WBEZ | Gary http://www.wbez.org/tags/gary Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Gary mayor withdraws support for proposed immigration detention center http://www.wbez.org/news/gary-mayor-withdraws-support-proposed-immigration-detention-center-113748 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Democrat Karen Freeman-Wilson is greeted by a shopper at Fresh County Market in Gary, Ind. as she campaigns on election day Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011. AP PhotoSun-Times Media, Stephanie Dowell.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>The mayor of Gary, Indiana is pulling her support for the building of a detention center to house undocumented immigrants in her city.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The lure of 200 to 300 new jobs for the struggling Steel City had been the rationale for Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson&rsquo;s initial support.</div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t just the jobs but it was infrastructure around the airport that we were going to have help with, along with tax base. These are taxpaying, corporate citizens,&rdquo; Freeman-Wilson told WBEZ late Wednesday evening. &ldquo;This was a very difficult decision.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The for-profit Florida-based prison company <a href="http://www.geogroup.com/" target="_blank">GEO Group</a> was looking at building a $65 million processing facility for undocumented immigrants just north of the Gary Chicago International Airport. The project could have generated up to $1 million in property taxes for a city that&rsquo;s struggling to pay its police and fire personnel and keep many of its public schools open.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But soon after it was announced, opposition began to swell.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-gary-geo-rezone-bid-st-1111-20151110-story.html" target="_blank">Opponents packed the Gary City Council chambers earlier this week </a>when the city&rsquo;s Board of Zoning Appeals was going to meet to discuss the issue. The board put off talking about GEO Group&rsquo;s proposal for another two weeks.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the meantime, opponents began to develop plans for a protest march this weekend. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I understand Gary&rsquo;s situation. I understand the mayor is trying to find solutions to it but for a few gold coins, it&rsquo;s not right,&rdquo; said Antonio Barreda of the Community Coalition for Immigrants of Northwest Indiana.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Gary has an unemployment rate of 18 percent, more than three times the state average at 4.5 percent. But Freeman Wilson, a former Indiana attorney general and civil rights attorney, says she began to share activists&rsquo; concerns.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The detention of individuals is not consistent with what I fought for in terms of civil and human rights,&rdquo; Freeman-Wilson said. &ldquo;I understand that it has to be done. I understand that there are folks who certainly ought to be deported but I just didn&rsquo;t think that was the type of economic development we wanted to see in the city of Gary.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Since 2011, GEO Group has been trying to build an immigration processing center in the Chicago area without much success. Past attempts in south suburban Crete and in Hobart, just east of Gary, failed.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The GEO Group approached the City of Gary in search of a potential processing facility in an industrial area. &nbsp;While we are disappointed in the city&rsquo;s decision to withdraw from the potential opportunity, The GEO Group successfully operates safe and secure facilities all over the world and employs thousands of men and women in communities across the U.S. and overseas,&rdquo; Pablo Paez, Vice President of Corporate Relations for The GEO Group, stated in a news release. &ldquo;We look forward to continuing our efforts to identify and work with a partner in the region to bring new economic opportunities and provide the services the Federal government requires in this part of the country.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div><div><div property="content:encoded"><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 11:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gary-mayor-withdraws-support-proposed-immigration-detention-center-113748 When Frank went to Gary http://www.wbez.org/news/when-frank-went-gary-113579 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GS2-Screaming%20students.jpg" style="height: 496px; width: 620px;" title="An integrated audience of thousands welcome Frank Sinatra, November 1, 1945 (Calumet Regional Archives)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div>The promise of jobs and prosperity lured thousands to Gary, Indiana, especially after World War II. The steel mills attracted immigrants from Europe and blacks from the South. Gary was also piloting a progressive education model, which included Froebel, an integrated K-12 school.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ronald Cohen is a Gary historian and author of <em>Children of the Mill: Schooling and Society in Gary, Indiana: 1906-1960</em>. There was racial tension across the country after the war, and in Gary, Cohen noted, a fear of white residents rioting against black residents was prevalent.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Gary was a segregated city, so most schools were in completely white neighborhoods,&rdquo; explained Cohen. &ldquo;So Froebel happened to be in the middle of the largest integrated neighborhood, an area called &lsquo;The Patch&rsquo; and that was the rougher part of the city.