Illustration by Saadia Pervaiz
  1. A Meeting in May
  2. Lemons Always Keep Us Cool
  3. They Call Me Ida B. Wells
  4. The Regal Theater
  5. Bronzeville Sisyphus
  6. Anita Jumps the Red Lines

I remember the times when redlining was normalized
I used to go door to door trying to get people to help stop it
But I got told that I had to keep my mouth shut
I didn’t listen and continued the fight
Until my people got their rights I wasn’t going to stop
And now here I stand
I stare down across the street at a bank, I never thought I’d see
Its walls are red, Its life is drained
A building so tall, I never used to see
People used to think this was going to change their life
Not for worst
Not to get cursed
They wanted a good change
They wanted to live free
But this red bank has done it all
People get in, people get out
Tears forming in their eyes, some of joy others of sorrow, they didn’t get their dream
I see through the window, and stare at a man, only he’s not white, but brown instead
With a loan in his hand he runs happily across the street
I followed him cautiously, amazed by his speed
He reaches his destination
A tall brick house it seems
Astonished by joy I continue to see
He knocks on the door, and it opens quite quick
A white man steps out, but he seems discontent
With cars zooming by I can’t really hear as they speak
But suddenly I hear a loud voice, a tone of sadness and anger reaches me across the street
“Porque me trata así? ¿Es porque no hablo su idioma? O es por mi piel?”
Why do you treat me like this?
Is it because I don’t speak your language?
Or is it because of my skin
Why do they treat my people like this?
My community is full of culture that they don’t see
Our Art, Music and Food they enjoy without being frightful
They don’t understand we came here in search of the American dream
I hear sirens approaching, what could this be?
The police walks towards them and suddenly I see
He gets taken away, as I’m about to step in
A hand in my shoulder quietly speaks
“Let’s wait and see, and we’ll take action if need be”
I look back at the men, I hate to see him suffer like this
“Take that crazy man away, put him in jail, he doesn’t deserve to be free”
This just strikes directly to my heart, how dare they say things like this
I guess racism won’t stop
Why is it that some people don’t understand, we all are humans, no one is more, no one is less
“Déjeme le digo una cosa, la última, mi piel me representa y todo el trabajo duro que he hecho, no voy a pelear, te voy a probar que estas equivocado sobre mí ”
Let me tell you one thing, the last one, my skin represents me and all the hard work I’ve done, I’m not going to fight, I’m going to prove you wrong about me
Sad to see some things never change, this man is right
He knows there is no need to fight
Those words said it all
No matter who you are, Black or Brown, Immigrant or not, the judgment doesn’t stop
This is sadly just life
“I wish I could do something, but my hands are tied”
The hand behind me whispered to me
“What do you mean your hands are tied, I see them and, they are free”
“You know what I mean!”
I didn’t know what he meant,
But his words made me realize your hands can never get tied
If you can’t work with the system, then change the system
He grabs my hand and he walks me to the bank
Now I see a black man standing there
Sad face all around, I assume he didn’t get the loan
Sadness again, truly hard to see
I fought for a change once, I fought for it! But people don’t care
The man runs from the bank reaching Logan Square
We follow close behind
“I am sorry, I can’t sell you the house, I wish I could but I am getting threatened, and I am not afraid for myself, I am more afraid of what they can do to you.”
I am speechless
This man just told him the truth
He seems to care but what can he do?
Not getting the house is an unforeseen truth
“Even if I couldn’t get the house, you were kind, thank you and goodbye.”
I look at the men next to me
“I still don’t understand”
“I can’t do anything about this, people are different
some are nice, some are not,
What gets done is unfortunately not up to me”
I am surprised, that’s all I can feel,
“Listen please, you can make changes, we must keep on the fight after all, It’s our legacy that we leave behind”
We part ways after our exchange
I just sadly roam the streets
Thinking about my legacy, the things I have seen and the little I’ve done
The thing is some people don’t see it happen
Obviously they no longer have maps with red lines drawn
Yet the generations of red lining can still be seen
They divided our people, they divided everyone
Making some think that they are above us and that we are not good enough
But this is not about leaving it for others to solve
We have to show how bad life has become
Our parents bought homes generations ago
Our kids live in them now 10 more generations to go
We can paint a house and sell it again, yet the neighborhood remains the same
Brown and black these are the colors that don’t seem to change
We stand back and relax hoping for progress, we think future generations will solve the crisis
This is all hidden history
They, silent minorities, they make people segregate
They shut their doors right in our face
They don’t do this for good
When will we wake up and see
This isn’t a dream
It’s a nightmare we live
We can’t sit and wait for the pinch
One step at a time is all we need
Fighting for change cannot continue to be a dream
As Our future generations will be left in the dark
Living in our ignorance for the fight we didn’t fight.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Jessica Marquez is in the 8th grade at Joseph E. Gary Elementary School.


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