Stories by Erica Gunderson

Chicago City Council’s Mass Exodus: A ‘Latino Voices’ Crossover Conversation

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

At least 13 Chicago wards are set for new City Council leadership come next year due to an exodus of alderpeople. And while a few of those existing City Council members are leaving their seats to run for higher office, many are saying they’re opting out simply because it’s time to move on.

What Does City Council Turnover Mean for Chicago? A ‘Black Voices’ Crossover Conversation

Chicago City Hall (Heather Cherone / WTTW News)

For aspiring alderpeople, the next city election presents plenty of opportunity. With a large portion of the City Council set to turn over in 2023, political organizations are lining up candidates to duke it out and stake their claim in Chicago’s wards to help determine the city’s future.

Featuring Chicago Sisters, The Luna Blues Machine Blends Genres and Harmonies for Unique Sound

Belinda and Maritza Cervantes, the frontwomen of The Luna Blues Machine. (WTTW News)

Being in a band together can be a strain on any relationship — even between siblings. But sisters Belinda and Maritza Cervantes, the frontwomen of The Luna Blues Machine, say they’ve managed to keep working together in perfect harmony.

Local Couple Gets Chicagoans Hip to Polynesian Dance

Ale Gabino and David Acevedo, owners of the Hōkūle’a Academy of Polynesian Arts. (WTTW News)

Ale Gabino and David Acevedo are both lifelong dancers. After meeting at a 2003 Polynesian dance competition in Hilo, Hawaii, they married in 2009. A year later, they opened Hōkūle’a Academy of Polynesian Arts, where together, they teach their other great love – Polynesian culture and dance.

El Churro Shop Makes Old Traditions New on 26th Street in Little Village

El Churro Shop in Little Village. (WTTW News)

“Crunchy outside, soft center, golden brown and delicious” – that’s how Aldo Rios, owner of El Churro Shop in Little Village, describes the perfect churro. 

Music Picks to Get Your Playlist Party-Ready for Hispanic Heritage Month

Enchúfate’s Sandra Treviño has music picks. (WTTW News)

Music is an integral part of any celebration – and that includes Hispanic Heritage Month, which officially began this week, and Enchúfate’s Sandra Treviño wants to get you ready to party.

Local Black-Led Tech Startups Get Funding Boost from Google

(Credit: Eventnoire)

The leaders of events management platform Eventnoire and revenue management tool for the vacation rental industry Buoy Pricing were awarded $100,000 each from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. 

Report Finds Black Workers Overrepresented in Low-Wage Roles

(WTTW News)

This month, the Shriver Center released a report based on interviews with low-wage workers across Illinois. It found people like home health aides, rideshare workers and warehouse workers struggle with not just low wages but a lack of benefits, insufficient safety protections and job security.

Savor the Sabor: Latin Restaurant Weeks Return to Chicago

Courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events)

From now through Sept. 30, 40 local restaurants are offering specially priced menus and menu items. Latin Restaurant Weeks founder Karinn Chavarria says there’s never been a better time to taste what Chicago has to offer.

‘Destinos’ Latino Theater Festival Returns for Hispanic Heritage Month

(Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Latino Theater Alliance)

The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance’s annual festival “Destinos” returns this month to showcase Latino theater companies, artists and stories. 

Chicago Mom Brings Black Characters Who Are Sunny, Silly and Fun to Kid’s Literature

A page from “Stella Keeps the Sun Up” by Clothilde Ewing.

The children’s section at your local library is probably overflowing with books about figures in Black history and illustrations of the Black experience in America. While those depictions are important for children to see, they aren’t always — well fun. That was the experience of author Clothilde Ewing.

Traffic Deaths Are On Rise This Year. How Does Chicago’s Segregation Impact Safety?

(WTTW News)

Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that the rates of traffic-related deaths are the highest they’ve been in 20 years. An analysis by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine suggests Latino and Black Americans are disproportionately affected by vehicular fatalities. 

Get Your Grito On at Pilsen Fest, Sept. 17 and 18

(Credit: Pilsen Fest)

Chicago’s festival season and Hispanic Heritage Month are due to intersect at 18th Street and Blue Island on Sept. 17 and 18 when Pilsen Fest brings Mexican art, music, and of course food to the heart of the historic neighborhood.

