On January 10, as then-president Barack Obama prepared to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place, Rosa Esquivel was setting up chairs and tables at a Chicago Public Library named after another prominent community organizer, Rudy Lozano. Esquivel, a Guatemalan immigrant who has lived in the area since 2003, volunteers as a community board member for Pilsen Alliance, a grassroots social justice organization headquartered two blocks west of the Rudy Lozano library. The day’s community meeting marked the latest chapter in the organization’s nearly two-decade history of working to protect its neighborhood.
On Saturday, an estimated 250,000 Chicagoans joined over two million people around the world to march in favor of women’s rights and in opposition to the Trump administration. The march was officially called off and converted into a rally because of unexpectedly high turnout, but that didn’t stop the Chicago crowd, who spilled out from Grant Park and crowded the streets of the Loop, chanting all the while. Drawing large crowds new to activism, the march generated excitement about the beginnings of a mass social movement opposing the Trump administration. However, the march drew criticism from some veteran activists because of messaging that excluded trans women by equating womanhood with biology. These critics expressed hope that the large numbers of white women who marched would continue to show up beyond Saturday’s rally. The Chicago march’s speakers and performers indicated what this might look like, advocating for causes from immigrants’ rights to reproductive rights to the Fight for 15 campaign to Black Lives Matter. The list included many organizations and performers from the South Side. The Weekly contacted South Side performers, speakers, and participants to get their reflections on being part of the march.
On August 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided a gas station on Belmont and Milwaukee Avenues that has long been a hiring site for day laborers (jornaleros) in Chicago. A group of workers—most of whom specialize in construction and landscaping—gathered that morning, as they do every day. They waited for employers who regularly come by to make job offers and negotiate a pay rate. The workers who frequent this particular site in Albany Park are black, Polish, Eastern European, Latinx. Some are immigrants, and some are not.
The heart of Mount Greenwood, where I grew up, is 111th Street.
The following is a reflection on the first anniversary of last year’s Black Friday protests over the police killing of Laquan McDonald. During the protest, marchers shut down the Magnificent Mile portion of Michigan Avenue, costing stores between twenty-five and fifty percent of their Black Friday revenue according to a Tribune estimate. The author, Loren Taylor, was born and raised on the South Side. He spent over twenty years living and traveling in Europe as a singer-songwriter before returning to Chicago in 2010. He currently volunteers with community organizations, including the Community Peace Surge and the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign.
On the afternoon of October 24, around 150 student activists and allies halted traffic on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago during a protest that called for improved funding practices for public higher education. Erica Nanton, an organizer and Roosevelt University alumna, quipped, “Paintings do not come before people.”
For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the politics and priorities of Freedom Summer never stopped. King’s arrival in 1966 from the embattled South ignited the Chicago Freedom Movement, and the conditions in northern, urban, and de facto segregated Chicago changed King and his beliefs. It was in Chicago that King intensified his call for economic justice as a goal both beyond and including racial integration.
“Look at what we’ve got! We’ve got Chance, we’ve got Chance!”
Artists are able to encapsulate a lot of ideas in one construction. They get you to think about those ideas in a way that normal interactions in our society–watching television news or reading a newspaper article–may not.
Yet this Black neighborhood stands firm.