WBEZ | Carl Bell http://www.wbez.org/tags/carl-bell Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Former inmate brings yoga to Chicago’s West Side http://www.wbez.org/news/former-inmate-brings-yoga-chicago%E2%80%99s-west-side-108571 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/130830_Austin Yoga 1_kk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A man who spent nearly half of his life in prison for murder is opening a yoga studio in one of Chicago&rsquo;s more violent West Side neighborhoods.</p><p>Marshawn Feltus hopes his new yoga studio will bring peace to the troubled streets of Austin.</p><p>On a summer day, Feltus walked past boarded-up buildings and groups of people clustered on front stoops and street corners.</p><p>He and two staff members wore matching t-shirts and carried yoga mats.</p><p>They regularly recruit people this way for their yoga studio -- the first in Austin.</p><p>The first group he approached just blankly stared at him from the front porch they were sitting on, but he pulled a teenage boy aside and started talking to him.</p><p>Feltus told his story to everyone he ran into along Chicago Avenue that day. Within a few minutes of recruiting, he had a six-foot-tall former inmate reaching high into the air and breathing deeply.</p><p>He says he knows what young people on the streets are going through because he was a gang member 20 years ago -- in the same neighborhood.</p><p>Feltus was in a gang, and what started out as an argument and fistfight over territory, ended with him seeking retaliation.</p><p>He shot a guy twice and killed him.</p><p>&ldquo;The crime I committed was some of the most senseless violence -- much of what you see today,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s one of the reasons he recruits on the streets of Austin.<br />&ldquo;I have a specific and a personal mission for the young black males -- to show them there&rsquo;s more to their lives than just hanging out on the street corner,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>But Feltus didn&rsquo;t make that connection right away. He spent the first half of his sentence the same way he lived on the street -- being angry and getting into fights, he said.</p><p>About halfway through his sentence, two things changed, said Feltus.</p><p>He found new meaning in a faith he grew up with, even though he can&rsquo;t point to a specific instance, he said.</p><p>&ldquo;It was an accumulation. It happened in bits and pieces,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>Around the same time, he said he and the other prisoners started watching another inmate stretching in the yard. They tried to guess what he was doing.</p><p>&ldquo;We called him Buddha. We actually thought he was really weird at first. He&rsquo;d be out in the yard doing these strange poses,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>Buddha, whose real name is Bartosz Leszczynski, invited Feltus to his prison yoga classes, but Feltus wasn&rsquo;t exactly looking to change his ways.</p><p>But Buddha was persistent.</p><p>&ldquo;Finally, I went to my first yoga class in prison and I could have married yoga,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He said the soothing practice was different than anything he had ever done.</p><p>Soon after, Buddha was transferred to another prison and asked Feltus to take over his class.</p><p>Feltus would teach anywhere between 20 to 200 inmates at a time. They would use state-issued towels instead of yoga mats.</p><p>A noted psychiatry and violence prevention expert sees the value in the practice.</p><p>Dr. Carl Bell thinks Feltus can reach young people on the West Side through mastering an art that teaches discipline and breath control.</p><p>&ldquo;You have a model that works to help you calm down and relax, you&rsquo;ve got a skill which gives you a sense of power over your own body. So, it doesn&rsquo;t matter where you&rsquo;re from,&rdquo; said Bell.</p><p>After being released from prison two years ago, Feltus worked at Bethel New Life on North Lamon Avenue, where he went from a volunteer janitor to store manger of one of the community center&rsquo;s retail stores.&nbsp;</p><p>But yoga was his passion and within two years of being released from prison, he completed an <a href="http://ttp://bethelnewlife.org/our-investments/community-economic-development/business-development/" target="_blank">entrepreneurship training program</a> at Bethel while taking classes to become a certified yoga instructor.</p><p>He graduated from the entrepreneurship training program a day after he was laid off at Bethel due to restructuring, he said.</p><p>But that only gave him more time to focus on starting his own yoga studio.</p><p>He held the first class earlier this month at Bethel, in a chapel with stained glass windows.