue that is rarely talked about, many people who do not have access to the resources necessary to experience a healthy period, suffer in silence. 

Melbye started The Period Collective in response to learning about a similar organization in Michigan, and feeling called to try to do something to aid those experiencing a lack of menstrual products.

“I just found that it was unacceptable that this was happening in our own backyard and I feel like period poverty is something that we often think of happening in the global south, but it is definitely a problem right here in our community,� she said.

The Period Collective reaches people in all stages of life, from those who are experiencing their first period to those experiencing menopause, attesting to how widely spread this issue is and how long this can be a factor in someone’s life.

Melbye said the impact doesn’t stop at not having products, it can flow into other long-lasting areas of life, including one’s health.

“A lot of the ways that people cope when they don’t have the product that they need can lead to infections and other health issues,â€� explained Melbye, pointing to socks and newspapers as product alternatives that she’s heard of.

This can also impact the education or career of a person. 

“For kids in school when they don’t have access to the product they need, it’s very hard to focus if you’re sitting in class and worried about that. What we see is a lot of kids miss school repeatedly when they’re on their period because they feel like they can’t go and that of course causes issues throughout their life really because if you start missing school when you’re 12 to 10 years old, and you miss several days every time you have your period, that’s gonna start affecting your ability to complete your work, it’s gonna affect your ability to do well on tests and on standardized tests, and that again is going to affect your ability to get into secondary education,� said Melbye.

One of the biggest factors that contributes to period poverty and menstrual inequity is the stigma that prevents discussions from being had and information about menstruation from being shared. This leaves many organizers working to provide resources wondering how to help break down the stigmatization.

“I think the best thing we can do is talk about it. I feel like there’s a lot of cultural and religious barriers to removing those kinds of stigmas but really the best thing we can do is to talk about it,� said Melbye.

Melbye says that she does see more period conversations being held and is hopeful for younger generations who she says seem more comfortable and open with their periods. This is a step in the direction towards normalizing menstruation.

Resources mentioned in this video: 

The Period Collective’s website:

The Period Collective on Facebook & Instagram: @periodcoll

How to find your elected officials:

Alliance for Period Supplies:

Addressing Period Poverty survey:

Encuesta Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual: 

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Cicero Independiente: Taking a People First Approach in Creating News

Cicero Independiente is a bilingual, independent, people-centered news organization local to the town of Cicero, a Southwest suburb of Chicago.

Cicero Independiente was founded in 2019 by April Alonso, Irene Romulo and Ankur Singh in response to the lack of accessible information focused on the people of Cicero. The trio bonded over a common desire to create local, transparent news for people traditionally neglected by the media, and to give these people the power to decide how their stories are told.

IL Latino News met with Digital Editor April Alonso and Development and Community Engagement Coordinator Irene Romulo to talk about their journey.

ILLN: April and Irene, as two of the founders of Cicero Independiente, tell me about the experience of starting your own publication.

Alonso: I think at the beginning I didn’t know what this would look like, but I’m proud of how it turned out… ‘Cause at the beginning it was just three of us meeting at a local coffee shop, talking about ideas and we’re like ‘let’s do this’ and it was a learning progress as we went. Learning what we should be doing, how to meet community needs and also how to build our internal structure…

Romulo: It’s been challenging to learn a lot of the things that we’ve had to learn, I guess to really launch it and ensure that we can have a presence here in Cicero, not just now but for the future. But it’s definitely been worth it, I think. Just to be able to know that we’re creating something along with other people, like an organization that is making an impact and it’s important and that will hopefully be around for the future… I think I’m just so proud of that.

ILLN: Why was it important to be a bilingual publication?

Alonso: We thought about it by thinking about our parents and thinking about how they think of news and for me, it was like ok during elections my dad’s not going to know what’s going on unless he’s watching Telemundo or something like that, so none of this stuff that’s in English is meant for him. This is my problem with Chicago media, they aren’t taking into consideration Spanish-speakers to be able to give them the information that they need as well, they’re only thinking about English-speakers…

Romulo: Simply, how could we not? Over 85 percent of the population here [in Cicero] is Latinx and mainly speaks Spanish at home or a language other than English at home, so a lot of what we also write about and talk about all the time is how there’s been a lot of barriers that have been placed here in Cicero for people to participate in local government and one of those is language, often excluding people who don’t speak English or understand English, so we couldn’t follow in those same steps.

