My First Blog Post

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Quinn: Pensions Threatening MAP Grant Program


Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo/Bob Smith)

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on Dec. 12, 2012 and is housed at RedLineProject.org

By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

“We do not want anyone denied that opportunity because of finances,” Quinn said. “We can’t afford to lose all the talent that exists, all the ability that exists for higher education to help our economy and to help all of us, because there are financial challenges that deny someone the opportunity to go to community college or a four-year university — public and private — in our state.”

Quinn was joined by several Illinois college students, including DePaul Student Government Association Vice President Casey Clemmons.

“Every year over 5,000 DePaul students receive MAP grants, and just like the students who have already spoken here today, all of these DePaul students rely on this funding in order to continue their college careers,” Clemmons said.

“Because the number of Illinois students eligible to receive MAP is currently increasing, existing funding does not allow the state to assist all the eligible students. As a result, without action by the Illinois state leadership, more DePaul students than ever will see their MAP funding disappear this year and more

DePaul students than ever will be forced to give up their education due to finances.”

More than 150,000 students nationally receive MAP grants each year.

Clemmons told the audience that on Tuesday, DePaul’s SGA unanimously c

Ken Thomas, a University of Illinois Board of Trustees student member, MAP recipient and University of Illinois Chicago student, told how he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the MAP grant.

“My mom, when I was in high school, had to work two jobs just to keep food on the table,” Thomas said, “and if we didn’t have [the] MAP program like we do today, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today; graduating with a degree, hoping to be a productive member of society.” 

Having a productive and functioning society and economy is what Quinn says it’s all about.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” he said. “We want to make sure we have smart people in Illinois. Well skilled, well-educated students coming out of college with graduate degrees and diplomas so they can create jobs, create new businesses,” he said. “Our goal in Illinois is to have at least 60 percent of the adults in our state with a college degree or college associate degree or career certificate by the year 2025. In order to achieve we have to make sure we have a good scholarship program.”

Clemmons said that in order for that to happen, state legislatures need to reflect upon the question, “What must be done?” and do what’s required. 

Chinatown Gentrification: Advancement or Displacement?

By Quanzi Wan, Marimar Gutierrez and Myles Franklin-Bey

Gentrification is a phenomenon that has been impacting urban cities since the 1970s.

Janet Smith, the co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said gentrification is directly connected with displacement or the forcing out of these lower-income residents. 

“We look at it from the perspective of displacement. Gentrification is usually seen as a sort of upscaling of a neighborhood, higher-end housing, more expensive overall, and usually replacement of lower-cost housing.” 

Smith continued, “But, the reason we talk about displacement is [that we] can improve a neighborhood, by putting in higher-end housing, without displacing people, you could just be building in housing and [selling]. But, displacement refers to people who are living in the neighborhood but can’t afford to stay there,” 

“So it’s the pushing out of people that becomes most important, but how that happens is through the upscaling… We want improvements, we always do, that’s generally what we always strive for, but if we can do development without displacement then that’s what we should strive for.”

Gentrification is described on Dictionary.com as the buying and renovation of houses and stores in urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals. This, in turn, raises property values but often displaces low-income families and small businesses.

While this may seem like a great business move that could increase the economic value of a neighborhood, the main problem of this aspect is the forcing out of lower-income residents that reside in these newly gentrified neighborhoods. 

Location is one of the factors that contribute to the gentrification of many neighborhoods, and for Chinatown, this is no different. Downtown Chicago can be quickly accessed by train to and from Chinatown.  Gentrification has manifested in Chinatown through the expansion of investors, 

Here is a 360 photo of a popular area in Chinatown

Smith said: “There is a deliberate investment by Chinese investors both local and from afar.” She explains that the people moving to Chinatown are also representative of new money from China in contrast to older generations of Chinese immigrants. 

Some Chinatown owners do not see the harm in the changes happening in the neighborhood. 

 “Ten years ago it would have been inconceivable that we had a library, huge parking lot, and we even had two Chinatowns in Chicago,” said Pei Zhao, owner of Pop KTV, karaoke bar located in Chinatowna karaoke bar located in Chinatown. 

Currently one of Chinatown’s main draw ins for potential move-in residents is the affordability of their housing. 

Francisco Castro, a communications student at the University of Illinois, expresses that when he moved from Florida to Chicago his biggest challenge in finding an apartment was finding an affordable one, which is why he contemplated Chinatown as his new home 

“Near Winchester street some rents were affordable…about $1,100 to $1,500 a month.” He also mentioned that the neighborhood seemed friendly overall. 