</p><p>Feltus taught the group of six students from a stage overlooking them.</p><p>Two long-time Austin residents, Deloris Bingham and Sarah Evans, practiced yoga next to each other.</p><p>After class, the women talked about what having a yoga studio in their own community means to them.</p><p>Bingham said she hopes the studio succeeds because she hopes it will help return the neighborhood to what it was.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was raising my children when I first got the home, about 30 years ago, it was nothing like this, no shooting everyday, are you serious? Killing kids and stuff -- they don&rsquo;t care,&rdquo; said Bingham.</p><p>Evans said she thinks yoga can help stop the violence she sees in parts of her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;When you take time to focus on yourself, you don&rsquo;t have time for all this craziness out here, yoga promotes peace within. And when you got peace within, you got peace without,&rdquo; said Evans.&nbsp;</p><p>Feltus said he hopes ACT Yoga -- which stands for awareness, change and triumph -- will provide a safe place for the neighborhood and a different way to deal with aggression, just like it did for the prisoners he taught.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When we made the call to breathe in, you exhale and let it all go. When you come to yoga, that&rsquo;s what you are,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>When doing yoga with the prisoners, all their differences dissolved -- there was no race and no gangs, said Feltus.</p><p>And he said he&rsquo;s excited to bring that to people in the Austin community, especially young black men, because he said he&rsquo;s been where they are now.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t feel like I&rsquo;ll be able to go out and save the world, but if I could just grab me a few guys every day or every week and get them to see it -- that&rsquo;s my contribution,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Katie Kather is an arts and culture reporting intern at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/ktkather" target="_blank">@ktkather</a>.</p></p> Fri, 30 Aug 2013 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-inmate-brings-yoga-chicago%E2%80%99s-west-side-108571 Programs to keep kids off streets during violent summer may end http://www.wbez.org/news/programs-keep-kids-streets-during-violent-summer-may-end-108294 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Summer Stress 1_130805_kob.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Most kids can&rsquo;t wait for summer; they&rsquo;re itching to get out of school and into the world. But when that world lacks basic resources--like food, shelter and safety--summer could be the scariest time of year.</p><p>On the far south side of Chicago, there&rsquo;s a school that offers an oasis--but its funding might soon run dry.</p><p>And as a recent graduate Abryanna Morris put it, there&rsquo;s really nowhere else for kids to go.</p><p>&ldquo;Kids are involved in gangs because that&rsquo;s the only thing to turn to, at the end of the day. Because there&rsquo;s nothing at all in the Roseland community to do but to go be with a gang...there&rsquo;s nothing for us to do,&rdquo; Morris explained.</p><p>Roseland begins where the Red Line ends. Nearly 20 percent of residents are unemployed. In the last year, more than a dozen people were killed in Roseland.</p><p>Yolanda Lucas has lived in the community for 30 years. She said violence has changed the neighborhood--that it doesn&rsquo;t feel safe or secure.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no jobs, there&rsquo;s so much tension out there on the street. Everything is a little...like, panicky. I don&rsquo;t know how to explain it, it&rsquo;s just not comfortable,&rdquo; Lucas said.</p><p>Lucas and her husband have five kids---her babies, twin girls, will be juniors next year at <a href="http://www.fengerhighschool.org/" target="_blank">Fenger High School</a>. They, like many kids in the neighborhood, take a strategic route to school. Along the way, there are safety officers posted in what are called &ldquo;hot zones.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;For my kids, because now they have all this block-to-block gang activity...&lsquo;I don&rsquo;t like 111th, 113th is over here, we don&rsquo;t get along with them...&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucas described. &ldquo;It used to be neighborhood by neighborhood...no, it&rsquo;s block by block: State, Michigan, Wentworth, Yale...all the blocks against each other...so that mean I gotta go around this way to get to school versus going this way,&rdquo; Lucas continued.</p><p>Some likened it to a war zone.