‘La Ultima Palabra’ on Leaning into Life’s U-Turns

A painting by Raspy Rivera on display. (WTTW News)

The acting career of Raspy Rivera was derailed by an injury in 2020. But she says that injury wound up being a life-changing gift. 

A Look Back at Pullman Porters’ Push for Labor Rights

Pullman porters. (WTTW)

In 1925, the all-Black, all-male workers organized and founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in hopes of forcing the Pullman Company to the bargaining table.

Interim Police Oversight Commissioners Begin Work to Restore Trust

Chicago police car. (WTTW News)

This week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the names of seven interim commissioners who will make up the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, Chicago’s first civilian police oversight board. The group is charged with a tall order: rebuilding public trust in the department.

Get Stuffed with Latino Culture at Whiting Empanada Fest on Sept. 10

(Credit: Ballet Folklorico Yolotzin)

On Saturday, Sept. 10, sweet and savory empanadas take center stage in a one-day festival at Whiting Lakefront Park along with cultural performances by local music and dance groups

A Chicago Native Wants You to Know Birding is for Everyone

A downy woodpecker turns upside down. (Credit: Jorge Garcia)

Jorge Garcia wasn’t always a bird paparazzo – in fact, he’s only been at it for a couple of years, after a gear upgrade for his job as a technologist took an unexpected turn. The fledgling interest soon hatched into a full-blown hobby.

Unemployment Rate for Black Chicagoans More than Double Rate for White Residents. Community Organizations Working to Close the Gap.

(WTTW News)

While the overall unemployment rate for Chicago is nearly 5.8% in August, the rate for Black residents is more than twice that, at 14.3%.

Get Home Safe: Tips for Avoiding Scams in Chicago’s Tight Rental Market

(WTTW News)

According to city data, 60% of Chicagoans live in rental properties, and a June report by real estate platform Domu finds the median rent for one-bedroom apartments in Chicago is up 8% since January. With fierce competition for apartments, the city’s renters – many of whom are Black– are more vulnerable targets for scammers and shady landlords.

Chicago Public Schools Pilot Program Aims to Bring More Black Men into Teaching Field

(WTTW News)

According to CPS data, fewer than 4% of CPS teachers are Black men. In a school district where 36% percent of students are Black, that’s a striking imbalance. 

Former US Rep Luis Gutierrez Gets to Work on ‘Our Nation’s Future’

Former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez speaks about the launch of Our Nation’s Future at the Union League Club of Chicago, Friday June 17, 2022. (WTTW News)

Former U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez is coming out of retirement to announce the formation of a new immigration reform organization. His group Our Nation's Future aims to help people with green cards become naturalized citizens by educating immigrants on the path to citizenship and advocating for a modernized immigration system.

‘La Ultima Palabra’ on Initiating Change in Your Community

Rogelio Lopez, An East Side CPS counselor. (WTTW News)

Rogelio Lopez, An East Side CPS counselor, gives “Latino Voices” La Ultima Palabra on what he says is the most daunting part of bringing change to your community.

As New School Year Starts, Programs Look to Provide Chicago Kids Access to Needed Internet Services

A Chicago Public Schools classroom is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

As school starts back up, students especially rely on the internet for everything from research to turning in their homework. But for some of those students, reliable internet access is still tough to come by. A few area programs are looking to change that. 

Reducing Kids’ Health Risks as They Head Back to School

Students walk in CPS hallways. (WTTW News)

“The science is pretty much supporting all the changes that CDC is doing,” said Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director at the Chicago Department of Public Health. “The reports of cases at school have been lower and we expect them to continue to be the lowest as we vaccinate children and send them protected to school.”

Chicago Band Así Así Releases Debut Indie Rock Album, ‘Mal de Otros’

Three members of Chicago Band Así Así rehearses in a practice space. (WTTW News)

Chicago band Así Así layers psychedelic, electronic, and surf sounds to create a moody blend of indie rock on their debut album “Mal de Otros,” released Aug. 18.