Four Englewood teenagers coerced into confessing to a rape and murder they did not commit before being exonerated by DNA evidence will divide a $31 million settlement from Chicago taxpayers, one of the largest in the city’s history.
Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift were between 15 and 18 when they were arrested for the November 1994 murder of Nina Glover. An autopsy concluded that the 30-year-old prostitute had been strangled. Her naked body was discovered behind a liquor store at 1400 W. Garfield wrapped in a bloody sheet and stuffed in a dumpster.
In 2011, a judge overturned the conviction of the “Englewood Four,” freeing Richardson and Saunders after they spent 17 years behind bars. Swift and Thames, who served more than a dozen years, had already been released.
“These were four young men who no way possible they could have committed the crime they were manipulated and coerced into confessing to. They all spent . . . over a decade in prison for something they didn’t do. The number is very large and the magnitude of the injury is very large,” said attorney Locke Bowman, who represented Swift.
Bowman said the $31 million settlement would not have been possible if former assistant state’s attorney Terence Johnson hadn’t “broken ranks from the other law enforcement personnel” and provided a statement to the FBI that confirmed what the Englewood Four had long maintained.
“This was psychological coercion primarily in all four of the cases. They were tricked and coerced into confessing . . . They were fed the information. And they were the victims of police overreaching,” Bowman said Friday.
When 10-year-old Olivia Ohlson learned that her mom Gini was diagnosed with breast cancer, she jumped at the chance to help. Olivia, a fifth-grader from Evanston, Illinois, made pink lemonade and baked shortbread cookies with her grandmother to sell outside the family’s home. “I always wanted to have a lemonade sale and when my mom got cancer I wanted to raise funds for women like her,” Olivia told ABC News. “I thought that since I wanted to raise money, I could have a lemonade stand.”
She also contacted local bakeries to ask that they donate cookies for her to sell in the shape of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.
“It was very touching,” Gretchen Vetter of Tag’s Bakery in Evanston said. “I was very moved by it so I was more than willing to help.”
Olivia has raised $4,500 through one bake sale and online donations made by family, friends and strangers. She is holding a second bake sale next weekend.
Olivia said her favorite part of the bake sale was interacting with her customers. She is donating her proceeds to Northshore Kellogg Cancer Center, where her mom, Gini Ohlson, is being treated for breast cancer.
“I know my mom has lots of family and friends who take care of her but other people don’t so they need more support,” she said. “By giving Kellogg money they can use it … for patients.”
Ohlson, 50, was diagnosed with breast cancer in both of her breasts in March. She underwent a double mastectomy in May and said she is halfway through 16 rounds of preventive chemotherapy.
Ohlson, the executive director of a nonprofit organization, may also need radiation in the future. Her early stage of breast cancer was diagnosed through her annual mammogram.
“My doctor told me that if I hadn’t had my mammogram, we wouldn’t have felt anything for a year to three years and I would have had a very different diagnosis,” she said. “That’s really given me a positive attitude.”
Ohlson described herself as “very proud” of Olivia, her only child. She said she is most impressed that Olivia did all of the hard, behind-the-scenes work that bake sales entail.
Former President Barack Obama has been honored with his very own holiday in the state of Illinois.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Friday a measure to designate August 4th as “Barack Obama Day.” The holiday will be celebrated statewide on President Obama’s birthday, beginning in 2018. Gov. Rauner praised the commemorative holiday but stopped short of making it a legal holiday. “It’s incredibly proud for Illinois that the president came from Illinois. I think it’s awesome, and I think we should celebrate it. I don’t think it should be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off, but I think it should be a day of acknowledgment and celebration.”
Senate Bill 55 reads the holiday will be “observed throughout the State as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the People of Illinois in both the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, and dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities.”
The bill was introduced by Sen. Emil Jones III who helped launch Obama’s Senate campaign in 2004. Jones also considers himself to be Obama’s political godfather.
While most teens are consumed with navigating puberty, Ifetayo Ali-Landing is busy being a cello master. A student at the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute in Chicago, IL, Ali-Landing recently took home the coveted 1st place prize in the 2017 Annual Sphinx Competition.
Along with a $10,000 cash prize, the young prodigy will also have an opportunity to feature as a soloist with major orchestras and perform with the all black and Latino Sphinx Symphony Orchestra. This, along with a nationally-broadcast radio appearance on the prestigious NPR and PBS broadcasted talent showcase From the Top, the 14-year-old competitive musician is making her mark as a premier cellist.