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s happening in Afghanistan and Iraq is happening in Roseland...there are incidents of post-traumatic stress that our young people are facing,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/restoring-roseland-confronting-violence-peaceful-practices-106651" target="_blank">Robert Spicer</a>, culture and climate specialist at Fenger High School, said.</p><p>Spicer&rsquo;s job is to create a culture of peace at a school where high-risk is the norm. He said many kids aren&rsquo;t getting the mental health supports they need to deal with violence-related post-traumatic stress that&rsquo;s going on in the community.</p><p>Spicer and Fenger&rsquo;s principal, <a href="http://www.fengerhighschool.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=123989&amp;type=u" target="_blank">Elizabeth Dozier</a>, both remembered noticing early on in their tenures that things were especially heated before a long break.</p><p>&ldquo;Before Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, spring breaks, we used to have here in our first couple years, the kids would just fight...what we realized it&rsquo;s the stress, honestly speaking, the stress of, OK so a lot of kids are going to go home, there&rsquo;s not going to be a meal, they&rsquo;re going to go into some really trying situations...we have children living in abandoned buildings; it&rsquo;s real, real deal stuff...&rdquo; Dozier recalled. &ldquo;And so they get stressed out and then that comes out in the form of aggression because they&rsquo;re teenagers.&rdquo;</p><p>And so, she reasoned, that as teenagers, that stress tends to come out in the form of aggression.</p><p>Nearly four years ago, after the particularly brutal death of Fenger honors student Derrion Albert, attention and resources flooded the school. Dozier took a $6-million federal grant and poured it into mentoring, after-school programs, counselors and security officers trained in de-escalation.</p><p>Fenger became an oasis--a safe place full of opportunities for every student.</p><p>Psychiatrist and violence-prevention expert <a href="http://www.psych.uic.edu/ijr/facultymember.asp?p=cbell" target="_blank">Carl Bell</a> said it&rsquo;s not surprising then that Fenger students would be anxious to be out for summer.</p><p>&ldquo;Let me put it to you this way: If I lived in a war zone and I was safe, away from the front lines...and you told me, &quot;OK, time for you to go back to the front lines...I&#39;d be kind of upset,&rdquo; Bell said.</p><p>Which is why Dozier and her team have developed a strategy to deal with summer breaks.</p><p>In the school&rsquo;s teachers lounge, Dozier erected a board with every student&#39;s name on it. Colors and tiers track the kids&rsquo; summer activities. She wanted every kid, especially those who are likely to find trouble, to do something, to remain connected to the school in some way. But even with a strategy in place, Dozier couldn&rsquo;t ensure their safety after leaving the confines of the school.&nbsp;</p><p>A student was shot late one Saturday night or early Sunday morning over one of the summer&rsquo;s early weekends. Dozier was notified by Chicago Public Schools the following Monday morning. She went to the hospital, thinking he might be there--but he wasn&rsquo;t. So then she went to his home...and he wasn&rsquo;t there either. As she was running around the neighborhood looking for him, she got a call from her staff at Fenger--the student was at school.</p><p>&ldquo;He got on his crutches and walked here [Fenger], he wanted to make sure he was here for the program that started on Monday...&rdquo; Dozier said. &ldquo;These programs are important to kids; and you would think a kid like that would be at home, in bed or whatever, but no, he&rsquo;s here. Him and his mom came to the school, made sure he was all set to go...and he was here,&rdquo; Dozier marveled.</p><p>But many of those programs may soon be unavailable. Fenger&#39;s federal grant runs out at the end of August.</p><p>Ideally, Bell said, the playing field would be level and all kids would have the same opportunities. But given the reality in Roseland, he said it&rsquo;s better to have had something--even if only temporarily.</p><p>&ldquo;If there&#39;s a shipwreck and there&#39;s 20 people in the water but only 10 spots on the boat...don&#39;t just leave me in the water: take me on the boat, dry me off, feed me, let me be dry for a couple hours then push me back in the water and get somebody else on the boat. I&rsquo;d rather be on the boat for a minute or two than not be in the boat at all,&rdquo; Bell reasoned.</p><p>He said that getting something gives a person a sense that there is something good out there.</p><p>&ldquo;We&#39;re sorry they can&#39;t stay but knowing that there is a moral order that eventually prevails...an ideal where people are treated fairly is important,&rdquo; Bell said.