Pei Zhao also commented on the demographic diversity increasing  in Chinatown. “We are welcome [to] all Chinese immigrants that move to our neighborhood because it will improve economics for Chinatown. We also hope other races open businesses in Chinatown, it will improve the diversity and attract more people.” 

However, a looming shadow over the activism for maintaining affordable housing in Chinatown is the construction of an upcoming neighborhood project; Project 78. A project aimed at developing the 78th Chicago neighborhood along the Chicago River and the outskirts of many neighborhoods including Chinatown. 

When asked about the potential impact that the 78th project will have on its adjacent neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) spoke to both the opportunities and challenges the 78th project will present.

“It will have a huge impact” Byron stated “It potentially creates new CTA transportation improvements. It obviously provides new amenities, almost direct access to the South Loop. Obviously, the new project will come with opportunities and challenges. 

“[We’re hoping] Chinatown can participate, be apart of it, benefit from it from different angles… We potentially can mitigate the effect of having a large project of this nature. The challenge will be to make sure the social fabric of the community doesn’t change as bigger investors come in that have the ability to pay higher prices, pay higher rents, or worse. People will not be able to keep up.”

Janet Smith was also asked for her input of the looming 78th project, and she provided a perspective from a person who lives relatively close to where the neighborhood is being developed.

“It will have a profound effect. People may think it is an empty space so [you won’t] displace anyone. No, but it will attract investors who will capitalize on that [empty space].”

This Juxtapose compares the surrounding area of the Chinatown Public Library in 2010 with 2019

Smith added that investor will likely want to invest in neighborhoods adjacent to the 78 project, however she presumes it unclear to know weather gentrification in these neighborhood would be at its max before the completion of project 78

“We can anticipate that having an effect on Pilsen, going south, going into Chinatown, also going into Bronzeville… It will have an effect, but the question is will the gentrification [of these neighborhoods] have already taken place [by then].”

Smith also spoke to the work that the 25th Ward Alderman is doing to pressure the developers of the 78th to do more affordable housing in their project. And so with their names appearing so frequently, we reached out to those at Project 78 for a comment on this subject. Unfortunately, we never received a reply from their team.

The fight against the gentrification of Chinatown and its adjacent neighborhoods seems to stem from the fight to maintain a balance between a neighborhood having economic gain and still keeping its cultural integrity. Longtime residents of neighborhoods do not want to belittle the culture that they grew up in, or raised families in, while new developers are trying to attract new residents, tourists, and investors in an attempt to make the most money possible. 

But there is still a glimmer of hope for low-income residents of these neighborhoods. 

Ald. Sigcho-Lopez (25th ward) gave a call to action for those residents who want to make a difference in this battle. For these residents, he gave a very simple solution, “I think it’s important to participate, attend committee meetings, be a part of it. We have different committees in the 25th ward… participate in these committees, joining us, and participating in shaping a community plan so that we can create proposals and good policy. This is a global trend and so it will take a village [to challenge it]”

Smith added that there are other ways of combating gentrification.

“When you’re doing development the city of Chicago requires that if you have 10 units of housing, 1-3 have to be affordable housing… [You can also] encourage homeowners to stay in the neighborhood rather than to sell to investors, by giving a tax break and other incentives to encourage the development of affordable housing.”


10 Winter Events/Destinations in Chicago 2019

With the temperatures beginning to fall in Chicago beach day becomes a little less of a realistic option. Although Chicago is known for its wind and cold winter temperatures, the city still provides many events and attractions during the cold months to keep residents and tourists entertained. I was able to use Google MyMaps in order to construct a map with my personal top 10 I would recommend tourists and residents to visit. The map also includes either a video or a picture explaining each event. I included the interactive map below, as well as a link to open the map in another tab.

It should be noted that these rankings are not necessarily from best attraction to worst attraction. This is more of a comprehensive list than an official ranking. However, I do feel these 10 represent the most intriguing opportunities for events in the Chicago area during the winter months.

1. Millennium Park Ice Skating

Photo cred Wikimedia Commons

Millennium Park is a year-round tourist destination in Chicago, but in the winter the McCormick Tribune rink that is located in the park becomes an ice skating hub. People enjoy ice skating in the rink while taking in the downtown Chicago atmosphere

2. Christkindlmarket Chicago

Photo cred: flickr

The winter season is dominated by the holidays, and holiday events. This is an opportunity to get in some holiday shopping while taking in the architecture and atmosphere downtown.

3. Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Festival

Around the time of the holidays, Lincoln Park holds it’s annual zoo lights festival. This free event has multiple themed activities including ice carving, carolers, and a synchronized music and light show.

