Chicago mayoral candidate Amara Enyia, 35, makes her pitch to prospective voters.

Rashanah Baldwin is a member of The Reporters Inc.’s Board of Directors. To learn more about her, click here.

A Fed Up Generation

Millennials Are Entering Politics to Be the Change They Want to See


February 2019

BY RASHANAH BALDWIN

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, 29-year-old Nicole Johnson always knew she wanted to pursue a career in public office. Whether it was addressing quality education, unemployment benefits, access to healthy foods, or public safety, issues that “affect our daily lives were something I wanted to play a role in,” she explains.

Johnson witnessed what she calls the “inequities” and “disinvestments” that many have faced many in the country’s third largest city, specifically in the Chicago community known as Englewood. To counter these problems that have concerned and disturbed her, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Education Policy, began volunteering, then teaching, and ultimately entered politics as an intern under Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

And now, Johnson is upping her personal public service game by running for Chicago’s 20th Ward Alderman seat—a neighborhood that includes Englewood. (The incumbent, Willie Cochran, is facing corruption charges and has dropped out of the race.) One of several candidates vying for the seat, Johnson says she didn’t like what she was seeing in the 20th Ward, a community burdened by few grocery stores, high unemployment and crime rates, under-resourced schools, and a lack of affordable housing.Johnson feels she can be the change she wants to see in the ward. “I really want to play a role in my community and bring to it what it deserves,” she explains.

But Johnson isn’t alone among her peers. There are more than a dozen Millennials (people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) running in Chicago-area elections in 2019, mainly in the aldermanic race. According to a February 2018 Brookings Institute report, “The Millennial generation is America’s largest generation, making up nearly 25 percent of the total U.S. population…Millennials are also America’s most diverse adult generation: 44 percent of them are minorities.” (more…)

Sophie Keane is a member of The Reporters Inc.’s Board of Directors. To learn more about her, click here.

Anxiety & Fear

Cuts to Refugee & Immigrant Programs Exacerbate Trauma But Inspire Resilience


February 2019

BY SOPHIE KEANE

Early in the morning on a recent Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota, young single mother of three Dee Pray waited in the backyard of a seemingly ordinary house.

“It’s getting cold,” Pray said with a knowing smile. She pulled a pink felt hat over her ears.

About 30 others waited in line with her. Some wore parkas over long hijabs. Others squatted on the lawn and wore thick socks with simple leather sandals.

This particular house happens to be the home of MORE, an organization dedicated to helping refugees and immigrants with the education and support they need to become fully engaged members of the community.  For more than 30 years, MORE has offered English language training, assistance in applying for health insurance, and employment counseling. On Friday and Saturday mornings, it gives away donated groceries and household items.

Most of the people in the grocery line on this particular Friday were people from Bhutan, Somalia and, like Pray, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). They are among the estimated 25.4 million refugees around the world today who have been forced to leave their home countries due to war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Pray was able to come to the Minnesota three years ago from a refugee camp in Thailand. With the help of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives at the camp, Pray filed a case for resettlement with what’s called a Resettlement Support Center (RSC). The RSC gathered biographical information about Pray and her family and then forwarded her case to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which then interviewed her and screened her for diseases like tuberculosis. Finally, the UNHCR connected her with a refugee resettlement agency in Minnesota which booked her flights, found her housing and welcomed her and her children.

Pray fled a violent war for independence that members of her ethnic group, the Karen, have been fighting against the government of Myanmar since the 1940s. To protect herself and her family from state-sponsored killing of the Karen Pray fled to the camp and lived there for nine years. Compared to most, that’s a short stay—the average length of time spent in a refugee camp is 17 years.

“Last year I was really sick,” she said, describing a genetic condition unrelated to her time in the camp. She crossed her arms. “Like, really sick. I almost died. I lost so much weight, I couldn’t move.

“If I had still been in Thailand, I would have died.”

Despite the urgent need for resettlement agencies and refugee social service organizations like MORE, major cutbacks to the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. as a result of the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies are causing anxiety among both workers and clients. One of the five federally-funded agencies in Minnesota, Catholic Charities, already shut down its refugee resettlement services in May of last year “due to restrictive federal policies limiting the number of refugees entering our country,” according to an official statement from the organization.

Nationwide, the system of government and nonprofit agencies that composes modern refugee resettlement programming has never been smaller in its 28-year history, despite conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan (countries with the highest reported number of refugees). The situation has incited the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to UNHCR.  (more…)