Panel to Address Human Rights on Chicago’s South Side

Carlos Javier Ortiz’s “A Thousand Midnights” is part of the “In Acts” exhibition at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, where a panel discussion on human rights takes place Tuesday. (Courtesy of Weinberg/Newton Gallery)Carlos Javier Ortiz’s “A Thousand Midnights” is part of the “In Acts” exhibition at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, where a panel discussion on human rights takes place Tuesday. (Courtesy of Weinberg/Newton Gallery)

A discussion about human rights on the South Side of Chicago – including public health and criminal justice – takes place Tuesday evening at a River North gallery.

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Leading the discussion are four local professionals, including Darrell Cannon of the Chicago Torture Justice Center, and Dr. Evan Lyon, an internist who says he has observed “a tremendous lack of access to resources” among his patients.

During his two-and-a-half years at the University of Chicago’s medical school, Lyon treated patients with disabilities who lived in homes they couldn’t navigate and elderly patients who lived in areas without nearby grocery stores.

“It’s a heartache for the city,” said Lyon, who now works at the nonprofit Heartland Alliance. “If fire trucks are out transporting residents from their homes to vehicles so they can get to check-ups or run errands, they can’t be out solving other problems.”

The event Tuesday, called simply “Human Rights on the South Side of Chicago,” was organized by the University of Chicago’s Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. Also joining the panel: the director of policy for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and the communications coordinator from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. 

Lyon, who lives in the South Shore neighborhood, hopes the discussion gets everyone thinking more openly about problems – and solutions – specific to the South Side, which he described as unique in terms of its sheer size and scope of issues.   

He believes a multidisciplinary, community-oriented approach is essential for addressing the well-being of area neighborhoods. As an an advocate of the level-one trauma center coming to the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park medical campus, he worked alongside lawyers and community activists.

“To be effective, health care needs to be expanded past the profession. [Advocacy for the trauma center] had to be multidisciplinary,” Lyon said of the yearslong effort to have the trauma center built.

The Weinberg/Newton Gallery, which is hosting the event, is also partnering with the University of Chicago to explore the broader question, “What is an artistic practice of human rights?” The current exhibit “In Acts” was curated to complement the university’s upcoming summit that will bring international artists to Chicago to address the topic at the end of April.

“We look at our space as a place to ask questions and as a tool for dialogue,” said gallery director Kasia Houlihan. “The artwork poses the question, and there’ll be multiple opportunities to address those issues in dialogue with different members of the community.”

Tuesday night’s panel begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The exhibition “In Acts” is on view through June 10.

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