Barrio y paz: Community Safety, Social Justice, and Local Journalism

This project is a testament to the efforts of local activists, social workers, and organizations in Chicago Latino neighborhoods working on enhancing community safety. This compilation of stories published in La Raza newspaper highlights the voices of those directly involved in creating solutions for a safer community and explores the broader connotations of community safety, emphasizing the importance of a compassionate, comprehensive, and collective approach to addressing and solving problems and saving lives. Through insightful reporting and storytelling, La Raza aims to inform, inspire, educate, and empower the community towards positive social change, underlining its commitment to high-quality Spanish journalism that serves the Latino and immigrant population in Chicago

Barrio y paz / Neighborhood and Peace. Campeones latinos de la seguridad comunitaria en Chicago. / Latino Champions of Community Safety in Chicago. Un proyecto y libro de La Raza / A project and book by La Raza.

Barrio y paz / Neighborhood and Peace. Campeones latinos de la seguridad comunitaria en Chicago. / Latino Champions of Community Safety in Chicago. Un proyecto y libro de La Raza / A project and book by La Raza. Crédito: Impremedia

La Raza’s Barrio y paz (Neighborhood and Peace) presents the work, the demands, the ideas, the perspectives, and solutions of local activists, social workers and healers, experts, professionals, artists, and organizations devoted to analyzing, promoting, increasing, and consolidating community safety in the Chicago Latino communities, many of them working directly in the streets to save lives and offering the youth support, respect, a friendly hand, and opportunities.

The news reports included in this book –reported and written in Chicago by Belhú Sanabria, Irene Tostado, Aileen Ocaña, and Antonio Zavala– discuss issues of community safety in its wide connotations, placing the people as protagonists of both the problems and the solutions.

These materials are also a contribution to highlight the work, the initiatives, and the progress in the field of broad community safety. With these reports, we aspire to provide not only useful news but also a source of inspirational stories and educational references to contribute to community empowerment, the exercise of freedom of speech, the change to a fairer social narrative, and better community representation.

In addition to the work of La Raza’s reporters and contributors that is at the core of Barrio y paz, this book draws from research done by La Raza during its participation in Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Accelerator. Audience surveys and interviews made in the context of that program confirmed that our community has safety and its wider related issues as top concerns and that our readers and users need and want to have available more quality news, in Spanish and in English, about community safety.

In 2023, La Raza was named again the ‘Best Spanish Weekly in the USA’ by the National Association of Hispanic Journalism, and this book is new proof of La Raza’s commitment with high quality Spanish journalism to serve the Chicago Latino community, honoring the trust our audiences places on us and our more than 53 years of service.

Champions and challenges

This book is subtitled ‘Latino Champions of Community Safety in Chicago’ to highlight the focus of our journalistic activities: to present the work of those from different perspectives who are dedicated to analyzing, promoting, increasing, and consolidating safety and progress in Chicago’s Hispanic communities.

We also give voice both to victims that are on the path of recovery and have new hope in their lives, and to those who seek or achieved social reintegration after incarceration.

Barrio y paz includes a series of long-form, in-depth news reports that present and discuss issues of community safety, in its wide connotations, to create public awareness and provide educational insights about these issues, the community’s reaction, and the path to follow further. These materials specifically highlight the work, the solutions, and significant testimonials in the field of broad community safety, placing the people involved in the front row of our storytelling and journalism coverage.

In this sense, the content of Barrio y paz is news, but also durable journalism and educational materials. In times of digital waves and tsunamis, this book is an oasis that endures and, in several ways, contributes to the history, the present, and the future of the dynamic Chicago Latino community.

Safety and the crossroads of social justice

Safety is one of the most critical concerns for any community, and for the Chicago Latino and immigrant community it is of paramount importance. For underserved communities, the concept of safety is dramatically wider and more complex in comparison with what is understood by other groups, since the vulnerabilities, the hazards, the lack of resources, and the needed actions and solutions are larger and sometimes more difficult for our communities in comparison with other social realities.

In its Violence Reduction Dashboard, the City of Chicago recognizes that “even though Chicago is split almost evenly among its Black, Latinx, and White populations, violence in Chicago disproportionately impacts people of color.”

In that context, safety is certainly protection against crime and violence. But it is also protection and solutions related to complex social phenomena. Safety must be considered a basic right. Safety is thus related to justice and restorative justice, to action against violence and abuse and against being a victim, but also against becoming an aggressor. It is related to more effective gun control and to police accountability, to criminal reform and the fight against mass incarceration and its effects. It is related to programs, employment, and economic opportunity to reduce and prevent crime tackling both its causes and its consequences, it is linked to options to help victims and increase prevention.

Safety is also related to wider issues, to wider dangers, and to wider solutions: it is protection against all forms of discrimination, racism, sexism, and xenophobia; against harassment and sexual abuse; against violations of labor rights, against human trafficking and exploitation. Safety is protection against aggressive policing, police brutality, indiscriminate immigration raids, immigrant detention, deportation, and family separation. Safety is access to healthy food, healthcare, and mental healthcare; it is living in a neighborhood with clean air, clean water, clean soil; safety is access to quality education, childcare, afterschool programs, youth employment, and cultural, sports, artistic, and entertainment options. Safety is access to affordable housing and protection against displacement, is the right to have a peaceful and thriving community.

All those problems, unmet needs, and frequently unfulfilled rights are forms of violence against our communities, and all contribute to the insecurity that affects them. The scope of this book does not cover the whole range of these issues and angles, nor all the many remarkable individuals and organizations working to solve them, but it is an honest step, a new invitation, to keep addressing the community needs and actions and to increase the availability of high quality local Spanish and bilingual journalism to serve the Chicago Latino communities.

Safety, in fact, can be understood as a basic right and a key element in the correction of deep social inequalities that affect our communities. It is a critical part in the preservation and healing of our social fabric and, also, in the promotion of civic life and democracy. Investment, resources, infrastructure, programs, and opportunities in many fields are also needed to tackle the problem of violence, crime, and insecurity and to promote community safety.

Journalism that serves the community

With our reporting, La Raza asserts that community safety is critical for the community wellbeing and empowerment, and that the understanding and the actions regarding community safety include (and must include) a broad and complex set of issues and solutions that go beyond just security and policing and imply social, economic, political, educational, cultural, and other dimensions.

We are grateful to the Chicago Community Trust and its Cross Community Impact program for its support to La Raza and to the journalism that made this book possible. La Raza is committed to continue its long history, more than 53 years and counting, of servicing the Chicago Latino community with excellent Spanish journalism and, also, as this book, bilingual resources.

Barrio y paz is a glimpse into what the Chicago Hispanic community is doing to identify, denounce and tackle the problems related with community safety and to demand, find and apply solutions to achieve community safety in the wide sense explained before.

The individuals and the organizations which voices resound in the stories included in Barrio y paz, and many othersthat were not covered because time and space constrains,are working, with solidarity and sacrifice, with intelligence and commitment, with action and compassion, to create, increase and preserve community safety, peace, and opportunities in the Chicago Latino neighborhoods.

They are true community champions.

JESÚS DEL TORO. Director, La Raza. Chicago, 2023-2024

The production and publication of this story by La Raza have been made possible in part thanks to a grant from the Chicago Community Trust through its Cross Community Impact grant program.

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Barrio y paz Seguridad comunitaria
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