Chicagoans Hold Vigil For Victims Of Violence, Challenge Strong Police Presence (VIDEO)

About 200 Chicagoans held a downtown vigil Wednesday night for victims of violence and alleged police brutality in the city.

The event, organized by the Chicago Light Brigade and held near Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue, featured 432 white paper lanterns shaped like lilies to symbolize each person who died a violent death in the city this year. Sixteen additional colored lanterns represented the number of people known to have been killed by Chicago police, according to organizers. 

"Oftentimes we talk about people as numbers," said event speaker Charlene Carruthers with the Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, a national organization of young black activists aged 18 to 35. "We give people numbers when they become incarcerated. We give people numbers when they become students. We give people numbers for so many reasons, but the representation that we have here today, those are lives that were taken by a system that was never set up to actually serve us."

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Chicagoans Urge Emanuel To Support Reparations Package For Burge Torture Victims (VIDEO)

Chicagoans urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council on Tuesday to advance a long-stalled ordinance seeking reparations for survivors of torture committed by former Police Commander Jon Burge and his officers.

Members of Amnesty International, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Project NIA, We Charge Genocide and others marched Tuesday afternoon from Chicago Police Department (CPD) headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave. to City Hall, where they delivered over 40,000 petition signatures to Emanuel's office in support of the reparations ordinance.

The roughly 150 activists, who toted signs that read, "Two decades too many," and "Reparations now," also held a memorial outside of Emanuel's office honoring the survivors of police torture under Burge's regime.

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Chicago Treasurer Proposes Investing City Pension Funds In Black Neighborhoods

A day after taking office, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers hit the ground running launching a 77 communities in 77 days listening tour throughout the city.

That tour brought Summers to the Bronzeville neighborhood last week, where he met with residents and business owners to discuss black communities getting a slice of the $50 billion fiscal pie the city has to invest each year. Summers spoke to a group of 50 at the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, located at 3501 S. King Dr.

Summers told the crowd that his office manages a combined $50 billion in investments as well as employee pension funds and retirement plans. He said he would like to see some of that money invested in neighborhoods like Bronzeville.

"I don't view a neighborhood investment strategy as a risky strategy," said Summers, a product of Bronzeville. "I don't view that as any more risky than investing in Korea's debt, which we do, or investing in a cement company in Mexico. I don't believe investing in Bronzeville is any riskier than that."

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Chicago Children, Parents Participate In 'Black Lives Matter' Protest (VIDEO)

About 30 young Chicago students and parents from Near North Montessori School participated in a "black lives matter" protest Friday morning at Wicker Park's Polish Triangle, at the intersection of Ashland and Milwaukee Avenues and Division Street.

For about an hour, the children and parents staged "die-ins" and marched around a fountain at the triangle chanting, "Hands up. Don't shoot" and "No justice. No peace," while carrying signs that read, "We matter" and "Enough is enough." 

The protest, organized by Near North Montessori parents, is one of many that have taken place in Chicago and across the country in response to the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner -- both of whom were unarmed and black -- and the two grand jury decisions against indicting the white officers involved in those cases. 

Parent Lehia Franklin Acox was at the demonstration with her two young daughters, including her eight-year-old who attends Near North Montessori, a private school located at 434 W. Division St. 

"As a brown mother, I've had to unfortunately start to have conversations with my eight-year-old, who sees things, hears things, and I have to have conversations about the fact that even though we kind of live in a bubble, that everything's equal at school and at home and we have a very diverse group of friends and family, that some people, just by the virtue of her skin color, might view her as a threat and may seek to harm her," she said. "And unfortunately, that includes law enforcement."

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Strides Being Made In Improving CPS Arts Education, But Challenges Still Remain

The "state of the arts" in the Chicago Public Schools district has improved over the past two academic years, but there remains much work ahead to ensure all students have access to quality arts instruction, according to a recent report by Ingenuity Inc., a Chicago-based arts education advocacy organization.

For the report issued last week, Ingenuity examined the progress that's been made towards the goals and recommendations in the city's three-year CPS Arts Education Plan, which was approved by the Chicago Board of Education in November of 2012 and made arts a core subject.

Over the first two academic years under the plan, "growth was seen in almost all categories of arts instruction, including minutes of weekly instruction, staffing, arts integration and professional development, and number of arts partnerships," the report reads.

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