Alonso: Cicero doesn’t offer programs so that students can have access to so we end up looking outside of Cicero to have access to those, which is another thing of why we started the fellowship that we have. We wanted to be able to bring those resources here, so people can stay local here and not have to go outside of Cicero.

In an effort to fill this void for resources, Cicero Independiente currently runs a paid, multimedia reporting fellowship to equip community members with the tools to lead storytelling and reporting of their own community. Since its origin in 2020, the fellowship has shifted from being youth-based to more age inclusive, which Romulo says has been a positive change to the program. This round focused on environmental justice and included four locals, including two monolingual Spanish-speaking older adults, and two youth.

Romulo: And that’s been a big transformation for us because it’s been a learning experience too from the past sessions because we do want all of our work to be accessible, like April said, to people like our parents, who have had to sacrifice so much to make a place for themselves here and perhaps didn’t have the same opportunities to pursue the things that they wanted, like journalism, or being able to take photos or do interviews.

ILLN: Tell me about Cicero as a neighborhood and a community…

Alonso: There wasn’t that much growing up here, but I wanted to find a way to connect more here and root down here instead of going to Chicago more, and that lead me to see all the people, especially doing this work and being part of Cicero Independiente, all the people that want to create stronger connections and create a community to bond and work together and support each other in anyway that they can. It’s something that we’ve seen other people mention as well when we do interviews, where people feel disconnected but they want to be able to reconnect in Cicero [instead of Chicago] and find their community here.

Romulo: And just about Cicero itself, Cicero is a suburb on the Southwest Side of Chicago. During the ‘90’s and early 2000’s is when it really started to change racially. It’s always been kind of like an immigrant town but it used to be white immigrants from Chevokia, Italians, white people, but they started moving out and it’s now majority Latinx neighborhood with a small Black community that’s also growing as people are displaced from the City of Chicago. But you know, still a lot of anti-Black racism in this town… there’s a group of people that’s trying to maintain power in a way and they’re the same ones who continue to be on the elected boards, the same who are trying to keep this town the way that it has been for a while and who seem to be not as able to change or want to change to accommodate the different populations and in the last three years, at least since we’ve been around, we’re noticing it more because we’re more involved because of Cicero Independiente… But I’ll say there’s a reinvigorated sense of organizing and of getting locally involved, which is why it’s so important for us to be aware of what is going on in the town and try to connect with the different organizations and people who are pushing for different changes to be made.

ILLN: And you actually have a background in organizing, right? How have you implemented that approach into your journalism work?

Romulo: Yeah so I do, and I think that’s what has helped to make sure that we are prioritizing those relationship building and making sure that we are taking the time to build trust with people, even though it might not necessarily result in a story right away or an actual product right away, knowing that that takes time and that we need to be constantly doing outreach and talking to people and listening to people.

ILLN: What is the culture of your newsroom like?

Alonso: We hold space for people to express their appreciations or things they need support [with]. It is different than most workplaces. We try real hard to not overwork and have learned along the way to make sure no one’s overworking. At least being aware that people might be physically tired or emotionally tired and how that shows up, but being able to give people what they need to recuperate and come back.

ILLN: It sounds like you all have a people first approach. In the community but also amongst yourselves…

Alonso: Yeah, seeing people as human beings instead of workers and I think that’s come across not just in our office space but in what we put out as well, that people need to be humanized and not be exploited for their emotions or for their pain.

ILLN: Your website states “we envision a future where we can all participate in documenting our stories for the generations to come.� Can you explain this quote?

Alonso: I think not everyone needs to go to school for journalism and how do we give people the experience to have access to learn those skills and to report locally here? Because being from here [Cicero] and reporting what’s happening here is different [from] when outside media comes in and reports in a voyeuristic way. 

Romulo: In organizing, we talk alot about power, analyzing power and who has power, who are the targets of a specific campaign. I don’t think we talk about power enough in journalism and how much power there is in being able to determine what issues, what stories and what people are featured and highlighted, and who gets to document what is happening and from whose viewpoint. Often, I’ve gone to the Cicero archives, I‘ve looked at school newspapers here and a lot of it is written from a white perspective for white people and there’s very little historical record of the impact that Latinos, Chicanos have had not just in Cicero but throughout the country. There’s a lot of our history that’s missing and that’s not told and I think that quote specifically is what that speaks to, us being able to have that power and document our lives. We’re leaving that record for others to see that we’re not just taking what’s happening lightly, we’re not just sitting back and suffering… 

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Publisher’s Notes: Cicero Independiente and Illinois Latino News (ILLN), are two of nearly 40 independent Chicago-area media outlets, and members of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), who are joining forces for the third annual fundraising campaign kicking off  this week. Under the slogan #WeAmplifyChicagoVoices, this diverse and eclectic media group will conduct a two-week campaign between October 3 – 17. 

