Marketing the wrong message This letter is in response to your January 2004 feature article on gang culture. I recently saw the Flavas dolls advertised on TV. As a mother of a 3½-year-old girl, I was shocked. What's next, drug addict dolls? Will we see ads for Heroin Heather, Crystal Meth-head and Susie Stoner, complete with their respective paraphernalia as accessories?

As an educated, upper-middle-class Hispanic woman, I am alarmed at how gang culture portrays blacks and Hispanics. Unfortunately, the gang culture is what much of white Americans see, and frankly, I don't like being tarred with gangstas' filthy brush. Rappers like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent glorify the worst of black culture. Gangsta rappers may yet accomplish what the KKK has failed to do in 150 years-convince white Americans that blacks and Hispanics are violent, sex-crazed criminals who pimp, whore, sell drugs and steal.

Gang jargon, behaviors and clothing can slip right by us, as the drug culture and the smell of marijuana smoke eluded our equally naive parents. As odious as gang culture is, we need to educate ourselves so we can tell if our kids are into gang culture. I also think we should boycott Mattel until they pull Flavas from the market. LITZI TREVINO HARTLEY, Naperville

Editorial plays on parents' fears I am extremely disturbed by the editorial "Fix sex offenders registry now" (January 2004) for a number of reasons. Your editorial strikes fear in the hearts of parents about their children's sexual safety; it inappropriately points the finger at the "lurking stranger" and it discourages basic civility in the public world by doing so.

As a historian of sexuality, I feel obliged to inform readers that the majority of sex offenses do not involve children. Here's a list of sex offenses: prostitution, public exposure, statutory rape and sodomy. Sex between whites and blacks has been a crime in this country as has been buying or using birth control. Murderers do not have their personal information posted, but thanks to this type of legislation, sex offenders do. Readers should be concerned about child molestation, but what remains most disturbing about it is that these acts most often are committed by family members, family friends and extended family. Having the photograph of an adult convicted of statutory rape (perhaps an 18-year-old who had sex with a 16-year-old) posted on the Web with details of his/her crime might make us feel safer, but it will do little to the ensure safety of our children.

Instead, readers should practice basic street sense and focus on building a community of thoughtful adults who will pay attention to their world. This is yet another moment that technology might look like a cure-all; it isn't. LISA Z. SIGEL, Chicago

Illinois horses need your help Kudos to your magazine for Naomi Leithold's inspiring article, "There's nothing better than running like the wind" (February 2004). The article did an excellent job of depicting the magic that occurs between horse and rider and did an especially good job of highlighting horses' ability to enhance the lives of people with physical disabilities in Illinois.

Given the symbiotic relationship that humans and horses have developed over hundreds of years, it's particularly ironic that our state is on the verge of opening a horse slaughterhouse. If opened, the horse meat from the facility will be shipped overseas for human consumption in Europe.

Horses are companion animals-not meat. The Illinois legislature will be soon be voting on a bill, S.B. 1921, that would prohibit horse slaughterhouses from opening in our state.

Let's speak up for horses that improve the quality of our lives. We encourage all horse lovers to contact their legislators and ask them to support S.B. 1921. MICHELLE SHIELDS and SANDY DE LISLE, Deerfield

Change breastfeeding ads? In response to the article about the breastfeeding public awareness ads (January 2004), I have to admit I'm not looking forward to seeing the ads. I am a well-educated, dedicated mother who, when I was pregnant, did tons of research on how to give my child the best start in life possible. There was no doubt I would breastfeed.

When my son was born, I didn't realize he had a weak sucking reflex. He became skeletal-looking and I worked with a lactation consultant. Finally, when he had no wet diapers, I called my pediatricians and they suggested a bottle. I can't tell you the overwhelming relief I felt when I saw my child really sucking and eating for the first time in his life. I also felt a great deal of guilt-would my child be plagued with ear infections? Would he be stupid? Would we have an inadequate bond? My son is now a healthy, intelligent, loving 5-year-old.

I know the studies say breast milk is best. But the way the message is delivered to expectant and new mothers many times (not so) subtly equates bottle feeding with a form of child abuse. New mothers have enough to worry about with sleep deprivation and figuring out how to take care of a new little person. Militant messages about breastfeeding only create more stress. Perhaps a more appropriate message would be: Breast milk can be beneficial. MARIA LICCARDO, Evanston

Editor's note: For an update on the Advertising Council's breastfeeding ads, please see the editorial on page 8.

