Stories by Erica Gunderson

Get Outside: Organizations Offer Drop-In Activities for Chicago Youth

The Pedersen-McCormick Boys and Girls Club. (WTTW News)

After a year of being cooped up inside, many Chicago teens are ready to get outside. We talk with youth organizations about low- or no-cost activities young people can do right now and through to the fall.

New Documentary ‘Seguimos Aquí’ Explores LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Experience

Reyna Ortiz works with Taskforce Prevention and is one of four LGBTQ+-identifying Latinx Chicagoans featured in the documentary. (Courtesy of Soapbox Productions)

A new documentary explores inequities through the experiences of four Latino Chicagoans who identify as LGBTQ-plus as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic in their personal and professional lives.

Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices, July 17, 2021 - Full Show

Araceli Gomez-Aldana of WBEZ guest hosts the 38th episode of “Latino Voices.” (WTTW News)

A new documentary on the LGBTQ Latino experience in Chicago. Two Latino festivals are making a comeback. And finding home away from home in a community garden.

Fiesta del Sol, Latin Jazz Festival Back in Action

Footage taken from the stage at a previous Fiesta del Sol (Courtesy of Fiesta del Sol)

In Chicago, summer is synonymous with festival season. This year, with Chicagoans hungrier than ever for summer food and festivities, two signature Latino festivals are set to stage their comebacks.

The Last Word: Rashod Johnson

Rashod Johnson gives us the last word on “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices.” (WTTW News)

The CEO of local engineering firm Ardmore Roderick tells us what he thinks the city should do to help Chicago’s small businesses.

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Experience Resonates with Black Academics

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks with Brandis Friedman in December 2017. (WTTW News)

In the wake of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s decision to reject a tenure offer from the University of North Carolina, we talk with local scholars about their experiences in higher education as Black women.

End of Eviction Ban Expected to Push More People Onto Streets

Fireman’s Park in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. (WTTW News)

Over the past year, a small group of people who are homeless have established a tent encampment in a small Avondale park. Similar encampments are all over Chicago, and as Illinois’ eviction moratorium nears its end, the number of unhoused people is expected to grow.

Chicago Woman Crafts Jiggly Garden of Gelatin Delights

Angelica Aguilar was born in Mexico, but she didn’t develop an interest in making gelatin art until she was a young adult in Chicago. (WTTW News)

For many people, the idea of gelatin desserts conjures up images of the jiggly retro novelty that appears at church potlucks and in school lunchboxes. But in Mexican culture, gelatins are not just a sweet treat, but an art form. 

Red, White, Blue and Black: What Patriotism Means to Black America

(WTTW News)

This Fourth of July holiday we look at a word that has had different meanings for different Americans: patriotism, and what it means to some members of the Black community.

‘¡Viva la Libertad!’ Exhibit Explores Independence Struggles of the Americas

A work of art featured in the exhibition “¡Viva la Libertad!” at the Newberry Library. (WTTW News)

A new exhibit and programming series at the Newberry Library looks at the ties between the revolutionary histories of the U.S. and countries across Latin America.

Patriotism in the Latino Community

Chicago welcomes 175 new U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Wrigley Field on July 2, 2021. (WTTW News)

For many Latinos, both American-born and immigrants, feelings of pride and patriotism for the U.S. are complicated by history, racial injustice and cultural erasure, leading to questions of what it truly means to be an American patriot.

Fully Free Campaign Seeks to End System of ‘Permanent Punishments’

Stateville Correctional Center (WTTW News)

In the U.S., many people view incarceration as the punishment one receives for breaking the law. But a recently released study indicates that for the more than 3.3 million people with criminal records in Illinois, punishment continues well beyond time served.

60 Years Later, Influential Author’s Take on Race, Police Still Relevant

A photo of the author Richard Wright, right, and the book jacket for his novel “The Man Who Lived Underground.”

A novel by Richard Wright, published more than 61 years after his death, is this month’s Black Voices Book Club selection. We discuss “The Man Who Lived Underground” with the grandson of this influential author.