</p><p>And, Bell emphasized, it is important to continue floating life rafts Roseland&#39;s way to help young people&rsquo;s resiliency.</p><p><a href="http://www.sgayouth.org/" target="_blank">SGA Youth and Family Services</a> has implemented over 300 out-of-school-time activities at Fenger over these past few years. SGA&rsquo;s vice president of programs Ron Migalski, said programs like Safe Passages, are part of their proactive approach.</p><p>&ldquo;We will have well over a dozen staff who are going to be strategically positioned between these elementary schools and &lsquo;hot zones,&rsquo;if you will, where high crime areas are. So, if we have staff put in place from a proactive standpoint, we can overcome some of these impending crises that can develop&rdquo; Migalski said.</p><p>SGA said it is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pipeline in Roseland. A couple of years ago, it received the only federally awarded Promise Neighborhoods planning grant in the state.</p><p><a href="http://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html" target="_blank">Promise Neighborhoods</a> is a federal program meant to fund community initiatives to keep kids safe and in school. And Migalski said he is hopeful that SGA will be able to continue its work.</p><p>The Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant is approximately $30 million over six years.</p><p>&ldquo;We&#39;re optimistic and hopeful. We have the support of nearly the entire community, residents, political leaders at the city, state and federal level. We can clearly justify the need why Roseland over any other,&rdquo; Migalski explained.</p><p>And Dozier said shootings like the one that happened this summer further underscore the need.</p><p>&ldquo;(Her student) was getting off a bus at 114th around, like 9 o&rsquo;clock at night, 9:30 at night and someone, two people came up to him, tried to rob him, take his cell phone and his wallet. And he started to run away and they started to shoot and they wound up shooting him in his foot. Is that wrong place, wrong time, can kids be out late? I don&rsquo;t know anymore...I just don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Dozier trailed off.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a></em></p><p><strong>Crime around Fenger from Chicago Data Portal</strong></p><div><p style="margin-bottom:3px"><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crime-around-Fenger-High-School/ub6r-nhvr" style="font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;text-decoration:none;color:#333333;font-family:arial;" target="_blank">Crime around Fenger High School</a></p><iframe frameborder="0" height="646px" scrolling="no" src="https://data.cityofchicago.org/w/ub6r-nhvr/3q3f-6823?cur=oArufQrgQjz&amp;from=qsbvIrRLQIC" title="Crime around Fenger High School" width="760px">&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crime-around-Fenger-High-School/ub6r-nhvr&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crime-around-Fenger-High-School/ub6r-nhvr&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; title=&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Crime around Fenger High School&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; target=&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;_blank&amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Crime around Fenger High School&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;</iframe><p><a href="http://www.socrata.com/" target="_blank">Powered by Socrata</a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 08:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/programs-keep-kids-streets-during-violent-summer-may-end-108294 Mental health advocates say gun debate misses the mark http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-advocates-say-gun-debate-misses-mark-106579 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/city hall protest_130409.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last month in Springfield, a committee gathered at 8 a.m. in a quiet hearing room to talk about the connection between mental health programs and guns. It was the same committee that had previously met three times to talk about gun control regulations. At each of those meetings, a velvet rope was set up outside the room to control the huge line of people waiting to get in. At the mental health hearing, the velvet rope was set up but hardly anyone showed up.</p><p>One person who did show up was Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Springfield. He talked about how the NRA is somewhere between wanting to make sure those who need mental health treatment can get it, but also advocating so that those who want guns can get them.