Cheryl Corley

Cheryl Corley is an NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk and is based in Chicago. She travels throughout the Midwest covering issues and events throughout the region's 12 states.

In recent years, Corley has reported on the campaign and re-election of President Barack Obama, on the efforts by Illinois officials to rethink the state's Juvenile Justice System, on youth violence in Chicago, and on political turmoil in the Illinois state government. She's reported on the infamous Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida and covered tornadoes that have destroyed homes and claimed lives in Harrisburg, Illinois; small towns in Oklahoma; and Joplin, Missouri.

In addition, Corley was among the group of NPR reporters covering the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as they tore through the Gulf Coast. She returned to the area, five years later, and joined the reporting team covering the impact of the BP oil spill. Corley also has served as a fill-in host for NPR shows, including Weekend All Things Considered, Tell Me More, and Morning Edition.

Prior to joining NPR, Corley was the news director at Chicago's public radio station, WBEZ, where she supervised an award-winning team of reporters. She also has been a frequent panelist on television news-affairs programs in Chicago.

Corley has received awards for her work from a number of organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists, the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She earned the Community Media Workshop's Studs Terkel Award for excellence in reporting on Chicago's diverse communities and a Herman Kogan Award for reporting on immigration issues.

A Chicago native, Corley graduated cum laude from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and is now a Bradley University trustee. While in Peoria, Corley worked as a reporter and news director for public radio station WCBU and as a television director for the NBC affiliate, WEEK-TV. She is a past President of the Association for Women Journalists in Chicago.

She is also the co-creator of the Cindy Bandle Young Critics Program. The critics/journalism training program for female high school juniors is a collaboration between AWJ-Chicago and the Goodman Theatre. Corley has also served as a board member of Community Television Network, an organization that trains Chicago youth in video and multi-media production.

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For millions of uninsured people, Tuesday is a big day. That's when they can start signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But for people who speak little or no English, it may be a difficult process. Illinois, which has one of the country's largest immigrant populations, is working to make sure that language is not a barrier to enroll in. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

With the skyline of Chicago behind him, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stands on a rooftop plaza in Boystown, the heart of a predominantly gay community.

He's here on a recruiting mission. Minnesota legalized gay marriage just over a month ago, but Illinois' same-sex measure is stalled in its legislature. So now the mayor of Minneapolis is drumming up business for his city — setting his sight on millions of wedding dollars that could come from Illinois.

The trailblazing strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington will this year be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That's a long way from the days when civil rights activists counted on Bayard Rustin's hard work, but tried to push him aside because he was gay.

For 60 years, Rustin fought for peace and equal rights — demonstrating, organizing and protesting in the United States and around the world.

'Strategic Nonviolence'

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In Chicago, there's a two-and-a-half-mile roadway that the mayor calls the Bat Cave. It's been around for more than a decade, but it's not well known. The mini-highway was designed to ferry conventioneers to Chicago's convention hall.

But as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, some local politicians are arguing that the Bat Cave is being reserved for politicians with special clout.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

The Chicago Housing Authority has torn down all of its high rises and says it's close to completing its plans to transform public housing. Now, city leaders are moving to the next part of their plan: using public housing funds not just to build homes for poor families, but stores where they could shop and work. Some residents, however, say the city is breaking a promise to provide affordable housing.

A day after school officials approved shutting down 50 schools, the Chicago Teachers Union and community activists say they'll hold a voter registration and education campaign. The union is agitated that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, school board members and some lawmakers failed to listen to parents, teachers and others who called for the schools to remain open.

Before they voted yes on the sweeping school closure plan, school board members faced a torrent of criticism Wednesday. Protesters tried to conduct a sit-in at the front of the boardroom, but security officers escorted them out.

The economy may be on the rebound, but many cultural institutions are still struggling to regain their financial footing. That's especially true for one of the country's most recognized museums — the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Known internationally for its research as well as its exhibits, the Field Museum must pay off millions in bond debt — and toe an ethical line as it does.