4. Navy Pier Winter Wonderland

The annual Winter Wonderland event features ice skating, live entertainment, and of course the rides at Navy Pier. Great for a day out with the family.

5. United Center

Go Bulls! Go Blackhawks! Wear your jersey and bring a friend! There are also many live performances in the United Center year-round. You can check your Ticketmaster for any events in this venue.

6. Soldier Field

Go Bears! Another possible sporting event. Seeing the Chicago Bears at soldier field is a totally different experience then it would be to just watch the game on TV.

7. John Hancock Observatory Ice Skating

Another possible ice skating opportunity in the downtown area, but this one comes with a view from 1000 feet above the city. Bring your own skates to avoid pricey skate rentals.

8. Museum of Science and Industry “Christmas Around the World”

The “Christmas Around the World” exhibit features trees from many different cultures. Another annual event that takes place in the winter in Chicago.

9. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Will be 4pm November 22 and 11pm November 23rd. Annual parade of lights concluded by a fireworks display.

10. Art Institute of Chicago

The iconic lion statues out front are fitted with wreaths around the holidays. Thursday nights Illinois residents can get in with free admission.

The Pilsen Murals are More Than Just “Art”

When taking a walk or drive down 16th street in the Chicago neighborhood Pilsen the murals immediately catch the eye.

Mural/Memorial for Marlen Ochoa Lopez, Many items have been left at the base of the Mural to show respect

Mural/Memorial Made in Honor of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez

This mural is one of the more beautifully done murals on 16th street, but it has a very ugly story behind it. Marlen Ochoa Lopez befriended a lady on a Facebook group for young pregnant women, however, she was unaware of the woman’s true intentions. On April 23rd, 2019 she went to the house of Clarisa Figueroa, the woman she had befriended and was murdered by Clarisa and her daughter. I left a link to the full story below:


Pilsen Murals blend creativity and activism

The other murals that are visible as you walk down 16th street are also very eye-catching and interesting to look at. The murals are actually painted by community groups and organizations within the neighborhood of Pilsen. These groups also enlist the help of artists from time to time. WTTW did a story on their website about how the murals blend creativity and activism. Here’s the link:


I also included a 3D panorama of one of the murals that sit below a viaduct on 16th street. The mural reminded me of simpler times so I had to share it.


Google Trends: Area 51 Trumps President in polls, Ranking Popular Social Media Networks

Facebook is still Top Dog

Since the launch of the social networking site Facebook in 2004, the company has continuously looked to set the standard for every other social media site in terms of innovation, popularity, and ease of use. However, after it was revealed that Facebook had been selling it’s user’s data, some users lost trust in the platform and decided to delete their profile in favor of other social media platforms. According to Google trends, while Facebook is not at peak popularity currently, it is still far and away the most searched social media platform on Google. Instagram comes in at a distant second, with Twitter trailing behind. What this figure shows is despite the trust most users would admit they lost on Facebook, people still seem to be the most likely and willing to use it (and Instagram which is also owned by Facebook). Facebook likely holds the lead due to it being the oldest social networking site, and also the variety of activities that are available for Facebook users (e.x games, fan pages, the messenger app, and event pages).

This figure also shows that interest in Snapchat has begun to fall below TikTok, which is a relatively new social media platform that has begun to gather some popularity. Snapchat was once thought to be the next big social media platform but interest in them seemed to hit a plateau and began to shrink after competitors released similar features such as Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories. 

With the trends displayed above a conclusion can be made that Facebook is a long way away from being overtaken by any of its competitors in terms of interest. Although the interest is showing a steady decline from its peak popularity in early July (which may have something to do with the other trend discussed on this page) the gap between Facebook and 2nd place Instagram is so high it’s hard to imagine Instagram catching Facebook any time soon.

Area 51 raid shows Power of the Meme

Area 51 is not normally a hot topic of conversation for many American citizens but that all seemed to change due to a sudden spike of interest in the location between July 11-13th 2019. What was the reason for this sudden spike in interest in a relatively secluded location? Actually, it was none other than a random Facebook event that turned into a gigantic internet meme. The event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” was created in an attempt to gather people to raid Area 51 in search of extraterrestrial life. The event seemed to blow up overnight, and at one time had over 2 million people who responded they were going, and 1.5 million interested in the event’s page. It had become the newest internet meme. The Facebook event took place on September 20th, 2019, which explains the sudden increase in area 51 again at the end of the trend graph. 

From the trend graph above the conclusion can be drawn that the power of internet jokes and memes may be at the highest it’s ever been. This meme in particular even saw more general interest than the current President of the United States during its times at peak popularity. 

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

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