Six months ago, 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis’s grip on power was starting to feel a little shaky. After serving in City Council for twenty-two years, aligning himself closely with Mayor Richard M. Daley and then Rahm Emanuel, criticism of Solis was reaching a fever pitch. While longterm ward residents faced increased property taxes and skyrocketing rates of displacement, Solis greenlit new developments marketed toward young white professionals. Community organizations were fueling a swell of anti-gentrification activism, with Solis cast as the central, money-grubbing villain. And candidates were lining up to run against him in 2019, with five challengers ending up on the ballot.
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Ricardo Gamboa is a South Side artist, playwright, youth educator, and activist who has lived and worked in Pilsen since 1999. They are a member of Free Street Theater and the Southside Ignoramus Quartet, and the creator of the live radical news show The Hoodoisie. Their work exists outside of—and counter to—established cultural institutions and explicitly affirms the stories of Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities. Gamboa spoke with the Weekly about gentrifying forces in Pilsen and the many reasons why people fight so hard to keep them out.
This is an excerpt of a forthcoming zine written by a team of reporting fellows at City Bureau, a civic journalism lab in Chicago focused on serving the South and West Sides.