Ali-Landing began playing the violin as a toddler before deciding to switch to cello at the age of 3. Since then, she has received numerous awards and performed in several showcases including the 2013 Friends of the IPO (Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra) Rising Stars Showcase where, at age 10, she recorded the 1st movement of the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor.
The performance of which went viral with over 53,000 YouTube views and 8 million Facebook views.
CHICAGO — At 9 years old, Jahkil Jackson is helping his community take care of those in need. It all started the day his aunt took him to feed the homeless. Jackson was saddened when he saw how the homeless lived. “They didn’t have items to start or end their day,” say Jackson.
So he and his mother took action, creating the non-profit,iAMNaeem.
Jackson puts together “Blessing Bags” which he hands out to the homeless community. The bags are filled with toothbrushes, socks, soap, deodorant — everyday items a person needs.
He disburses the bags from the back of his godfather’s pickup truck. He’s on the ground, meeting the homeless community face-to-face while handing out bags. Jackson’s mother says he always takes charge during these trips, proving to be a strong leader at such a young age.
“In a perfect world, I would buy every homeless person a house,” Jackson says. “But since I can’t do that, I will try to help as much as I can.”
Since starting his non-profit, he’s distributed almost 2,000 Blessing Bags. Jackson’s goal for the end of 2017 is to distribute 5,000 bags.
A University of Chicago alumnus and his wife have made it possible for some Chicago teens to visit the Art Institute of Chicago for free for at least the next 25 years. Glenn and Claire Swogger are a philanthropic couple from Kansas who gave the undisclosed gift to the museum.“We try to find programs that will help people have educational and cultural experiences that will be useful to them and good for society,” Glenn said.
Currently, children under 14 years old get free admission into the museum. But starting this week, the Swogger’s foundation will expand that to any Chicagoan under 18 years old. “There’s still the problem of (the teenagers) getting there, they might not have enough money jiggling in their pockets for them to come routinely to the Art Institute,” Glenn Swogger said. He added the museum offers more than just art, including a variety of programs open to youths.“We just wanted to make it a little easier for young people to take advantage of that,” he said.
Art Institute spokeswoman Amanda Hicks said the donation was in the works for about a year, and the museum hopes it will help boost attendance from Chicago’s youth. Illinois art seekers who are over 18 years old can still visit the museum for free every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m.
The families of Urban Prep Academy‘s 2016 graduating class shared a proud moment at the school’s commencement on Saturday. But this ceremony had a special meaning, as school administrators say all 252 graduating seniors have been accepted into a four-year college or university.
“I’m so excited. I’m going to get emotional,” said proud mom Ebony Muhammad.
The graduating seniors are all African-American males from the charter school’s Englewood, West, and Bronzeville campuses. The class of 2016 is carrying on a tradition, as every single Urban Prep graduate since 2010 has been accepted into four-year colleges and universities.
“It’s like a dream come true. I’ve been waiting on this a long time,” one student said.
Graduating senior Rudolph Long said he’s the first in his family to not only graduate high school, but to go on to college. And the young man from Auburn Gresham is doing so on a full-ride scholarship. “I don’t think it’ll ever sink in. It hasn’t, but it just means that I’m changing the narrative for people not only from my family, but for African-Americans as a whole,” Long said.
Juwaun Cooper-Muhammad is going to Georgetown University in the fall. “Urban Prep was the best thing that ever happened to me, along with my mother,” Cooper-Muhammad said. “We’re breaking barriers and this is a moment that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
No one is more proud of Juwaun than his mother. “I was a teen mom and it makes me know that we can jump over these hurdles,” Ebony Muhammad said, choking back tears. “These obstacles that were in our way, we were able to do it.”
To add to the joy of the celebration, the seniors were awarded more than $11 million combined in scholarships to help pay for their tuition.
And these students say that this milestone is just the beginning.
“I just want to give back to whole city really, for making me who I am today,” Long added.
Thousands of protesters braved rain and chilly temperatures to flood Chicago’s high-end shopping district Friday to demand justice in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Tuesday, the city released the heartbreaking video of McDonald’s shooting and announced former Chicago PD officer Jason Van Dyke would be charged with first-degree murder. The timing of the announcement angered many who wondered why it took more than a year to charge Van Dyke given video evidence that he shoot the teen 16 times, 14 of which came while McDonald lay on the ground.
This Labor Day weekend Jeffrey Osborne headlines the 26th Annual African Festival of the Arts held in Chicago’s historic Washington Park (September 4 – 7, 2015). http://www.aihusa.org/african-festival
This extraordinary event transforms Washington Park into a simulated African village. Patrons experience African culture, spirituality, fine art, film, video, music and more! Over 300 vendors will present artifacts, textiles, music, food and many other interactive program spaces.
