Things That Matter

Two Mothers Fighting To Get Rid Of Gun Violence Were Shot And Killed In Their Own Chicago Neighborhood

Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire spent Friday, July 26 on the corner of 75th Street and Stewart Avenue in Chicago’s South Side, where the women, joined by their children, handed out food to other mothers, talked with youth about violence and kept an eye out on neighborhood children playing in the area. Members of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), an anti-violence group, the women spent many days in the park helping their community. 

But on this evening, the moms were shot and killed on the very corner they long tried to make safer.

The two women, who had finished up for the day and were walking to a store to get food for their families, were shot on a sidewalk around 10 p.m. 

Witnesses say a blue SUV drove up to the mothers and fired several shots. Grant, 26, and Stoudemire, 36, were hit several times in the chest and died at a nearby hospital. There is an ongoing investigation, but Chicago law enforcement have not yet arrested anyone.

“We have no evidence that we can point to that suggests the women were the intended targets,” police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed News. “We also have no evidence to the contrary.”

In a later statement, Guglielmi added that the shots were meant for a man who is associated with a local street gang and recently got out of prison. However, the unidentified 58-year-old man, who was hit in the arm in the shooting, is not cooperating with police.

Still, Tamar Manasseh, who founded MASK in 2015, said she’s not willing to accept that Grant, a mother of four, and Stoudemire, who had three children, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“They killed mothers on a corner where mothers sit every day,” Manasseh said during a press conference Sunday. “You don’t have mothers killed in a place that is sacred to mothers and not take that as a message.”

According to the MASK website, the group formed “as a way to put eyes on the streets, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends rather than enemies.” Together, the moms work to build stronger communities by focusing on violence prevention, food insecurity and housing. They also ensure community members have access to city services, opportunities for education and professional skills growth, and economic development.

A few years ago, volunteers also helped clean up a “dirty and filthy” site at the Englewood intersection and turned it into a space where kids could play safely daily. There, the children have supervision and activities, like learning to dance and eating dinner together, that teach them how to be productive members of society.

The site, she continued, was created to be a space where mothers could watch over their kids and ensure the safety and betterment of their lives.

“Chantell,” whose fourth and youngest child just turned 1 year old, “was one of those mothers,” Manasseh said. “She was a dedicated mother. Every day, Chantell brought her kids here. Every day. By now, I should have seen Chantell at least three or four times at this point of the day. I will never see her again.” 

Manasseh shared that Stoudemire wasn’t just a concerned mom but also a leader who helped everyone. 

“I will never see Andrea again,” she said. “Andrea was a mother’s mother. She mothered other mothers.”

Manasseh, who called the deaths “terrifying” and “heartbreaking,” says she has not slept much because she has been thinking about what more she and her group can do to stamp out violence in their community. 

More people are fatally shot in Chicago than in any other city in the US. During the weekend in which the two women died, 48 other people were shot in the city. Nine of them were killed, including a three-year-old child, reports CBS Chicago

Though homicides have decreased in the city in recent years and will likely continue to drop again this year, police statistics show there have been 281 in 2019 as of July 28.

 Manasseh stresses these numbers are unacceptable.

“For mothers to be killed in a place where mothers go to seek safety and sisterhood, I take that as a personal threat,” she said. “Because when you come for one of us, you better believe they came for all of us.”

The group has started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $5,000 for a reward for information in the case. By Friday morning, it had raised more than $29,000.

“The murder of a woman brought us to our corner on 75th & Stewart so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of more moms drive us away,” the fundraising page says. “We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantel Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children families tonight, deserve justice.”

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Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

Culture

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

mitocaya / Instagram

Undocumented communities are being left out of Covid relief plans. Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya in Chicago is working to help undocumented restaurant worker in the time of Covid. Abuse of undocumented workers is rampant in certain industries and Chef Dávila hopes to offer some kind of help.

Mi Tocaya is a Mexican restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square that wants to help the community.

Covid-19 has devastated the hospitality industry with restaurants being hit exceptionally hard. Restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good as the virus dragged on with no decent relief plan from the federal government. As several countries financially support citizens to avoid economic disaster, the U.S. government has given citizens $1,800 total to cover 10 months of isolating and business closures.

Namely, Mi Tocaya is working to help the undocumented community.

Mi Tocaya, a family-run restaurant, is teaming up with Chicago’s Top Chefs and local non-profits Dishroulette Kitchen and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The goal is to highlight the issues facing the undocumented community during the pandemic.