The Last Word: Christopher LeMark

Christopher LeMark gives “Black Voices” the last word on mental health services. (WTTW News)

The founder of the organization Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health gives us the last word on making mental health therapy normal — and accessible — for everyone who needs it.

La Ultima Palabra: Lolita’s Bodega

The founders of Lolita’s Bodega in Humboldt Park say residents have more power than they think — and it’s in their pockets. (WTTW News)

The forces of gentrification can make people being priced out of their neighborhoods feel powerless. But the founders of Lolita’s Bodega in Humboldt Park say residents have more power than they think.

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center Celebrates 50 Years

The Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center has brought Afro-Latin dance, music, and art to Chicago’s West Side since 1971. (Courtesy of SRBCC)

Chicago’s oldest Latino cultural institution has brought Afro-Latin dance, music and art to the West Side since 1971. Now it’s celebrating a milestone after one of the most difficult years arts organizations have ever faced.

Space to GRO: New Organization Supports Black Women at U of C

The University of Chicago campus. (WTTW News)

In 1921, Georgiana Rose Simpson became America’s first black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. How her trailblazing achievement is being honored at her alma mater through the new group GRO.

Photos Documenting History of Logan Square Featured at Blue Line Station

Now through June 27, the Logan Square Blue Line station platform is a subterranean gallery featuring a selection of photographs from “The Logan Square Book — Gentrification and Preservation in a Chicago Neighborhood.” (WTTW News)

Inside the Logan Square Blue Line CTA station, a subterranean gallery features a selection of photographs from a new book about gentrification and preservation in the neighborhood, which was, for decades, a predominantly Latino community.

La Ultima Palabra: CAUSE Chicago

Chicagoans Isabela Ávila and Francisco Villaseñor give us la ultima palabra on how they say anyone – even teenagers – can create the change they want to see in their communities. (WTTW News)

Chicago high school students Isabela Ávila and Francisco Villaseñor give us the last word on creating meaningful change in local communities.

Chicago Flats Initiative Aims to Preserve Affordable Multifamily Housing

(WTTW News)

As the state’s eviction moratorium winds down, a housing crisis looms in Chicago. Now, a coalition of community organizations is trying to keep at-risk families in their homes and save the multifamily housing stock that helped build Chicago.

Lightfoot’s Comments Put Spotlight on Diversity in Newsrooms

(Cytonn Photography / Unsplash)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot kicked off a firestorm of criticism when she announced that interviews about her second anniversary as mayor would only be given to reporters of color. We speak with leaders of local journalist associations on the role of diversity in newsrooms.

Latino Veterans Charter American Legion Post 939 to Build Community

The Tattler Post in Lincoln Square is the temporary home of Jason Vazquez Post 939.  (WTTW News)

The American Legion counts all who served active duty in any branch of the U.S. armed forces as members. But for young Latino veterans like Marcos Torres and Daniel Del Rivero, it didn’t seem like a place for them.

Summer Water Safety Tips for Pools and Beaches

Lifeguards are not at every beach. Not there at all hours nor all times of year. So look into your beach’s lifeguard coverage ahead of time. (WTTW News)

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in Chicago and for many that means it’s time to visit the city’s lakefront beaches. But fun in the water can also lead to tragedy.

5 Songs for Your Summer Playlist

Music journalist Sandra Treviño shares five new songs perfect for a road trip or beach day to get your summer playlist started. (WTTW News)

Music journalist Sandra Treviño shares five new songs perfect for a road trip or beach day to get your summer playlist started.

Retired Law Enforcement Officers on Policing in Chicago

A person lays a flower at a memorial for 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood during a peace walk on April 18, 2021. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

Fatal shootings, botched raids and police tactics at protests have all been the subject of criticism, calls for reform and even defunding. But many in law enforcement say they are given too few resources and too many restrictions to do what they believe is a difficult and dangerous job.

The Last Word: Chrystal Whitfield

Chrystal Whitfield gives us The Last Word. (WTTW News)

The creator of an Englewood community garden talks about the healing power of growing food as part of our ongoing series.