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>William Hill will turn 90 in December; he said he remembers things were tense when his family first moved to Gary from Memphis.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It was a bad time,&rdquo; said Hill.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hill described Gary in the &lsquo;40s as a thriving but flawed metropolis. Froebel was the only integrated school in the entire city -- but Hill still experienced discrimination.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We couldn&rsquo;t swim in the pool. We could not take part in the prom. Caucasians would go down to the Hotel Gary. Beautiful surroundings. We had to have our proms in the girls gym,&rdquo; he recalled.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hill said he was relieved when his family eventually moved across town and he was able to attend Roosevelt, an all-black school.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In September of 1945, a group of white Froebel students, led by Leonard Lavenda, organized a walk out. They wanted all the school&rsquo;s black students -- and its principal -- gone. When Cohen interviewed Lavenda in 1982 for his book, Lavenda insisted the walkout wasn&rsquo;t about race. He said it was about equality.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We wanted equality with Thomaston, Emerson, Horace Mann (school). &nbsp;Yes, take them (African American students) out,&rdquo; said Lavenda. &ldquo;We wanted to be equal with them. They (the Gary school board) said, &lsquo;no we can&rsquo;t do that.&rsquo;&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A third of the students at Froebel were black. Lucille Bobo (nee Gause) said she was known for her school spirit: She was on the honor roll, was moved up two grades and rarely missed a chance to cheer at ballgame. When she heard the white students were walking out, at first, her feelings were hurt to think people would have feelings of dislike or hatred toward her.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GS4-LucilleBobo.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Lucille Bobo says she rarely missed a ballgame, cheering from the bleachers. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" /></div><div>&ldquo;All I knew is that he lead a march out of the school,&rdquo; said Bobo. &ldquo;But why would he march against me? I didn&rsquo;t do anything to him. I didn&rsquo;t even know him.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The school board rejected the call to have the black students removed, but it took a couple of weeks to consider the white students&rsquo; second demand, to fire the principal. &nbsp;When it decided to reinstate him, the white students switched their demand and Lavenda organized another walkout, as Cohen recalled.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;They said, &lsquo;OK, we understand that you&rsquo;re not going to remove the black students. However, if we&rsquo;re integrated, that all the schools, near a black residential population, they be integrated as well&rsquo;&rdquo; Cohen recounted. Practically speaking, they proposed changing the school boundaries so that black students would attend other schools in Gary, not just Froebel.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The second walkout made national news: It got Frank Sinatra&rsquo;s attention, who, in the &lsquo;40s, was a star on the stage, screen and radio. Sinatra was also an outspoken progressive.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In 1945, Sinatra recorded the song &ldquo;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037792/" target="_blank">The House I Live In</a>,&rdquo; which talked about tolerance. When he heard about what was happening in Gary, he wanted to perform it at the Memorial Auditorium.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="415" scrolling="no" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/woZVlroHqPU?rel=0" width="540"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div>The special concert was held on Thursday November 1st of that year. Hill remembered the day being a holiday of sorts, kids had the day off from school so they could see the show. Thousands packed the Memorial Auditorium as Sinatra sang and gave a speech about acceptance to the multi-racial crowd. He urged the white students to go back to school and end the strike.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavenda didn&rsquo;t attend the concert. He told Cohen that Sinatra came to his house to plead him to end the strike.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The thing with Sinatra was he thought he could come over and sign a song and say, &lsquo;Go back to school, go back to school,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lavenda remembered. &ldquo;He may have meant well. But we had problems here; you&rsquo;re entertaining people you don&rsquo;t know what&#39;s going on here.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GS1-Frank%20Sinatra.jpg" style="height: 786px; width: 620px;" title=" Frank Sinatra entertains thousands at Gary’s Memorial Auditorium, November 1, 1945. (Calumet Regional Archives)" /></div><div>Sinatra failed to end the walk out -- but days later, the school board did when it threatened to expel the striking students. The following year, the board wound up implementing the white students&rsquo; second plan, of course, not in the spirit the students intended.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>By 1947, all Gary schools were integrated -- yet the city remained largely segregated. The population began to shrink in the 1960s, with layoffs at the steel mills and white flight. Lavenda has since passed away; Cohen said that when he interviewed Lavenda in 1982, Lavenda told him, he wasn&rsquo;t a racist.