The initiative called Todos Ponen, is all about uplifting members of our community in a time of severe need. The restaurant is creating healthy Mexican family meals for those in need.

”We asked ourselves; How can we keep our doors open, provide a true service to the community, maintain and create jobs, and keep the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. This is the answer,” Chef Dávila said in a statement. “I confidently believe The TODOS PONEN Logan Square Project addresses all of the above and can very well be easily implemented in any community. Our goal is to bring awareness to the lack of resources available to the undocumented workforce- the backbone of our industry.”

The initiative starts in February.

Mi Tocaya is offering 1000 free meals for local farmers and undocumented restaurant workers. The meals are available for pickup Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647. to make this happen, Mi Tocaya also needs your help.

The restaurant has teamed up with two nonprofits to make sure that they can scale their operation to fulfill their commitment. They are also asking for donations to make sure they can do what they can to help undocumented restaurant workers.

According to Eater LA, 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off since the pandemic started. Some restaurants have had to lay off up to 91 percent of their staff because of Covid, about 10 percent of those are undocumented. In the cities, that number is as high as 40 percent of the laid-off restaurant staff are undocumented.

“People don’t want to talk about the undocumented workforce, but they’re part of our daily routine in most restaurants,” Jackson Flores, who manages the operations of Mi Tocaya, said in a statement. “They are in the toughest position in the whole economy because they’re an invisible part of it. Restaurant worker advocacy groups have added the creation of relief funds to their agendas, but there have yet to be long-term changes in protections for undocumented workers. Without access to unemployment benefits and other government resources, this group is especially vulnerable.”

READ: Hands-Free Cholula Dispensers Have Become a Thing In Restaurants Because of COVID-19

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More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Things That Matter

More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Photo via bella_joy_gardens/Instagram

On June 10th, 2020, a senseless crime was committed. 21-year-old Isabella Thallas was shot and killed while she was out walking her dog with her boyfriend, 26-year-old Darian Simon. Simon, who was shot as well, survived.

Almost immediately after Thallas lost her life, the police were informed of the murderer: 36-year-old Michael Close, who lived in the same building as the couple.

Michael Close had shot the couple from his window with an AK-47. Thallas died almost instantly.

Close was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and possession of a high-capacity magazine during a crime.

But questions piled up as to why Close committed this crime in the first place. Why did he target the couple? Was the murder pre-meditated? How did this unstable man get his hands on an AK-47?

As the police put the pieces together, the motive was shocking. According to Close, he shot and killed Thallas because her dog defecated in the alley behind his unit.

The story he gave police lined up with Darian Simon’s version of events as well. Simon says that he and Thallas were walking their dog together behind their building. Simon commanded the dog to “poop” when he heard Close yelling at him from the window above them.

“Are you going to train that f—ing dog or just yell at it?” Close allegedly yelled out the window at them. When Simon bent down to pick up the dog’s feces, that’s when Close open-fired out the window. Simon was able to run away with wounds to his lower body. Thallas lost her life.

According to Close’s girlfriend, the man had been mentally unwell for a long time.

He had been diagnosed with depression as well as a personality disorder but refused to seek help. He frequently abused drugs and alcohol after being sober for three years.

The murder of Thallas was a culmination of a tumultuous night where he had been drinking and arguing with his girlfriend for hours. Thallas just happened to be the person who was at the receiving-end of his outburst. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And recently, some more disturbing information has come to light about Thallas’s murder.

According to Denver Police, the gun that Close used to murder Thallas was taken from his friend, police officer Sgt. Dan Politica.

The close friendship between a police officer and an unhinged murder is, understandably, drawing questions from the Denver community.

The Denver Police Department confirmed that Close and Politica were “close friends”. Thalla’s mother, Anna Thallas, appears to have even more information on the friendship.

“They’re best friends. Life-long best friends for over 20 years. They grew up together,” she told 9News Denver.

Anna Thallas is angry and frustrated that the Denver police aren’t conducting an internal investigation.

The DPD argues that Sgt. Politica did nothing wrong. Thallas points to his failure to report the rifle missing until after her daughter was missing as a massive red flag. It is also worth noting that Politica has a history of violence and disciplinary actions by the DPD.

According to phone records, Close texted Sgt. Politica before the murder complaining about a dog in his neighborhood. After he murdered Thallas, he left Politica a voicemail saying he “really f—-d up bad.”

“That man should be stripped of his uniform,” Anna Thallas said. “Had that officer acted in his capacity and the oath that he took to serve and protect and was a responsible gun owner, Isabella might still be alive. My daughter might still be here.”

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