First lady Michelle Obama gave a personal and emotional speech Wednesday in Chicago as she stepped into the debate over gun control.

"Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can and engaging as many people as he can to pass common-sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence," she said.

The first lady was in her hometown to encourage business leaders to donate millions of dollars to programs for at-risk youth.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing, but just as influential as his print essays were his "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" movie reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert died Thursday after struggling for years with cancer. He was 70 years old.

His thumb may have made him famous on TV, but Ebert was first and foremost a print journalist. He worked on newspapers in grade school, high school and college. With his acumen for writing came a love of movies — and on July 12, 2005, proclaimed Roger Ebert Day by the city of Chicago, he told a crowd of admirers why movies matter.

In Chicago, officials have released a long-feared list that places more than 50 schools on the chopping block. The public school district faces a $1 billion shortfall, and the mayor says many of the city's school buildings are half empty. Some angry parents and teachers say the plan will harm children and they'll fight to keep the schools open.

During the March Madness of 1963, playing was infused with politics. The NCAA matchup between Loyola University of Chicago and Mississippi State helped put an end to segregated basketball. Loyola's win 50 years ago became known as the "game of change."

At the time, college basketball was still predominantly white, with usually no more than two or three black players appearing on the floor at any one time. But in '63, the Loyola Ramblers' starting lineup featured four black players.

When the stage lights go up at Chicago's Goodman Theatre on Monday evening, more than 20 high school students will each have a moment to step into the spotlight and perform a monologue from one of the plays written by the late August Wilson. Chicago's contest is one of several regional finals that strives to introduce students to the Pulitzer Prize winner's work. It's also a lead-up to the national August Wilson Monologue Competition that will be held on Broadway later this spring.

It's been nearly two years since Oprah ended her daily show, and Chicago's been adjusting to the loss of the daytime talk queen. Although she left a huge void, there's no need to write an obituary for the TV talk genre in Chicago.

In the lobby of Chicago's NBC Towers, the crowd of excited fans gathered for a TV taping is reminiscent of the Oprah days of old. But instead of Oprah, they're lined up to see veteran comedian Steve Harvey's show.

"I like Steve's energy. I like his shows. He's funny. He covers all topics," says fan Deloris Neal.

When there's a big snowstorm or a plane has mechanical problems, airports often turn into uncomfortable holding pens, with people scrunched in chairs, lying on floors, filling up restaurants and otherwise trying to find something to do.

That's actually good news for one company. Minute Suites is building tiny airport retreats across the country. The suites are already operating in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Next up are Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The gun violence that scars some Chicago neighborhoods has been a plague for one woman. Shirley Chambers first lost a child to gunfire in the mid 1990s. In 2000, a daughter and a son were shot to death just months apart. On Monday, Chambers buried her last child.

Nearly 500 people filled the pews, the choir lofts and hallways of St. Luke Church of God in Christ for the funeral of 33-year-old Ronnie Chambers, an aspiring music producer who died Jan. 26.

As President Obama unveiled his gun control proposals Wednesday, he highlighted mass shootings at schools in Colorado, Virginia and Connecticut. He also mentioned another group of children, not in school — the ones on the street corners of Chicago.

Chicagoan Annette Holt was at the White House during Obama's address. Her teenage son, Blair, was shot to death five years ago on a Chicago bus as he shielded a fellow student from a spray of bullets.

Chicago's $1.6 billion "Plan for Transformation" envisioned public housing in a way that would deconstruct an image of the city's poor all concentrated in huge housing silos.

The idea was to mix public-housing residents with market-rate condos and subsidized rentals or homes, with one-third of each in these new communities.

Barack Obama won more than 95 percent of the black vote in the last presidential election, and Democrats are expected to have a huge advantage this November. Even so, Republicans looked for ways to appeal to those voters at their convention in Tampa, Fla.

Though the convention hall was packed with delegates this week, it wasn't until gospel star Bebe Winans and the Tampa Bay City Life Church Chorus came on stage that there was any sizable number of African-Americans around.