CIMA members serve Black and African American, Latinx, Asian American, immigrant, LGBTQ+, and other Chicago communities. Independent media are particularly vulnerable to the changing media landscape that includes decreased advertising, yet their value as credible information sources continues to rise. Potential donors can learn more about all the CIMA outlets through the promotional campaign video, print, digital and social media assets they’ve produced.  

Please consider making a donation by visiting

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Support Local Chicago Media

CHICAGO — Illinois Latino News (ILLN), one of nearly 40 independent Chicago-area media outlets, members of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), are joining forces for the third annual fundraising campaign kicking off  this week. Under the slogan #WeAmplifyChicagoVoices, this diverse and eclectic media group will conduct a two-week campaign between October 3 – 17. 

More than $70,000 in matching funds have been pledged from CIMA’s contributing partners including The MacArthur Foundation, Square One Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, and the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation. Additionally, WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times are supporting partners. To give, visit October 3 – 17.

CIMA members are for-profit and nonprofit organizations representing a wide cross-section of community media in the city and nearby suburbs. The organization’s 2021 campaign raised more than $160,000 for 43 members, including $60,000 in matching funds from local foundations. More than 1,000 individuals donated, with two-thirds opting to support all outlets. Donors may opt to split their gift evenly among all of the outlets, or they may give a specific amount to one or more outlets. When they give to an individual outlet, those funds will be matched 2-1 during the first two days of the campaign, and 1-1 for the rest of the fundraiser, until matching funds are depleted.

“Another positive consequence of our campaign is the visibility and amplification of the work these outlets are producing,â€� said Yazmin Dominguez, CIMA co-director. “A diversity of reporting is what should be demanded in a vibrant, diverse city like Chicago, and our coalition embodies that.â€� 

CIMA members serve Black and African American, Latinx, Asian American, immigrant, LGBTQ+, and other Chicago communities. Independent media are particularly vulnerable to the changing media landscape that includes decreased advertising, yet their value as credible information sources continues to rise. Potential donors can learn more about all the CIMA outlets through the promotional campaign video, print, digital and social media assets they’ve produced.  

The campaign was organized, and is coordinated by CIMA, a project launched in 2019 by the Chicago Reader. The 61 partners in the alliance include traditional print newspapers, independently produced podcasts, dynamic video production studios, and nonprofit newsrooms focusing on key issues that impact the fabric of the city. CIMA coordinates revenue projects to assist in strengthening the local media landscape. Questions about the campaign may be directed to

A one-minute campaign video was shot and produced by Street Level and narrated in English, Spanish, and Polish by Street Level, Polish Daily News, and Gozamos, all members in the alliance. SoapBox Productions and Organizing assisted with collecting footage for the video and dozens of CIMA members provided photos and video for the campaign. The logo animation was created by Pam Atadero. Amber Huff created the print campaigns and CIMA co-director, Savannah Hugueley, created the digital campaigns. The campaign hashtags are #WeAmplifyChicagoVoices and #ChicagoMedia. Follow the campaign on social media @IndieMediaChi.

Watch CIMA’s 2022 campaign video here in English, Spanish, and Polish

About CIMA

The Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) is a coalition of over 61 independent, local, and community-driven media entities covering communities throughout the Chicago area. Through regular collaboration and the creation of new revenue streams, we uplift each other in order to amplify the voices of Chicagoans.

About the Fundraiser

From October 3 – 17, 2022, we are hosting our third annual CIMA fundraiser. By donating at, you can support the work of up to 40 of our member outlets who ensure the voices of thousands of Chicagoans are heard. 

Donate today at

Founded in 2019, CIMA is a project of the Reader Institute for Community Journalism, publisher of the Chicago Reader.