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that we don&rsquo;t stigmatize people in such a way that they don&rsquo;t want to seek treatment and that we take other behavioral issues and start classifying them as mental illnesses that just start becoming broad prohibitors on people when they&rsquo;re trying to exercise a fundamental right,&rdquo; Vandermyde said.</p><p><br />That right he&rsquo;s referring to is the Second Amendment. Vandermyde says the N-R-A wants to make sure mental health services are funded - but also that the rights of gun owners are respected.</p><p>In our ongoing series <em>Front and Center: Flashpoint</em> we&rsquo;re continuing to a look at how the debate over guns is affecting mental health programs. Many politicians and mental health providers say funding for mental health has dwindled in recent years. But recent mass shootings have changed the political conversation.</p><p>Still, how do people who actually work in the mental health field feel about this debate?</p><p>&ldquo;People are mixing apples and oranges with porterhouse steaks,&rdquo; said Dr. Carl Bell, the head of the Institute of Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois-Chicago. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of confusion in the conversations about mental illness and violence.&rdquo;</p><p>Bell has been involved in mental health issues around Chicago for decades and he&rsquo;s outspoken and blunt. Bell said the problem with how the mental health debate has been tied to gun violence is that the connection is complex. He goes down a list of the different types of gun violence.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s drug-related violence, there&rsquo;s hate crime violence, there&rsquo;s inter-personal altercation violence, there&rsquo;s stranger, robbery homicide, there&rsquo;s serial killers, there&rsquo;s mass killers, there&rsquo;s suicide, there&rsquo;s legitimate violence where people are doing self-defense,&rdquo; he said.<br />Bell is critical of how the media has covered mass shootings and he said his solution is not a new concept.</p><p>&ldquo;The way that you fix problems in people is you make sure they&rsquo;re surrounded by community that&rsquo;s going to take care of them: social fabric,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But so far, some state legislatures have taken on the issue through proposals by requiring more doctors like Bell to report patients who may pose a threat to themselves or others. Legislation like that hasn&rsquo;t gone very far in Springfield.</p><p>Instead, Illinois has acted mostly by cutting mental health funding in recent years and closing mental health facilities, including one Bell used to run on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side. Bell said it happened so fast, he doesn&rsquo;t even know what happened to his patients.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s egregious,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s reprehensible. I think it&rsquo;s tragic.&rdquo;</p><p>Here in Chicago a year ago, the city also closed six of its twelve mental health clinics to consolidate&nbsp;services. The renewed focus on mental health and gun violence comes as Governor Pat Quinn now says he wants to add $25 million to mental health programs.&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s good news to Elizabeth Rahuba, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder and has encountered the stigma so many people who work in mental health say they want to avoid.</p><p>&ldquo;If it ever comes up in a conversation where I reveal my diagnosis, most of the people have been pretty good about it, but some people can get kind of skittish,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Rahuba spent six years living in a nursing home where a lot of people seeking mental treatment in Illinois end up living. She now lives in Hyde Park on her own and said she used to work for a private security company in Texas. She even occasionally had to carry a gun for the job, but she said those days are gone.</p><p>&ldquo;I was a commissioned security officer. I did carry,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But right now, knowing my illness, that I could trigger it at any time if it ever got that bad, I wouldn&rsquo;t want one.&rdquo;</p><p>Rahuba said people with mental health issues like her need to recognize symptoms before they become problems. She doesn&rsquo;t like the idea of requiring more doctors to report patients who might pose a threat to themselves or others.<br /><br />Rahuba says that&rsquo;d make it harder for her to open up to people.<br /><br />Yet another reason, she says, why the current debate about mental health and gun violence may be missing the mark.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-advocates-say-gun-debate-misses-mark-106579