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As they leave the convention in Tampa, Republican Party leaders are hoping their efforts in Florida will win over more Latino voters. Hispanic lawmakers were given high-profile speaking roles, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced Mitt Romney last night. Recent polls suggests President Obama leads Romney 3 to 1 among Hispanics.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Tampa on this week's Republican efforts at outreach.

In Tampa, "Republican Party" can take on a whole new meaning as it gets later in the convention day. That's when delegates, lobbyists, business executives and others begin to mingle, filling up the city's nightspots.

NPR producer Brakkton Booker and I began Tuesday night with a trip to 7th Street in Ybor City, the Tampa neighborhood made famous for its cigar factories of the past. Now it's a mix of restaurants, bars and trendy shops similar to New Orleans' Bourbon Street.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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This week, first lady Michelle Obama was doing something she loves to do, talking about nutrition with kids. She hosted the first state dinner for children, welcoming 54 of them and their parents to the White House.

"This is the hottest ticket at the White House, right here, because of all of you," Obama said to the children, who ranged in age from 8 to 12.

The drought that's hit huge swathes of the country is also draining the audiences for outdoor activities.

Just look at the Fox River, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Water swirls and plunges over a dam in Yorkville, Ill. Normally there'd be lots of folks canoeing or kayaking here, but not today.

"As you can see most of my canoes are just sitting," says Greg Freeman, the owner of Freeman Sports Shop.

The NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, holds its annual convention in Houston this week. As in any election season, the group is focused on voting rights and voter turnout. But this year, there's another issue that's front of mind: the dramatically high rate of unemployment rate among African-Americans.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will address the NAACP convention on Wednesday, and Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak the following day. NAACP members are ready to hear their plans.

The Race To Register

In Chicago, a new policy on marijuana possession would mean adults who are caught with a small amount of the illegal drug would receive a fine instead of being arrested.

It's mostly about money and how best to use police resources.

Under current Illinois law, anyone found with less than about 1 ounce of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor. If found guilty, they face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

There hasn't been a school strike in Chicago for 25 years. But the current contract between Chicago teachers and the Chicago Public Schools expires at the end of next week, and tensions between the teachers union, the school district and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are ratcheting higher.

Chicago Teachers Union members outmaneuvered the mayor, school officials and anti-union education groups by overwhelmingly approving a measure that allows teachers to strike if contract negotiations fall flat.

The NAACP recently took what was for some in the organization a controversial step, when it endorsed same-sex marriage. That move has now led some local officers around the country to resign — including the group's most outspoken critic of gay marriage.

The NAACP board says it stands by its resolution calling for marriage equality. But as the nation's oldest civil rights group prepares for its national convention in July, some in the ranks say the resolution caught them by surprise, and that such an important decision deserved open debate.

Three years ago, just moments before sledgehammers ripped through an abandoned home in Chicago, the head of a demolition crew decided to save the contents of an old steamer trunk stored in the attic.

"They were about to demolish it because they couldn't get it down the stairs," says Rufus McDonald, who gathered what was inside the steamer trunk — documents and old books — and took them to a rare-book dealer in Chicago.

"He said, 'Do you know who this is?' I said, 'Nah, who is it?' He said, 'It's Richard Theodore Greener," McDonald recalls. "I said, 'Who is he?' "

In Tulsa, Okla., the families of the three victims killed during a shooting rampage Friday are planning funerals. Police say William Allen, 31, Bobby Clark, 54, and Donna Fields, 49, were shot in a predominantly black neighborhood on the north side of Tulsa by two white men.

Fields was walking home after playing a game of dominoes with friends. She was called Donna, but her given name was Dannaer. Her brother Kenneth says she was named after an aunt.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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We're going to spend this part of the program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a deadly shooting spree in a black neighborhood has revived memories of a long-ago race riot.

INSKEEP: First, we have an update on the news here. Police in Tulsa confirm that the two men accused of shooting five black people, and killing three, confessed shortly after they were arrested on Sunday.

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