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  1. Chicago Music Guide: Your guide to great music in Chicago. Music Promotions, resources and more.
  1. Chicago Public Square: Free daily email news roundup for Chicago. The Reader poll’s pick for Best Blog.
  1. Chicago Reader: The Reader, founded 1971, is Chicago’s in-depth and curated guide to culture, politics, and more. 
  1. CHIRP Radio: CHIRP is your live, local community radio station focused on independent music and culture.
  1. Current Magazines: 
    • South Shore Current Magazine, good news from Chicago’s Cultural Soul Coast—the southeast and southern shore communities.
    • The West Side Current Magazine, good news from Chicago’s west side—focused on pride, honor, and value of community.
    • West of the Ryan Current Magazine, good news from Chicago’s west of the Ryan
  1. E3 Radio: E3 Radio is an online station playing queer and independent music. Queer radio done right. 
  1. Evanston Roundtable: The Evanston RoundTable is the community’s leading source of news about local government, schools, civic and artistic activities, and other important issues facing our city. 
  1. Gazette Chicago: Gazette Chicago is a free, independent newspaper serving ten Chicago neighborhoods, committed to unbiased news coverage that tells all sides since its founding in 1983. 
  1. Gozamos: Gozamos is an independent online magazine and community of journalists, bloggers, and progressive activists covering culture, music, and politics.
  1. Growing Community Media: a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, connects citizens through community journalism. We promote civil discourse, thriving communities and a vibrant democracy across seven communities on the west side of Chicago and its near west suburbs through the Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review and Riverside Brookfield Landmark.
  1. Harvey World Herald: The Harvey World Herald is your trusted news source for in-depth reporting on education, business, public safety, health, politics, and entertainment in the City of Harvey.
  1. Hyde Park Herald: Hyde Park Herald is a weekly community newspaper rich in a 138 year history and journalistic excellence. 
  1. Illinois Latino News: Award-winning local community journalism. The only English language news outlet dedicated exclusively to Hispanic-Latinos in Illinois.
  1. Inside Publications: Skyline, Inside Booster, News Star Newspapers: Your friendly 110-year-old neighborhood newspapers, serving Chicago’s north side.
  1. Kartemquin Films:  Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin is a collaborative community that empowers documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society.
  1. La Raza: The voice of Chicago ‘s Latino community for 50 years. La voz de la comunidad latina en Chicago por 50 años.
  1. Loop North News: Loop North News serves the Loop and Near North neighborhoods of downtown Chicago.
  1. McKinley Park News: Covers Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood and its people, institutions and enterprises by publishing community information and enabling channels of communication. 
  1. Mildsauce: Being the change we want to see, broadcasting youth voice through studio production and media arts.
  2. N’DIGO: Tells stories untold, mis told and that need to be retold about African Americans.
  1. Newcity: The publication of record for Chicago culture.
  1. North Lawndale Community News: Providing news and information on resources and events that improve the lifestyle of individuals and families.
  1. Paseo Podcast: A weekly Puerto Rican podcast dedicated to telling stories by, from, and about the Puerto Rican Community.
  1. Pigment International®:  A Black woman founded and led multi-media art platform reporting on the art, people, issues, trends, and events shaping Black contemporary art
  1. Polish Daily News: Polish Daily News is the largest and the oldest Polish language newspaper in Chicago. Since 1908 it is a destination of choice for tens of thousands of Poles in Chicagoland looking for reliable news.
  1. Rebellious Magazine for Women: Rebellious Magazine for Women is a feminist news and culture website founded in 2012.
  1. Rivet:  Rivet is a smart media production and distribution company. Rivet brings your stories to life and life to your stories.   
  1. SoapBox Productions and Organizing: Film and social activism non-profit specializing in multimedia storytelling for equity and structural change. 
  2. South Side Weekly: Independent, nonprofit newspaper for and about the south side of Chicago.
  1. StreetWise: Empowering those facing homelessness with access to employment to work toward self-sufficiency with dignity.
  1. The Beverly Review: Weekly newspaper covering Beverly Hills, Morgan Park, and Mt. Greenwood. 
  1. The Chicago Defender: Founded in 1905, The Chicago Defender is multimedia content provider of news, information and events that cover the interests of the urban African American community with culturally relevant content not regularly serviced by mainstream media. 
  1. The Daily Line: The Daily Line does critical reporting on policy and politics for professionals.
  1. Third Coast Review: Chicago’s online arts and culture magazine, specializing in quirky, underground aspects of the arts scene.
  2. True Star Foundation: True Star is a non-profit media company and digital agency led by Chicago youth. 
  1. Windy City Times: Windy City Times is an award-winning newspaper serving the Chicagoland LGBTQ community since 1985. 

