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Ford's 'historic' reparations resolution passes House | Lead in fountains | Bethel New Life CEO leaves

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By Community Editor

A resolution introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives by West Side state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (8th), which calls on President Barack Obama to create a commission that would study a proposal to grant reparations to descendants of slaves in America, among other tasks, unanimously passed the House on June 30.

In particular, House Resolution 1011 calls on Obama "to commission a study to detail the economic impact of the slave trade and the use of slave labor; and how Emancipation, while freeing them of their literal bonds, and ending an immoral practice, did not guarantee equality in education, employment, housing, and access to quality affordable health care; that this study also include an analysis for how reparations for past harms have benefited the ethnic groups that have received them during the course of American history; and a proposal for reparations to the descendants of slaves in America, and how those reparations can help overcome obstacles that still exist today in education, employment, housing, health care, and justice."

According to the National African American Reparations Commission, the legislation is "first reparations legislation (in the modern era) passed by a state legislature that calls for the federal government to intercede to address 'obstacles that people of African descent face resulting from the economic exploitation, abuse, and terror of enslavement and its aftermath, Jim Crow segregation.'"

Ford said he was motivated to move the legislation forward after the United Nations Working Group of Experts for People of African Descent visited Chicago earlier this year. In a statement released in February, when he introduced the legislation, Ford referenced a passage from Ta-Nehisi Coates's popular Atlantic magazine essay, "The Case for Reparations."

On July 28, at 6:30 p.m., the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America will host a planning meeting at Malcolm X College. The meeting is open to the public.

Lead found in some Chicago parks' drinking fountains

[By AustinTalks] WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio reported this week that high levels of lead have been found in a few Chicago parks' drinking fountains.

The Chicago Park District will be testing all indoor and outdoor drinking fountains throughout the city, including all West Side parks.

Low levels of lead were found in most of the 158 drinking fountains tested so far, while two had lead levels far above the federal regulatory limits, according to Chicago Public Radio reporter Monica Eng.

The district told WBEZ it had turned off those fountains.

At this point, high levels have not been found in Austin park drinking fountains; testing has been done at Austin Town Hall and La Follette.

The testing of park drinking fountains comes as the Chicago Public Schools continues its testing of more than 500 schools across the city. AustinTalks reported last month that lead was found at one Austin school; that testing continues.

Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is sponsoring a discussion July 27th on how Illinois compares to other states in tracking and reporting water quality.

Bethel New Life CEO leaves,  chief innovation officer to serve as interim

Bethel New Life, the West Side nonprofit that offers a variety of social service, entrepreneurship and job-training programs, announced last month the departure of its president and CEO, Lori Vallelunga, who was hired five years ago.

According to an email statement, Vallelunga noted that she would be relocating to Florida with her husband. In the statement, she announced that Bethel's chief innovation officer, Ed Coleman, will serve as interim president and CEO.

"Ed has played an important leadership role in helping to reshape Bethel and to define our West Side Forward> strategy," Vallelunga said. "Although parting is bitter sweet and although i know that I will miss Bethel and the Bethel family, I know that the organization is in good hands."

In the same email, Coleman noted that, "Over the coming days, weeks and months," he would be reach out to stakeholders to "ask for your ideas, your support, to rekindle relationships and launch new partnerships. We recognize that in order to move the West Side Forward>, Chicago must heal old wounds, overcome historical problems and build a bold new future."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article described Ed Coleman as Bethel's board chair. This article has since been updated. Austin Weekly News regrets this error. 

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