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;He lived in an integrated neighborhood,&rdquo; recalled Cohen. &ldquo;He thought it was an issue of fairness.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>William Hill still lives in Gary. And he says the Sinatra concert sparked a lifelong interest in Civil Rights.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;That instilled activism in me, from that time on,&rdquo; said Hill. &ldquo;I still do that now, even with this latest movement with Black Lives Matter. I&rsquo;m a part of that.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GS3-LucilleBoboHighSchool.JPG" style="height: 827px; width: 620px;" title="Lucille Bobo, maiden name nee Gause - is pictured in her 1949 Froebel High graduation photo. (Lucille Bobo)" /></div><div>Lucille Bobo stayed too. After graduating from Froebel in 1949, she spent four decades working as a secretary for the Lake County prosecutor&rsquo;s office. On any given Saturday, she can be found at a Gary flea market, selling clothes and donating the money to charity. Bobo beams when she talks about her high school memories. She never lost her school spirit, and she was recently reminded of that by a former classmate.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;One of them came here [to the flea market] this morning. George Revetta played basketball for Froebel,&rdquo; said Bobo. &ldquo;And he told people today that I made up a cheer &lsquo;Cheese, cheese, cheddar cheddar, nobody can beat George Revetta!&rsquo;&rdquo; she repeated with a smile.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the end, Sinatra&rsquo;s visit didn&rsquo;t have the intended effect. But the negative national exposure that came with it may have been the catalyst for integrating Gary schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews" target="_blank">@yolandanews</a>.&nbsp;</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/when-frank-went-gary-113579 With fewer cops, Gary preacher conducts own nighttime patrols http://www.wbez.org/news/fewer-cops-gary-preacher-conducts-own-nighttime-patrols-113035 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Gary-thumb-3-small.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s been a challenging year for Gary, Indiana.</p><p>Crime is a constant problem and its police force is undermanned because of budget constraints. That&rsquo;s left some some neighborhoods feeling vulnerable.</p><p>But one local preacher is doing whatever it takes to protect his neighbors &mdash; even if it means staying up all night.</p><p>Apostle Marvin East lives in Gary&rsquo;s Marshalltown Terrace. The truck driver-turned-preacher says there aren&rsquo;t enough cops to patrol the neighborhood overnight.</p><p>So he does it himself.</p><p>&ldquo;What community can operate without police presence?&rdquo; Apostle East asks. &ldquo;I would love to be in bed [at night] but once this community goes backward you&rsquo;ll never get it back.&rdquo;</p><p>More than 20 police officers have left the Gary Police department this year, many for better paying jobs elsewhere. A Department spokeswoman says the city is trying to boost pay and hire new recruits to beef up patrols.</p><p>In the meantime, Apostle East says it&rsquo;s up to him to protect those who still call Marshalltown Terrace home, including his own mother.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Sep 2015 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/fewer-cops-gary-preacher-conducts-own-nighttime-patrols-113035 Gary proposes anti-sagging pants ordinance http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-22/gary-proposes-anti-sagging-pants-ordinance-113022 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/sagging pants Flickr Newtown grafitti.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We&rsquo;ve all seen it: kids walking around with pants that hang well below the waist...almost to the mid-thigh in some cases. Several municipalities in Illinois have passed ordinances banning sagging pants in public. Chicago&rsquo;s city council tried to do the same three years ago, to no avail.</p><p>Now Gary, Ind. wants to outlaw what many people say is a fashion choice. Independent journalist Gregory Tejeda has been <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-gary-droopy-pants-ban-st-0917-20150916-story.html">covering the story</a>, and he joins us with the details.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 11:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-22/gary-proposes-anti-sagging-pants-ordinance-113022 Indiana suspect hints at more killings http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP185930239534.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Investigators in two states were reviewing unsolved murders and missing person reports after the arrest of an Indiana man who confessed to strangling one woman, told police where to find six more bodies and hinted at a serial killing spree over two decades.</p><p>But determining whether others have fallen prey to Darren Vann, 43, a former Marine convicted of sexual assault in Texas in 2009, could take years, a former high-ranking agent at the FBI&#39;s Chicago office said. That some of his alleged victims may have been prostitutes or had fallen through society&#39;s cracks could also complicate the investigation.</p><p>&quot;It does make it difficult. It indicates he preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing,&quot; said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.</p><p>Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. He also was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and robbery causing great bodily injury. