Race and poverty roundup: George Zimmerman charged; subprime lending is back; Derrick Smith indicted

What’s moving in the world of race and poverty, on Chicago Muckrakers weekly. 

The announcement that George Zimmerman will be charged with second degree murder was welcomed by advocates who felt that letting Zimmerman go free, despite there being little question that he had shot Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, was a travesty of justice.

Rep. Derrick Smith was formally indicted on bribery charges this week. Smith took a bribe that he thought was from a non-profit but was, in fact, part of a federal sting operation.

Lenders across the country are returning to the lucrative subprime mortgage market, reported the New York Times, pushing borrowers to buy homes they cannot afford for inflated interest rates. Subprime lending has been blamed for being one of the causes of the 2008 financial crash. Minority borrowers are targeted by subprime lenders at disproportionately high rates.

The Chicago Teachers Union announced last week it has enough support to win a strike vote. According to the union's informal poll, more than 75 percent of teachers at 150 schools are ready for a strike in the fall. Tensions are high between the union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who this week gave a little ground in his contentious plan to extend the school day.

The planned closure of 1/2 of the city's mental health clinics has begun, with Northwest MHC and Northtown Rogers Park MHC the first of six centers to be shut over the next few weeks. Protests led to arrests early Friday as a group demonstrated against the closure of the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic on the South Side.

A discussion at Grace Place Wednesday night with Rekia Boyd's brother, Emmett Till's cousin, and Stephon Watt's father brought out tears and plans for action to combat gun violence and racism, reported the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Fire Department will have "a lily-white leadership team for the next decade," said the City Council's Black Caucus, unless the fire department makes a concerted effort to bring minorities into its ranks for a planned promotional exam.

Illinois House members held a meeting in Chicago Wednesday to discuss overcrowding in state prisons. One option is that states close eight prisons, including the notorious Tamms Supermax.

Adolfo Davis, who was sentenced to life in jail without possibility of parole at 14 years old, had a clemency hearing Thursday. He was tried as an adult for taking part in a gang robbery that killed two men, though he never fired the gun he was carrying. Davis' plight highlights a national debate over whether juveniles should serve life sentences. Similar cases were argued before by the Supreme Court last month, with a ruling expected this summer.

Homicides in Chicago have gone up 60 percent so far this year, putting Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the hot seat to defend his crime-fighting strategy. In response, the mayor asked why programs like gang audits were not put in place earlier. Meanwhile, shootings continued when a mother and her one-year-old daughter were shot in their West Pullman home while they were sleeping early Thursday morning.

Patient privacy and confidentiality in the combined DHS office planned for Humboldt Park this summer are big concerns for workers and users of the services, adding to feelings that this merger is going to hurt the communities it's intended to serve.

A group of Harvey residents took some garbage to its local village hall as a representation of the vacant properties that they say are afflicting the primarily Arfrican American south suburb last week, reported The Chicago Reporter.

Tracy Siska, executive director at the Chicago Justice Project, sounds off on how a lack of critical reporting, dwindling resources and little transparency into internal police reviews are leading news organizations to give victims of violence in police shootings short shrift.

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