Harper High School is the oldest neighborhood school in Englewood. Over the last century, thousands of residents have graduated from there. Yet last month, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close Harper High School in the next few years. It is, by all accounts, considered a failing school. But for those who go to Harper now, the decision threatens to tear apart the social fabric that’s been woven across generations.
A cold wind blew down South Gratten Street on a chilly November afternoon while Bridgeport residents outside stood in line for Benton House’s food pantry, donning jackets, scarves, gloves, and all. Seniors sat on plastic lawn chairs on the sidewalk with personal shopping carts in tow. Inside, toddlers bounced around the stairs while their mothers monitored them with hawk-like vision.
Jeanne Bishop believes her profession is a vocation. After her pregnant sister and her brother-in-law were killed, she wrote a book about her path to forgiving her family’s murderer. Then she became a public defender in Cook County, representing those charged with lesser or even similar crimes.
A quartet of male performers walks solemnly onto dirt and rock, holding steel sheets above their heads. An aerial view of a flock of birds flying over the Calumet industrial corridor is projected onto two jagged concrete pillars with a break of open space at its center. The performers break away from formation and scrape the metal sheets in feverish circular motions, creating clouds of dust. Already the performers embody the spirit of steel mill workers and mimic the machines surrounding them.
It’s a moody September evening at the Church of Templehead—clouds bruise the sky, and bursts of rain seem intent on ruining the party. Templehead, a DIY artists’ living space converted into a queer- and feminist-focused community venue, sits on the corner of 19th and Allport in Pilsen. It’s in a quiet pocket of the neighborhood, removed from 18th Street’s trickle of winers and diners. Tonight is JOSE FEST, a performance art festival named after Chicago-based artist Jose Hernandez and featuring an eclectic set of theatrical vignettes. Continue reading