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.</p><p>A probable cause affidavit said police identified Vann from surveillance video outside the motel.</p><p>Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann confessed to Hardy&#39;s slaying and directed police to six bodies in abandoned homes in nearby Gary. Charges in those cases are expected this week.</p><p>Police in Gary and Austin, Texas, said they are reviewing missing person reports and unsolved cases to determine whether any might be connected to Vann after he indicated during interviews that he had killed before.</p><p>Former FBI agent Joseph Ways Sr., now executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-governmental watchdog group, told The Associated Press that such investigations can stretch into years. Investigators will trace Vann&#39;s footsteps, down to examining gas receipts and toll both records, to learn where he traveled.</p><p>Ways said teenagers or adults who maintain close contact with their families are typically reported missing quickly, but that&#39;s not always the case for those engaged in prostitution, he said.</p><p>&quot;If one of them goes missing for days or weeks, it might be that nobody notices,&quot; he said. &quot;It&#39;s a shame.&quot;</p><p>Doughty said Hardy was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy but received text message responses that made no sense and that she believed came from the suspect.</p><p>The backgrounds of the other victims weren&#39;t immediately revealed.</p><p>Police took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon, and during interviews the suspect confessed to Hardy&#39;s killing, told investigators where the Gary bodies could be found and hinted at other victims since the 1990s, Doughty said.</p><p>&quot;It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,&quot; Doughty said. The Gary slayings appeared to have happened recently, he said.</p><p>The body of one victim, 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, was found Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.</p><p>Five more bodies were found Sunday in other homes. Doughty identified two of the women as Gary residents Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Autopsies are scheduled to be completed Tuesday on three of the women who have not yet been identified, the Lake County coroner&#39;s office said.</p><p>Austin police on Monday said they would review potential related cases based on information provided by Indiana police.</p><p>Vann is registered as a sex offender in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety listed his risk of attacking someone again as &quot;low.&quot;</p><p>Court records in Travis County, Texas, show Vann served a five-year prison sentence, with credit for the 15 months he was in jail awaiting trial, after pleading guilty in 2009 to sexually assaulting a woman at an Austin apartment two years earlier.</p><p>The woman told police that she went to Vann&#39;s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down, strangled her, hit her several times in the face and told her he could kill her. He then raped her.</p><p>Vann allowed the woman to leave and she called police the next day.</p><p>The circumstances of that case had similarities to Hardy&#39;s death, according to the victim&#39;s mother and court records.</p><p>Lori Townsend said police told her that Vann asked her daughter to perform a certain sex act, and &quot;when she said &#39;no&#39; and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her.&quot;</p><p>Vann told police Hardy began to fight during sex and that he strangled her with his hands and an extension cord, the probable cause affidavit says.</p><p>&quot;This man is sick,&quot; Townsend said from her home in Colorado.</p></p> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 Gary looks for answers as slain police officer is remembered http://www.wbez.org/news/gary-looks-answers-slain-police-officer-remembered-110488 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Gary police 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Retired Gary police officer Kenneth Shannon has attended a lot of funerals over the years. Some of his fallen comrades died in car accidents and others were killed by gunfire.</p><p>Today, Shannon watched from a balcony seat in a downtown convention center as dozens of law enforcement officers walked passed a closed casket of Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield &ndash; the latest to die in the line of duty.</p><p>&ldquo;He was a very personable person. A well-liked guy,&rdquo; Shannon said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a tragedy that someone would think of doing something like this to an officer.&rdquo;</p><p>That something occurred during the early morning hours of Sunday, July 6th &ndash; the very day Westerfield was to celebrate his 47th birthday.</p><p>The 19-year veteran responded to a call near 26th and Van Buren, only a couple of blocks from Michael Jackson&rsquo;s boyhood home. He was later found dead of a gunshot wound, sitting in his police cruiser about 5:30 a.m.</p><p>The death rocked a city that is no stranger to gun violence. And now some are asking if Gary has enough resources to protect not just its citizens &ndash; but its own cops.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s bad everywhere but the city is basically safe. You&rsquo;ve got a group of thugs that want to do what they want to do and there&rsquo;s nothing you can do about it.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, that doesn&rsquo;t mean the city isn&rsquo;t trying.</p><p>Gary officials want to boost patrols, but with a dwindling tax base there&rsquo;s not much money to go around. The city, once one of the largest in the state, is down to less than 80-thousand residents. It&rsquo;s not even the largest in Lake County, Indiana.