Angry at Nickelodeon I watched one of the "Hillbilly Moment" segments on Nickelodeon with my son after school. It was incredible to see the blatant stereotyping and use of the word hillbilly. The segment showed a barefoot boy and girl in ragged clothes speaking slang with exaggerated Kentucky accents. The segment was demeaning and insulting to people with southern accents. The kids in the segment had teeth that stuck out or were blacked out. Why not explain to kids that the reason so many Appalachians have bad teeth is because of poverty? The comedy was just cruel.

Nickelodeon is generating future bad treatment of Appalachians by promoting these stereotypes. It teaches intolerance and stereotyping, two things that we, as parents, stand against.

If the network wants to show children what the people of Appalachia are really like, why not interview a coal miner and his or her family? It would be really cool to show kids a coal mine on TV. Or, how about a segment on bluegrass music featuring great artists such as Hazel Dickens.

I will be speaking to our local PTA about this stereotyping of Appalachians. If this kind of material is allowed in Nickelodeon's programming now, what group will be next? It is a slippery slope! I will encourage parents to start watching what is on Nickelodeon more closely. I used to automatically consider after-school Nickelodeon programs safe viewing for my son. LAURA BADEN, Skokie

Portage Park has kid stuff I have to respond to the letter "Fired up in Portage Park" (February 2004). I live in a neighborhood bordering Portage Park and was delighted to discover the Portage Park Center for the Arts at 3914 N. Menard in the former Nebo Lutheran Church Building, (773) 205-0151.

The center offers a variety of programs for early childhood, children, teens and adults. Early childhood classes include Kindermusik, yoga, creativity corner and open art studio, just to name a few. The center is also a meeting point for homeschoolers, who conduct their programs in the center. Childhood programs include Berlitz, puppetry and multicultural art workshops and academic tutoring.

My daughter, a toddler, and I have taken classes throughout the city and I am continually impressed by the innovative approach and quality of programming at the PPCA. Director Jennifer La Civita has established a warm and welcoming center that has become a nexus for creative and talented people of all ages. EMILIJA NOVITOVIC, Chicago Chicago Parent welcomes letters from its readers. In order to publish a letter, we must have the name and phone number of the writer, and the name of the town in which he or she resides. Please send letters to: • Susy Schultz, editor, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302 • Or fax them to Susy at (708) 524-8360 • Or e-mail them to [email protected] We may edit letters for space or clarity. We will not divulge the addresses or phone numbers of letter-writers or forward messages to them.

In April, the reader poll takes a new tack, suggested by reader Joan Drummond. We'd like parents to answer the question: "Now that I have kids, the one thing I know for sure is..." Deadline: March 8.

In May, we celebrate moms. What is your idea of the perfect Mother's Day? (Then, leave a copy of the May issue where someone can find it.) Deadline: April 12.

If we run your response, we'll enter you in a drawing for a family membership to the Chicago Children's Museum. We'll print your first name, the town in which you live and the names and ages of your kids; please provide us with your full address and phone number for verification purposes only. Send all submissions to: Sandi Pedersen, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. E-mail: [email protected] parent.com; fax: (708) 524-8360.


Celebrating spring In April, we celebrate spring. Send us photos of your kids spring cleaning, on spring break or singing in the spring showers. Deadline: March 8.

April showers bring May flowers to our gallery. Send us photos of your kids stopping to smell the roses, dancing with flowers in their hair or otherwise enjoying nature's beauty. Deadline: April 12.

We will keep all photos and may use them in the future with stories in the magazine. By sending in your child's photo, you are giving us permission to run it now or in the future. Send prints to: The Gallery c/o Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. Send digital photos to: [email protected] Include the first names of everyone in the picture, children's ages, the town in which you live and a phone number for verification.

Correction In the February 2004 Short Stuff article about the book Power Freaks: Dealing With Them in the Workplace or Anyplace by David L. Weiner, (Prometheus Books, 2002) the author was misidentified. Chicago Parent regrets the error as does the author.


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