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Vonderlack-Navarro & Mendez: improving access to equitable education

With over 12 percent of the students enrolled in Illinois public schools during the 2020-2021 school year considered English Language Learners, Illinois has the fourth highest concentration of English Learners in the U.S. These students, many of whom are Spanish-speaking Latinos, face a unique set of barriers that research and advocacy groups are looking to solve.

The Latino Policy Forum’s mission is to build equity, justice and economic prosperity for the Latino community through advocacy and analysis, focusing specifically on education, housing, immigration and leadership. The Education team’s vision is for Latinos and English Learners to have access to equitable education, leading to economic prosperity. They believe that a recent study conducted by the University of Chicago illuminates one path towards this goal.

“Illinois has been one of the first states in the country to make robust investments in childcare and preschool starting in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. We were one of the earliest states to establish a state funded preschool program with infant-toddler embedded into that, and we’re seen as a national leader in home visiting services,� said Erika Mendez, Associate Director of Education of the Latino Policy Forum. “But we have to acknowledge that our current system has some real limitations to how we’re able to do some of this work, and I think this new research out of the University of Chicago presents the state with an opportunity to say we have real tangible research on how we can improve the outcomes and the supports that students receive early on…� she said.

Latino News Network hosted Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro and Erika Mendez of Latino Policy Forum’s (LPF) education team on the 3 Questions With… podcast to discuss the needs of bilingual and English Learner students in Illinois.


Vonderlack-Navarro leads a team that focuses on promoting quality bilingual education programming and equitable access to early childhood programming. Her advocacy work concentrates on the shortage of qualified bilingual and bicultural educators in the state, and she is also a state-appointed member of the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education. She says her passion for her work comes from being the wife of an immigrant, working with immigrants, and living in Latin America for a number of years.

“I felt really tied to the culture and the language and was just really excited about it,� she said. “When I first started working in education I actually started with parents and when I was talking with immigrant parents, they talked about some of the main issues that they worried about in life were the education of their children and they worried about access to early childhood,� she explained, adding that these concerns lead to LPF revamping its agenda.

Erika Mendez promotes LPF’s advocacy work and policy work in education, including family well-being in the current socio-political immigration climate, Latino access to early childhood opportunities and the bilingual workforce shortage. Through her work, she brings awareness to the issues that Latino and English Learner children in Illinois face and works towards policy solutions that promote equity. Mendez says that growing up in a Spanish-speaking household and receiving ESL “pull-out� support in school gave her first-hand experience on how disruptive the bilingual education system was.

“I wasn’t really able to access a lot of the things that my peers in the class were learning and was often coming in in the middle of a lesson where I wasn’t really able to catch up,â€� said Mendez. “But a lot of what I saw growing up as the most critical points of intervention and of attention are in those five first years of life, and so when you are intentional about programming and about the teachers who are in front of the students… then you really are able to support a student when they really need it the most.â€� 

The English Learners in Chicago Public Schools study explored the influence of pre-k and early grade school had on English Learners. 

“About 74% of the current English learner population is Latino, Spanish-speaking. They tend to be concentrated in the pre-k to third grade years and so it’s a critical time of language and literacy development and we were so honored to collaborate with the University of Chicago on a wonderful study that’s showing how important those early years are for English Learners and how we can get these kids on a path to kindergarten readiness and long term success,� said Vonderlack-Navarro.

Some key takeaways from the study show that attending CPS pre-k supported English Learners’ development of the language and early reading skills, attending full-day class versus half-day made a difference in terms of readiness and literacy, and that the benefits of these differences were detectable as far as the third grade.

Vonderlack-Navarro touched on the assimilation culture many immigrant and Latino families experience- a push to adopt American culture and speak English as quickly as possible, in fear that speaking Spanish will be a barrier. She says this study and its predecessor from 2019 prove that this isn’t the case.

“I think there’s been strong assimilationist philosophies that have always existed: the more English the better, the quicker you forget that home language and culture, the better you’re gonna succeed in school. And there’s been a counter narrative that’s been saying no, no, no, no, actually that home language is an asset to learning.� she said.

Vonderlack-Navarro added, “This gives us fuel as an organization to say how do we make sure we strengthen bilingual education throughout the state and we can get into details about this, but I think it’s access to early childhood that honors language and culture, it’s bilingual preschool, it’s making sure we have strong bilingual educators and we need more educators that reflect the kids they’re serving.â€�

Publisher’s Notes: Illinois Latino News (ILLN) partners with the Latino Policy Forum in best serving the diverse Latino communities of Illinois.