</p><p>Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter says he&rsquo;s hoping to divert resources from the county level to help.</p><p>&ldquo;Gary obviously needs the assistance and you see our community being so aggressive with crime. You see it in Chicago too, but I think it goes back to parenting and kids and now we&rsquo;re paying the price for it,&rdquo; Carter said.</p><p>Longtime Gary City Councilman Roy Pratt also says Westerfield&rsquo;s death raises questions about police patrol tactics.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not so much manpower but we&rsquo;ve got to have more on the evening shift. He was alone by himself,&rdquo; Pratt said.</p><p>The City&rsquo;s Mayor, Karen Freeman Wilson, says she&rsquo;ll soon talk with the county sheriff&rsquo;s department about beefing up patrols. And she may ask Indiana Governor Mike Pence to assign state police to help as well.</p><p>She asked twice last year and was rejected both times. Although the Governor&rsquo;s office provided training and offered suggestions on improving the city&rsquo;s 227-member police force.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course today is for the family but tomorrow is really for us to analyze of what&rsquo;s going on and how we can do better,&rdquo; Freeman-Wilson said at today&rsquo;s funeral.</p><p>Some would say it&rsquo;s hard to do much better than an officer like Jeffrey Westerfield.</p><p>Dean Hensley lived on the same block as Westerfield in the Black Oak neighborhood. He says it was important to his fallen friend to live where he worked.</p><p>&ldquo;Jeff didn&rsquo;t have a hard job. Jeff was the kind of guy that could walk into any situation and defuse it in a heartbeat. He could turn a tragedy into a blessing,&rdquo; Hensley said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re just going to have to go on with life and remember him. Now, we have another angel watching over us.&rdquo;</p><p>Officer Jeffrey Westerfield leaves behind four daughters, a son and a fiance.</p><p>A person of interest is being held with criminal charges possibly coming soon.</p></p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gary-looks-answers-slain-police-officer-remembered-110488 Open tryouts and 'indie ball blues' in Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bball.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>On a cold, gray morning in Gary, Ind., about 40 baseball hopefuls sat in the Gary Railcats&rsquo; home dugout, looking up at Manager Greg Tagert.</p><p>It was a bleak day, and Tagert&rsquo;s speech to them was equally bleak.</p><p>The men in the dugout had plunked down $40 for a chance to try out for the &lsquo;Cats - an independent-league team that is about as low on the hierarchy as you can get and still be considered pro ball.</p><p>The players trying out were minor-league washouts trying to hold on, or college stars looking for their big break.</p><p>Tagert told them that only a handful of them would make the cut today - five or less. And even those lucky few couldn&rsquo;t count on making the roster.</p><p>Whether or not you&rsquo;re a fan - baseball means American summer as much as barbecues, fireworks and the beach.</p><p>But for the men in that dugout it means something more -- it&rsquo;s an obsession, a dream job.</p><p>WBEZ spent the day at the open tryouts for the Gary Railcats.</p><p>The Railcats were last season&rsquo;s American Association champions - but the team&rsquo;s players are still looking for a way to move up.</p><p>Even though the small-time, Single A Durham Bulls--remember the movie Bull Durham?-- would be a dream come true for many of them, they are all really good at baseball.</p><p>Just about all the guys who tried out starred on their high school baseball teams. They&rsquo;re not good enough for the big leagues, but they are still way better than you.</p><p>The team&rsquo;s home opener is at 7 Thursday evening against the Wichita Wingnuts.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ll be playing at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Video producer<a href="https://vimeo.com/jscott1908"> John Scott</a> is a filmmaker who lives and works in Chicago.</em></p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Producer and Reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150617705&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 As Gary charter wins basketball titles, public schools fall farther behind http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Bowman 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hoosier Hysteria will hit a fever pitch this weekend in Indianapolis.<br /><br />Not only is the city hosting the Midwest Regional for the NCAA men&rsquo;s basketball tournament, but the boys state high school basketball title games as well.<br /><br />Northwest Indiana will be well represented in the tournament with three region teams heading downstate looking for a crown in their respective classes. They include traditional programs like Lake Central in St. John and Michigan City Marquette, as well as relative newcomer Bowman Academy in Gary.<br /><br />Bowman is a charter school trying to repeat as state champions and win its third title in four years.&ndash; unheard of even in this basketball-crazed corner of Indiana. This from a school that started competing only six years ago.</p><p>But neither success nor acceptance has come easy for Bowman, a non-religious school named for African-American Roman Catholic nun Thea Bowman.</p><p>&ldquo;A couple of years, didn&rsquo;t nobody know who Bowman was. We couldn&rsquo;t play a good team for nothing,&rdquo; says Bowman&rsquo;s star guard, 6&rsquo;5 Davon Dillard, a junior who is already being pursued by the likes of Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State.