Last week the New York Times came to Chicago to host a two-hour conversation about the city’s gun violence crisis. The event, “Chicago at a Crossroads,” was announced as an attempt to “work to turn the tide of violence” by “exploring realistic, promising strategies” and starting “provocative discussions.” It was produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which works with the Chicago Police Department to study patterns in the city’s violence though data analysis, and sponsored by, among other entities, Chase Bank. “Too many people are dying in Chicago. Let’s change that,” John Eligon, one of the Times reporters who hosted the conversation, wrote on Twitter in advance of the event.
In January, the Weekly published an investigation into the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)’s failure to redevelop public housing in Bronzeville after demolishing much of it in the early 2000s. The demolition of projects such as Ida B. Wells, Robert Taylor, and Stateway Gardens was part of the now-notorious Plan for Transformation, a federally funded initiative that promised to replace the demolished high-rises with new housing developments that would combine subsidized and market-rate housing units. The Plan also promised that the CHA would rebuild or rehabilitate a total of 25,000 units overall.
Nearly a month ago, the South Side’s only emergency shelter for homeless youth was badly damaged in a sudden and unexplained fire. The shelter, Ujima Village, was located on 73rd Street just off the Dan Ryan expressway, and provided beds for some twenty-four homeless young people every night. Some of those beds were dedicated to long-term residents of the shelter, while others were available to whoever arrived first on a given night.
Community-oriented galleries like those in the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) are founded on the idea that encounters with art can be educational. Now, with a new exhibition called “Public School,” the gallery is exploring the possibility that education itself—meaning pencil sharpeners, cubbies, and swing sets—might be an object of artistic interest.
Fred Evans is a swim coach at South Shore International College Prep, a selective enrollment school located on 75th and Jeffery. He has coached swimming in Chicago for over forty years, starting at Chicago State in 1974 and then moving on to Chicago South Swim Club, the first integrated swim team in the city. Before he was a coach, he swam at the collegiate level, where he became the first African American national swimming champion in the United States. His daughter Ajá Evans was an Olympic bobsledder and his son Frederick Evans III played in the NFL for nine years.
Fifteen years ago, when Mack Julion first came to Saint Sabina’s in Auburn Gresham, the church didn’t have a youth ministry. After working for a few years in the office of the church’s longtime pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, he managed to convince Pfleger to let him start one. Now, the church’s youth ministry has programs for parishioners from ages thirteen to thirty-five. In some ways, Julion is a perfect Saint Sabina’s success story: the church empowered him to empower others.
“We’re in front of the children, we know what they need.”
My family was the third African-American family that moved into the community. I did experience the change, I did experience some of the racism that I endured as I was brought up in Englewood. I graduated from Henderson School in 1979, and I went to Gage Park High School, and you’ve probably heard about the racism, the riots there. Then I had my kids, then I went to Chicago State, where I obtained my Bachelor’s. So I’ve been working in Englewood a long time.
“Sometimes when you’re your own worst critic, you’re never satisfied.”
This past Friday, South Side in Focus, a University of Chicago student organization that aims to share and amplify the voices of South Side residents through public art exhibits, held a gallery opening and performance at Currency Exchange Café in Washington Park. The event, titled “As We See It,” featured photos (below) taken on disposable cameras by students from Imagine Englewood If… and the Chicago Youth Programs in Washington Park. The photos allowed the students to document daily life in their households and neighborhoods. Interviews with the student photographers and a video made by students from Englewood accompanied the images. Students also performed in an open mic event (above), sharing poetry that reflected on life in their neighborhoods. Find some of the students’ work reproduced here.