AFA is the largest event of its kind held in the U.S. with a focus on African arts and culture. Attendees are transported across the Diaspora with the AFA’s authentic pavilions, including the Drum & African Folk Village; Children and Family Pavilion; Wellness Village; Book & Author Pavilion; and Fine Art Pavilion.
Each day of the Festival is themed: Opening day (Friday, Sept. 4th) will be the Chicago Steppin’ Party and Show, featuring R&B crooner K’Jon. K’Jon’s hit, “On the Ocean,” is fast becoming a classic and is a fan favorite among the Steppers’ crowd.
On Saturday, the focus will be on African Beats with Reggae, Afro-Columbian, Nigerian, and Caribbean music; Sunday is Chicago’s Best with Jazz vocalist Tammy McCann, percussionist Taylor Moore and vocal powerhouse Terisa Griffin, as well as Chicago-style Blues and comedy. Leading up to Osborne’s main-stage performance on Monday evening will be award-winning jazz/R&B vocalist Joan Collaso, along with soul artist, Sax Preacher, and the Big Band rhythms of Soundmine Merchants.
This festival is a virtual African marketplace brought to us by African International House. The mission of Africa International House (AIH) is to serve as a center that exposes and educates all people to the individual works and collective contributions of African cultures. This mission is addressed through their flagship program, the African Festival of the Arts, and through other activities that promote African-based culture. To find out more click here: http://www.aihusa.org
When Tamar Manasseh formed Mothers Against Senseless Killings to patrol the neighborhood in Englewood, IL after a murder in the 7500 block of South Stewart last month, she hoped to stop any retaliatory violence. So far, in the five weeks since a man opened fire on three women on June 23, killing 34-year-old Lucille Barnes, there have been no shootings on the block or on the 7500 block of South Harvard where the patrols have also been set up, according to a DNAinfo Chicago map of shootings in the city.
“When you have sisters like sister Manasseh and others out here just participating, it makes a big difference,” said Johnny Banks, the executive director of the community organization A Knock at Midnight.
But Manasseh, who makes the trek daily from her home in Bronzeville to the neighborhood, said her group really needs more people in the area to join the effort, and that recruitment has been difficult. “Recruiting and getting more volunteers has been quite the challenge,” Manasseh said as she sat on her folding chair on 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, watching over the block, not far from where she used to live at 55th Street and Bishop Avenue.
Right now there are about 15 adult volunteers who have pledged to be out there every day until Labor Day. That’s about the same number the group had when it started a few days after the June shooting.
Manasseh said she didn’t think it would be this difficult to bring in more concerned residents.
“What we’ve learned since we’ve been out here is that people’s attention spans are short,” she said. “It’s hard to keep their interests between tragedies.”
Andrea Watson says organizers want moms to remain active:
The block and surrounding area where the “army of mothers,” as she refers to it, have set up have been peaceful since the group formed, she said, but the lack of adult volunteers surprised her.
“It’s like some people want to put their children in a bubble because they have good kids,” she said. “They want to separate their good kids from all of these bad kids, but your kids are going to grow up in the world alongside those very kids that you tried to shield them from. So wouldn’t it be better if you tried to save them all instead of just yours?”
She said she had higher expectations for the adults, but underestimated the teens from the neighborhood. At least two dozen teens have taken an interest in keeping their community safe and have taken part in the patrols, Manasseh said.
The ultimate goal is to get people on other blocks to follow her and start their own neighborhood patrols. She said she wants to hold an orientation in the near future to teach them conflict resolution and strategic placement.
Community policing in Englewood and on the South Side is important to Manasseh, she said, because she wants to help save her own children from becoming victims of the violence.
Chicago Police did not respond to a request for comment.
Banks’ group, which provides direct services such as workforce development, family advocacy and more to Englewood residents, encourages more adults to volunteer, but he said he understands why some might be hesitant.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “Our people are afraid so they don’t participate.”
He said that’s all the more reason the group of moms and others should be praised for their courage and determination.
Manasseh said although the neighborhood has changed since she was a child, she is holding on to one day seeing a better, safer community. “It’s like Englewood is the land that time forgot,” she said. “It’s the land that has been forgotten, but I have hope, I see hope here.”
In addition to seeking more volunteers, she’s asking for water and any other donations, which can be dropped off daily between 4-8 p.m. at 75th and Stewart.