</p><p>Dillard and his teammates chowed down on pizza and chicken wings before boarding two white vans early Thursday afternoon to make the two-hour trek south to practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse &ndash; home of the NBA&rsquo;s Indianapolis Pacers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gained a lot of respect by proving it on the court, you know. Coming to Bowman, I&rsquo;ve been playing in some of the biggest championship games I&rsquo;ve ever played in,&rdquo; Dillard said. &ldquo;Being able to go down to state every year, that&rsquo;s a good feeling.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Bowman&rsquo;s quick rise also reveals just how far some of the other Gary schools have fallen &ndash; and not just in basketball.<br /><br />&ldquo;We get a lot of criticism but we just stay humble you know. We focus; we play hard, you know, we&rsquo;ve got a good coach in Marvin Rae. He gets the job done,&rdquo; Dillard said.<br /><br />Head coach Marvin Rae agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, when we first started, there was some animosity, actually we didn&rsquo;t play the Gary schools, they opted not to play us,&rdquo; Rae told WBEZ. &ldquo;When we first started, we had to travel to Rushville, Illinois to get games. We had to travel around. Our first year, we literally only had eight games.&rdquo;<br /><br />Suburban schools in Northwest Indiana didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman because of its small size. And &ndash; rightly or wrongly &ndash; because of Gary&rsquo;s reputation as an unsafe place to visit.<br /><br />But the city schools didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman either.<br /><br />&ldquo;I was not going to play Bowman because I knew right away what charter schools were built for: They are built to destroy public school systems,&rdquo; said John Boyd, a former teacher and coach at Gary&rsquo;s West Side High School, a basketball powerhouse and state champion in 2003.</p><p>Despite being a much larger school than Bowman, Boyd agreed to play one game against them in 2009.</p><p>&ldquo;I had gotten sick of people telling me I was afraid to play Bowman when I had some of the best talent in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Body said. &ldquo;So, we ended up playing them and there was a situation that occurred.&rdquo;<br /><br />What occurred, according to Boyd, was a fight that ended any further games between Bowman and Gary schools.</p><p>But now, because of dwindling finances and declining enrollment &ndash; Gary public education struggling to keep its public high schools open. Of its five public high schools, only two still have basketball teams.<br /><br />Bowman&rsquo;s success &ndash; in the classroom and on the court &ndash; is now luring most of Gary&rsquo;s top talent in basketball and academics.<br /><br />And with other charter schools having varying success in Gary, Boyd says it&rsquo;s only going to get tougher for the Steel City.<br /><br />&ldquo;These charter schools are taking away students from the Gary public schools. Gary is actually a case study in how charter schools can come in and absolutely take over a school corporation which means that yes, Gary will have to close schools until they only have one high school,&rdquo; Boyd said.<br /><br />Gary&rsquo;s charter schools are often criticized for shifting resources away from public schools. Bowman&rsquo;s Rae says while he understands that criticism, &ldquo;we just kind of keep to ourselves and do what we do best and focus on each other,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bowman&rsquo;s success now attracts top teams from all over the region that flock to Gary to play them, with most games attracting the attention of college recruiters. Because of their packed scheduled, Marvin Rae says there&rsquo;s no room to play Gary schools now even if they wanted to.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a matter of do we want to play, at this point our schedule is full,&rdquo; Rae said.<br /><br />Rae insists he&rsquo;s not gloating. As someone who used to play at Gary Roosevelt High School &ndash; a one time powerhouse &ndash; he knows Gary&rsquo;s public schools are stressed.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;If we can sit down and help the Gary community schools and anyone else, we&rsquo;re always open to help anyone with suggestions and ideas,&rdquo; Rae said.</p><p>Even rival coach John Boyd has come to terms with Bowman&rsquo;s unmatched success and called Rae recently to wish him luck in Indy this weekend.<br /><br />&ldquo;They are probably the premier basketball program in Northwest Indiana right now. When you are winning championships you have to be revered,&rdquo; Boyd said. &ldquo;The Bowmans of the world bring attention to Gary, Indiana. We need to want Bowman to be successful.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 Snow, severe cold shuts down Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 <p><p>Northwest Indiana road conditions are improving but the area is far from normal and may be days away from recovering from an arctic blast of super cold temperatures.</p><p>Motorists and truckers had to deal with closed roads and highways for much of Monday, and after briefly reopening, by 5 p.m., INDOT had once again closed I-65 due to hazardous road conditions; I 80/94 remains open.</p><p>Earlier in the day trucker Tom Kenman of Joliet, IL passed the time in the cab of his semi truck listening to music and reading. Kenman works for a contractor that delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He&rsquo;s ready to return home after being stuck at a Speedway gas station near Interstate 65 and 61st Avenue in Merrillville. As of this morning, it didn&rsquo;t look good for Kenman.