When Jimmy Li first moved to Bridgeport in 1984, he was one of the few Asian immigrants to live in the neighborhood. Over seventy-six percent of residents at the time were white, twenty percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, and less than one percent were African-American. The Asian population was all but unaccounted for by authorities until the 1990 census, which reported that they constituted 16 percent of the population.
The popular image of a private all-girls Catholic high school usually evokes ideas of strict nuns, enforced uniformity, and fierce standards of discipline rather than notions of female empowerment. And yet at Queen of Peace High School, many alumnae, students, and even staff members would insist that progressive ideas were the foundation of the school. Again and again, the women I spoke to used the words “feminist” and “voice” to describe the fifty-five-year-old all-girls high school located on a fifteen-acre tract of land in Burbank, Illinois, a few blocks west of the Ford City Mall in West Lawn.
Jazz artist Maggie Brown bursts into song at one point during our conversation in Bridgeport Coffee. She uses her phone for digital accompaniment, pulling up a track that “speaks to the young people”—a jazz rhythmic loop—before launching into the first verse, “I’m fed up with all this bad news/ The crime here got me singing the blues/ I wish the headline could report on something good, instead of shooting in my neighborhood.” The coffee shop table transforms, momentarily, into a one-person stage.
Stacks of shelves, repurposed. In the Hyde Park storefront at the intersection of 57th Street and Harper Avenue that formerly housed Southside Hub of Production, a cultural center, and before that O’Gara & Wilson—Chicago’s oldest bookstore before it moved to Indiana in 2013—now stands 57th Street Wines, the neighborhood’s newest small business: a specialty wine and liquor store. At the shop’s grand opening last Friday, distributors set up tasting tables on the store’s boldly checkered floor tiles (restored from the space’s bookstore days), while customers met and mingled, wine samples in hand. The trio behind the store, owner Steven Lucy and co-workers Bex Behlen and Derrick Westbrook, were present in their semi-formal best, directing customers to shelves not unlike the ones that held volumes of books less than four years ago. This time, their contents concerned neither genre nor author, but red and white .
The tree set in the middle of the eta stage is a riot of color. Its trunk, painted with streaks of neon, is strewn with vines and stamped with a variety of West African adinkra icons. Hanging from a branch is a lone, glittering red ornament—the apple in this retelling of the biblical origin story, and a nod to Christmas and the tradition of nativity plays, to which In De’ Beginnin’ pays slight homage with the timing of its current run. The prominent and idiosyncratic set piece, however, is the first clue that this retelling of the origin story will be anything but by The Book.
At first glance, the Whole Foods Market on the corner of 63rd Street and Halsted Street looks like any other. Look a little closer, though, and surprising details begin to surface. The new grocery store, which opened in late September, showcases subtle design elements, courtesy of the interior design firm 555 International and its mastermind, James Geier. From the train track motifs on aisle signs that reference Englewood’s history as a railroad hub, to the geometric patterns that mark the checkout counter numbers, the store is strung together by visual threads interwoven by Geier and his team.
In the back room of a sneaker store in Wicker Park, four of the five founding members of Cliché, a Chicago-based female artist collective, are seated on stools hastily grabbed from between stocked shoeboxes. They’re electric when in conversation with each other, perched in a semi-circle and talking female empowerment, artistry, and speaking their ambitions into reality. It’s characteristic of the momentum that has colored the collective since its inception a year ago. In that time, the group has showcased at SXSW, begun an all-female DJ-performer series called Pussy Control, and most recently collaborated with Chance the Rapper’s new nonprofit organization, Social Works Inc., at his Magnificent Coloring Day music-activism-festival-fair-extravaganza held at US Cellular Field.