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Chicago Alderman Collecting Donations for Texas Migrants

At least 650 asylum-seeking migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 31. With busloads of immigrants being transported from Texas, the city’s officials are seeking volunteers and donations to help the influx of people seeking sanctuary in the city.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot stated that the city is coordinating with local organizations, but that they will need help to support the migrants.

Chicago has set up a website for those who want to volunteer their time or donate items such as clothing, toiletries and other necessities.

“As a welcoming city, we know Chicagoans are ready to show their generosity and are looking for ways to support these individuals,” the city’s website states.

Many Chicagoans began collecting donations for the migrants, with some aldermanic offices designated as drop-off locations for donations.

Ald. Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward, has been collecting donations and transferring them to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and other community organizations.

Carlos Gamboa, the 22nd Ward’s Chief of Staff, said that as soon as they learned that the Governor of Texas was sending migrants to Chicago, they needed to act quickly to provide resources to their people.

“It’s unfair and unjust that the Governor of Texas is shipping them to multiple cities across the United States with absolutely no resources or a plan,� Gamboa said. “We will always help someone, regardless of their immigration status. We will treat everyone equally.�

“I think that many second, third, and even fourth generation Mexican-Americans are more aware of what is going on and want to make a difference by making it easier for immigrants to go through the process because they have family who have gone through the same suffering,� Gamboa added.

Rodriguez’s ward office is accessible from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 2500 S. St. Louis Ave in Little Village. 

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, added that when people donate to their ward, they are making a bigger difference in the community than they realize.

“It’s the most vulnerable communities doing the government’s job, which is a shame,â€� Sigcho-Lopez said. “It’s those who do not have much who help those who do not have anything, and we need support, and this needs to be the talk of Chicago, because not a single person who arrived on a bus deserves this.â€�

Local non-profits and community groups that focus on immigrant communities, such as The Resurrection Project, have also stepped in to help with donations.

Laura Mendoza, Immigration Organizer at The Resurrection Project, said they are there to help with anything from language interpretation to handing out essentials.

“We put together hygiene kits, which include items such as deodorant, shampoo, and hand sanitizer, as well as other basic necessities that people would require for themselves,â€� Mendoza said.  

“Helping them is important because they will become contributing members of our community,” Mendoza said. “We just need to give them that little push with donations to help them be steady and stable. Then they’ll be able to thrive as many other immigrants have in the past.â€�

While some organizations are accepting clothing and other essential items, The Resurrection Project only accepts monetary donations.

“We have a large team of volunteers working with the migrants to provide resources because we care,� Mendoza said. “We want to give them resources because they are important to the city of Chicago. They are human beings.�

A list of needed items can be found here.

“Chicagoans should donate because they [migrants] have nothing,â€� Gamboa said. “They didn’t ask to come here. All they want is a better life.â€�

Donations are also being collected by other members of City Council’s Latino Caucus

Donations can be dropped off at these Aldermanic Offices:

  • Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) – Ward Office, 10500 S. Ewing Ave.
  • Ald. George Cardenas (12th) – City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.
  • Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) – Ward Office, 2242 S. Damen Ave.
  • Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) – Ward Office, 2511 W. Division St.
  • Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) – Ward Office, 3559 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Ald. Felix Cardona, Jr. (31st) – Ward Office, 4606 W. Diversey Ave.
  • Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) – Ward Office, 3001 W. Irving Park Rd.
  • Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) – Ward Office, 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave., Unit C
  • Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) – Ward Office, 6560 N. Fullerton Ave., Suite 118-A
  • Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) – Ward Office, 5620 N. Western Ave.
  • City Clerk Anna Valencia – City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., 1st Floor


Cover Photo by Kiersten Reidford

Vanessa Lopez, Assistant News Editor of The DePaulia

Vanessa Lopez is an undergraduate journalism student with a minor in media and communication at DePaul University. She is The DePaulia’s Assistant News Wditor and NAHJ DePaul’s Membership Coordinator. Twitter: @v_lopez__

Publisher’s Note: You can read Lopez’s Spanish language version of Chicago Alderman Collecting Donations for Texas Migrants by clicking on Donde puedes ayudar a los inmigrantes llegando a Chicago.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

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Latinos Don’t Benefit From The Economic Prosperity They Create

Latinos make solid and consistent contributions to Illinois’ population and labor force.