</p><p>&ldquo;Things were kind of hazardous. About 6 p.m. (Sunday), things were hazardous so I jumped off on Route (U.S.) 30. I do maybe 20, 25 mph. That&rsquo;s it. Even before they shut it down, I decided forget it. I-65 is a mess. I don&rsquo;t know what I&rsquo;m going to do.</p><p>With most restaurants and businesses closed, even a nearby McDonald&rsquo;s, Kenman waited it out slurping Speedway&rsquo;s coffee and munching doughnuts.&nbsp;</p><p>I-65 was closed to all traffic yesterday afternoon because of heavy snow and slippery conditions. Semi trucks were lined up along U.S. 30 in Merrillville, waiting for I-65 to reopen, along with nearby Interstate 80/94.</p><p>Kenman and other truckers finally got some good news in the afternoon, when the Indiana Department of Transportation reopened I-65 around 2 p.m.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Drivers are advised to use extreme caution, take it slow, and travel at their own risk. Like the majority of roads across Northwest Indiana, and the state, conditions are extremely hazardous and non-emergency travel is strongly discouraged,&rdquo; said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley.</p><p>But the respite on I-65 was short-lived as officials would shut it down again only a few hours later.</p><p>Earlier in the day, Deitchley told WBEZ that some drivers had been driving around protective barriers to keep them off of I-94.</p><p>&ldquo;Those roads are shut down, but people are still driving around the barricades anyway. INDOT and Indiana State Police don&rsquo;t have the manpower right now to physically stop these drivers, but the roads are closed,&rdquo; Deitchley said. &ldquo;They are taking their lives in their own hands, and jeopardizing the emergency personnel who may have to rescue them.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Snow%202.jpg" style="height: 263px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Trucks are lined up near a Speedway gas station. This is not a truck stop but truckers had no where to go Monday because nearby I-65 was closed. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Drivers should expect to continue to encounter slick conditions and blowing and drifting snow both on the main line interstates and ramps.</p><p>In fact, many motorists in Gary were struggling to drive along Broadway, the city&rsquo;s main drag, with cars getting stuck in snowdrifts.</p><p>Local officials had declared a state of emergency for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties during Sunday&rsquo;s heavy snow storm.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered the Indiana National Guard to help stuck motorists along the highway.</p><p>Much of the state is dealing with heavy snow and severe temperatures but Pence acknowledged at a news conference today in Indianapolis that Northwest Indiana may have been hit the hardest.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">That&rsquo;s why the Republican governor was sending more resources to &ldquo;da Region,&rdquo; often divided from the rest of the state because of political and cultural differences.</div><p>&ldquo;That (Northwest Indiana) is an area of the state, particularly with lake-effect snow, that is no stranger to severe weather events,&rdquo; Pence said, &ldquo;but we&rsquo;re moving resources into the region to recognize that the combination of heavy snow and brutally cold temperatures and wind gusts represents a real public safety hazard.&rdquo;</p><p>Early Monday, even with warnings by police to stay off the roads, some had no choice but to head to work.</p><p>Hammond resident Gus Lopez said driving to his job at ArcelorMittal Steel in neighboring East Chicago felt odd.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really desolate out. Hardly anyone out driving,&rdquo; Lopez told WBEZ. &ldquo;It reminded me of my time in North Dakota, where this type of weather and this type of conditions is not unusual at all for folks up there, that far north.</p><p>And this winter at least, &quot;da Region&quot; is starting to feel more like North Dakota than Northwestern Indiana.</p><p>Most schools in Northwest Indiana will be closed Tuesday but government offices are expected to reopen.</p><p>The Indiana General Assembly is also expected to open its session down in Indianapolis, a day later than originally scheduled.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ NWI Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>. </em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 19:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 Remembering the 'Forgotten Hoosiers' http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/remembering-forgotten-hoosiers-109274 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 9.42.15 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>High school basketball in Indiana is still the state&rsquo;s biggest sport.</p><p>But its heyday may have been in the 50s, 60s and 70s as the popularity of college and pro basketball was still building.</p><p>In many parts of Indiana, basketball wasn&rsquo;t merely a game. It was a way of life.</p><p>For some, it was almost like a religion.</p><p>Hollywood tried capturing that feeling in the 1986 film, &ldquo;Hoosiers.&rdquo;</p><p>The movies, starring Gene Hackman, is considered by many to be among the top movies about sports.</p><p>The film is loosely based on Milan High School, Indiana&rsquo;s state basketball champions in 1954.</p><p>The story behind Milan was glamorized mainly because it was a tiny school in southeast Indiana near Cincinnati that beat a much larger team from Muncie Central High School.</p><p>But it was the next year in 1955 that many feel really made history.