Mississippi Damned in Chicago

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of seeing the film Mississippi Damned, which won three awards at the Chicago International Film Festival, including the Gold Hugo in the Main Competition and Gold Plaques for best screenplay and best supporting actress.  Jossie Thacker, who was honored for her role as the tough but troubled Aunt Charlie, spoke after the screening about her experience on set, telling the audience that the film was shot in a matter of weeks with little rehearsal time. The film, directed by Tina Marby, is brutally realistic, following the lives of a close-knit African American family struggling in a small Southern town.  The title pays homage to Nina Simone’s famous song Mississippi Goddam.  Check out a trailer for the film here:

Is Illinois American Water charging too much?

I cover the village of Homer Glen for the Tribune, and since taking on the beat, Mayor Jim Daley has constantly spoken out against high rates charged by Illinois American Water, which sells water to 44,200 Chicago-area households and businesses, including 6,000 homes in Homer Glen.  On Monday, more than 350 residents came out to protest these water and sewer rates.  The rates are approved or denied by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).  The most interesting part of the story? Talking to Homer Glen residents who shared with me their concern over obscene charges for something that is a basic necessity.

Debbie Litoborski, a Homer Glen resident and Cicero teacher who has lived in the village for 15 years, had this to say:

This is the way it’s happened time and time again. I’ve been to all the other ones and they’ve always been granted the increases…That’s why I asked the question to the ICC, ‘Are you going to work for the people, or are you going to work for them?’ because it comes down to that. They’re sitting here very confidently, looking and listening to everything that’s been said, and it doesn’t seem to bother or phase them at all.

No, I’m not hopeful at all. I’m wondering where I’m going to live next because I know as a fact, as a teacher, I won’t be able to afford those rates. Not me and my family.

Our lowest bill is $110 per month, and that’s conserving everything — waiting every other flush, just doing everything we can, not washing dishes until the end of the day, stretching out laundry, using towels three to four times.  We conserve in every possible way we can.  We don’t water the lawn. I have a garden I water once a week, if that. I pray for rain, just so I can save in any way. If they get this, there’s no way I’ll be able to stay in Homer Glen. And it will be a shame because I love my house, I love my neighbors, I love my community…I feel there’s forces beyond their control that will not allow [Homer Glen officials] to purchase the company, and everyone’s for that.

Read the full article here. Please note: The Tribune doesn’t keep online links up forever, so this may expire in a few weeks.

Looking Back at the Republic Factory Takeover

RevoltonGooseIsland

I interviewed author and journalist Kari Lydersen about her book, Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What It Says About the Economic Crisis. The book tells the story of 250 workers who were laid off from their jobs at the Republic Windows and Doors factory on Chicago’s Goose Island just before the holiday season.  Almost one year ago – on December 5, 2008 – the workers refused to leave the factory until they received 60 days of federally mandated severance pay and compensation for accrued vacation time.  Read the piece over at Gapers Block.