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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

DeKalb Forum On Race Relations Spotlights Housing Inequities

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Jenna Dooley
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City of DeKalb sign

 

Conversations at the DeKalb County government’s second virtual forum on race relations broadened this week. Demands for improved housing agreements took center stage.  

 

Jacob Maas voiced concern about uneven housing conditions and agreements that he says are prevalent in the county. 

“You know, we live in a community where it's not uncommon for people who rent to go without hot water, clean water, heat in the winter air conditioning in the summer,” said Maas.

 

Maas helped form theDeKalb Tenants Association. He said in order to address racial inequality, the county should re-evaluate the kind of contracts that exist between renters and landlords. 

“I want to echo the demands of protesters in calling for a common lease to enshrine tenant remedies," he said. "Tenants should be allowed to withhold rents or break their lease when their landlords don't satisfy their ends of housing agreements."

Board members Rukisha Crawford and Kiara Jones plan to focus the concerns from the forum and put together a task force designed to get some of these plans considered within the year. The next forum will meet in August. 

 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for Americaan initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.

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