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because for the first time in Indiana, two black high schools would faced each other for the state basketball championship.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got to remember that this was 1955. This is the beginning of the convergence in America in terms of race, the doctrine of separate but equal,&rdquo; said Dick Barnett, a starting forward for the Gary Roosevelt High School team in 1955 who now lives in San Francisco.&nbsp;&nbsp; &ldquo;The civil rights movement was right ahead of us.&rdquo;</p><p>The Gary Chamber of Commerce will commemorate that game with activities this weekend and two basketball games in the Lakeshore Classic.</p><p>The City of Gary was a much different place back in the 1950s than it is today, a struggling industry town that&rsquo;s largely black with a host of social and economic problems.</p><p>In the 50s, Gary was much larger in terms of population, it was more prosperous and it was predominantly white.</p><p>Of the city&rsquo;s eight high schools, Roosevelt was created exclusively for black students.</p><p>&ldquo;Up until the late 60s, Gary was pretty much segregated. Gary was a very fractured city,&rdquo; says Ron Cohen, who lives in Gary and is a retired history professor from Indiana University&rsquo;s Northwest campus in Gary. &ldquo;Before 1949, black schools could not play white schools in basketball or any sport. Black schools, such as Roosevelt, could not play any high school in Gary. So Roosevelt played nationally. They only played other black high schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Even when Indiana dropped the rule, it was still tough when black schools played against white teams.</p><p>Roosevelt and a few other Northwest Indiana high school teams with black players found it especially difficult when traveling out of the Calumet Region to central and southern Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;Getting out of the region to play those games was devastating, because you knew the referees are going to be against you,&rdquo; Cohen said.&nbsp; &ldquo;So, you had to put up with all of this crap and the referees and the stands were filled with all these white kids who want to see you destroyed.&nbsp; Indiana was not kind to black basketball teams.&rdquo;</p><p>Roosevelt player Wilson &ldquo;Jake&rdquo; Eisen remembers how tough those games could be.</p><p>But his coach, John, D. Smith, wanted his players focused on the game -- not anything else.</p><p>&ldquo;He would always say &ldquo;You go out there and do what you&rsquo;re supposed to do; Don&rsquo;t pay any attention to the refs or get on the refs,&rdquo; Eisen said. &ldquo;We had very few technical fouls. If you argued with the ref, he&rsquo;d pull you out and sit you on the bench.&rdquo;</p><p>But in 1955, Gary Roosevelt&rsquo;s basketball team did make it out and down to the state title game in Indianapolis.</p><p>It had a great shot at making history since the team also on its roster Wilson &ldquo;Jake&rdquo; Eison, voted that year as &ldquo;Mr. Basketball&rdquo; the top honor for high school basketball players in Indiana.</p><p>There was only one thing standing in the way.</p><p>&ldquo;We were just happy as teenagers to be playing, not only be there but try to match our skills with the Indianapolis Attucks and the great Oscar Robertson,&rdquo; Barnett said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s right &hellip; the Big O.</p><p>Oscar Robertson was a sophomore for Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Indiana&rsquo;s other all black high school.</p><p>&ldquo;This was a huge thing for the entire African American population of Indiana because before then it was just white on white,&rdquo; Cohen said. &ldquo;I think it was incredible and probably a big shock to all the white schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Unfortunately for Gary, Oscar Robertson dominated Roosevelt.</p><p>Robertson&rsquo;s brilliance wasn&rsquo;t lost on Barnett.</p><p>&ldquo;He was special then,&rdquo; Barnett said. &ldquo;He had all those attributes even as a sophomore in high school.&rdquo;</p><p>Attucks would go on to win the game 97 to 74 and thus lay claim to the title of being the first black high school basketball team to win a state championship in Indiana.</p><p>This weekend&rsquo;s commemoration is intended to remind Hoosiers and others of the accomplishments of Attucks and Roosevelt high schools almost 60 years ago.</p><p>Oscar Robertson, an NBA legend who some was the game&rsquo;s greatest player ever, is expected to be on hand.</p><p>The Gary Chamber of Commerce is bringing the two teams together, along with other festivities, including a game featuring the current Gary Roosevelt Panthers.</p><p>Chamber president Chuck Hughes.</p><p>&ldquo;In 1954, they made the movie Hoosiers. These guys, they&rsquo;re called the &lsquo;Forgotten Hoosiers,&rdquo; Hughes said. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s the beauty of years and that&rsquo;s history. History will prove that that was a remarkable feat.&rdquo;</p><p>Even though Roosevelt lost the game, they had a lot to be proud of.</p><p>Jake Eisen, who went on to become a school teacher after serving in Vietnam, would be named Mr. Basketball that year, the top honor for high school basketball in Indiana.</p><p>His teammate, now known as Dr. Dick Barnett after earning a doctorate in education, would go on to have a legendary NBA career with the New York Knicks.</p><p>Barnett&rsquo;s Number 12 jersey was retired by the Knicks and it&rsquo;s hanging in the rafters of Madison Square Garden in New York City.</p></p> Fri, 29 Nov 2013 08:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/remembering-forgotten-hoosiers-109274