Were it not for Latinos, the state’s population and workforce would have contracted. The group contributed more than $97 billion to Chicago’s economy from 2010-2018, according to the recently released 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP Report.

The Forum is thrilled with the author’s details in outlining the Latino communities’ wealth-making success, driven by swift gains in human capital and a strong work ethic.

However, missing from the narrative is the Latino wealth paradox. The community continues to not benefit from the prosperity it creates.

To amplify, the data published by California Lutheran University and UCLA Health and funded by Bank of America are consistent with the Forum’s analysis of the U.S. Latino GDP.

The total economic output of Latinos in the United States was $2.6 trillion in 2018. If Latinos living in the U.S. were an independent country, the report finds that their GDP would be the eighth largest in the world. In addition, Illinois’ 2018 Latino GDP is $100.1 billion, larger than the entire economic output of the state of Hawaii. 

The importance of population growth for economic strength cannot be overstated. And it is Latinos whose numbers are among the most significant for ensuring that growth. In Illinois, for example, between 2010 and 2018, the Latino population grew annually by about 29,000, while there was an average annual decrease of about 20,000 non-Latinos. Moreover, 2020 census data shows continual Latino population growth nationally and in individual states, including Illinois. 

According to the 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP report, between 2010 and 2018, the number of Latinos in the Chicagoland area with higher education grew 2.5 times faster than non-Latinos. In addition, the Latino labor force rate averaged 4.6 percentage points higher than non-Latinos. 

All of that changed once the pandemic hit. Latinos, the racial/ethnic group most disproportionately impacted, shouldered the most COVID-caused disruptions to their socioeconomic conditions.

According to a July 2021 Pew Research report, almost half of Latinos said they or someone in their household had lost a job or wages since February 2020. The employment situation was complicated for Latinos, who were—and still are—overrepresented in jobs deemed essential (e.g., maintenance, retail, construction, and manufacturing) while simultaneously designated as high risk. 

At the same time, pandemic-induced job losses were most significant in labor sectors where Latinos are also disproportionately represented (e.g., personal care, childcare, and leisure and hospitality). As an early analysis by Latino Decisions showed, Latinos were the most likely not to have the required economic cushion to weather job loss. They found the average Latinos household has only about $600 in cash reserves. 

When it comes to housing, Latinos are overburdened with costs, and many are just one small emergency away from losing it all, as noted in last year’s Latino Policy Forum publication. 

 While the Forum joins others in celebrating the outcome of the 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP report, validating Latino economic empowerment, we raise concerns about a view that, while accurate, does not highlight the fact that the community is not getting their fair share of earnings from their contributions to the overall economic prosperity of cities, states, and nation. We look forward to updates of the report that include COID-19 years.

The pre-and post-pandemic socioeconomic conditions of Latinos remind us that we must ensure that special attention is given to the devastation that COVID has wreaked.

The Forum will continue to work with elected officials and policymakers to secure that resources directed at fixing what COVID has broken reflect the socioeconomic importance of Latinos and the severity of the damage COVID has done to them. 

While the 2022 jobs and economic data look promising – even Latinos, in large numbers, have returned to work – the reality is that Latinos have returned to low-wage jobs. They are working, but their wage does not reflect the ‘economic recovery’ that so many other groups are experiencing. As of the second quarter of 2022, among racial and ethnic groups, it is Latinos who have the lowest earned weekly income. 

The Forum will continue to advocate for equity, justice, and economic prosperity for the Latino community by focusing on the pillars of education, housing, and immigration for economic mobility.

After all, as illustrated by the report, imagine how much more economic growth Chicago, Illinois, and the country will enjoy once Latinos get total wealth equity.

Sylvia Puente is the President and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum, a nonprofit that works for equity, justice, and economic prosperity on behalf of Latinos in Chicago and Illinois through public-policy advocacy and analysis on issues including education, housing, and immigration.

Adding to her many accolades, Puente was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on August 8, 2022.

Puente is frequently cited as an expert on Latino issues and has published numerous reports and articles that articulate the vital role they play in society. She is a recipient of the Ohtli Award, Mexico’s highest recognition of those serving the Mexican community outside of Mexico, and received an honorary PhD for her social justice work from Roosevelt University in 2021. She has been recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.�

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