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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week
Good morning,
This week, I’d particularly like to call to your attention a series by columnist John Fountain called “Justice for Jelani,” in which he tells us the story of Jelani Day, a young Black man who disappeared on Aug. 24 from the campus of Illinois State University.
In his first column in the series, Fountain takes us to Downstate Peru — a historic sundown town where Day’s body was found nearly a month ago floating in the river, and where questions surrounding his death still swirl like a cool autumn wind. In John’s second column, we learn more about the mystery of Day’s death. And in his third column, we follow Carmen Bolden Day, who had to wait nearly a month to view the body that might be her dead son, and hear how she sensed an initial lack of urgency by police to find him.
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This week, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara urged police officers to not comply with the city’s vaccine reporting mandate even though unvaccinated city workers will go into “no-pay” status starting Friday.
In Letters to the Editor, Don Anderson of Oak Park says that Catanzara doesn’t have his union members’ best interests at heart when he fights a vaccine mandate. Anderson says Catanzara looks more like someone who is doing all he can to spread COVID-19.
Lastly, in a lead editorial, we write about renewable energy.
No sooner did the Illinois Legislature pass an important bill this fall to boost clean energy than another worry cropped up: soaring natural gas prices. Elected officials will have to do all they can to make sure players in the industry don’t jack up prices on consumers.
— Ismael Pérez, editorial board member

“Justice For Jelani.”
Jelani Day with his mother, Carmen Bolden Day.  Photo provided by the family of Jelani Day.
Jelani Day with his mother, Carmen Bolden Day. Photo provided by the family of Jelani Day.
Here in this historic sundown town, population 10,300, where the Illinois River and a railroad stretch for miles across a scenic emerald valley, a Black body was found nearly a month ago floating in the river, and questions surrounding his death still swirl like a cool autumn wind.
I have driven here as a reporter on this sun-splashed day. An eagle glides above the haunting green Illinois Route 251 Bridge, where search crews reportedly found the body on Sept. 4.
Standing above the river’s serene banks, I am well aware of the documented history of Peru and the adjoining town of LaSalle as having been among the hundreds of all-white Illinois towns and suburbs north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The steady unsentimental female Google voice guides my brother Jeff and me to a wooded area here, “south of the Illinois Valley YMCA and due north of 12th Street and Westclox Avenue.”
Pulling off Interstate 80, we snake through Peru, drive past the Illinois Valley YMCA, to where police said they recovered Jelani Day’s four-door sedan on Thursday, Aug. 26, one day after he had been reported missing. Nine days later, on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 9:47 a.m., searchers found a body floating in the Illinois River near the Illinois Route 251 Bridge.
The LaSalle County Coroner’s Office press release at the time did not identify the “decedent” as male or female, black or white, and gave no hint whether the corpse found floating even remotely matched Jelani’s 6-foot-one-inch frame.
The mystery swelled like the pain of a mother’s broken heart.
It was, in a sense, a premature autopsy on an opaque, near faceless and scalp-less body that not even a mother might recognize. The waterlogged corpse lay in the possession of the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office for 24 days.
Even after the authorities finally made positive identification, reportedly through dental records and DNA, Carmen Bolden Day still had not been allowed to see the body that the authorities eventually said was her son Jelani Day, 25.
But how could she know if it was her Jelani unless she had a chance to finally lay eyes on the body — even as a decomposed refrigerated shell?
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board is the opinion voice of the hardest-working newspaper in America. It is headed by editorial page editor Tom McNamee and includes Thomas FrisbieLee BeyIsmael Pérez and Mary Mitchell as members.
Your must-read editorial
The Editorial Board on the green power sector:
Last winter in Texas, when nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses went without power for weeks because the state for years had ignored calls to protect its fossil-fuel-burning power grid against severe storms, demagoguing politicians tried to blame the disaster on Texas’ nascent renewable energy infrastructure.
We shouldn’t let that dishonest game play in Illinois.
More editorials we published this week
The clock is winding down, but Chicago still could make a play to keep the Bears
As a fighter for Chicago’s environment moves up and on, Pritzker must make sure there’s no falling back
In your words
“It looks like a selfish man, uninterested in lasting solutions, who is wielding power without concern for how his tantrums effect real people.”
— Don Anderson, Oak Park
Every day we publish submissions from Chicago Sun-Times readers weighing in on issues facing the city and its residents. Send letters to letters@suntimes.com or reply to this email to share your perspective.
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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week

A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

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