Mere steps away from this newspaper’s office on Tuesday, January 17, the first of what is supposed to be a series of monthly meetings between leaders of Youth for Black Lives (YBL, formerly Black Lives Matter Youth) and Chicago Police Department superintendent Eddie Johnson took place.
Ravyn Lenae’s demands for her audience were simple. In between the R&B singer’s spacey electro-soul verses, she would say: “Dance,” or, “Y’all can just close your eyes, okay?” She electrified the crowd—all from onstage while sitting down. Listeners mumbled “okay” in response, and started moving their bodies; people who had been sitting on the ground to just listen became active participants in the performance.
When Benyamin Macabee, owner of the only Black-owned art space in Chicago between Hyde Park and the Indiana state line, talks of South Shore, there is a pride in his eyes that doesn’t falter, a steadfastness that mirrors South Shore’s own spirit. “The work I’m doing, the work we’re all doing here, is the work of the universe.” Here, between 67th and 83rd Street, the road to community development is music-, art-, food-, and soul-filled, as evidenced by its unusual smorgasbord of claims to fame: the largest group of Black sailors in the country, a comic book collective called Team Visual X, soulful vegan, vegetarian, Chinese, Mexican joints, a huge public golf course, public and private beaches, weekly jazz concerts and musical jam sessions, are all located in the neighborhood.
Once a month during harsh Chicago winters, the 61st Street Farmers Market transforms the warehouse-like Experimental Station on 61st and Blackstone into a space of hustle, bustle, fresh produce, and made-to-order meals. People are chatting and catching up, joking around and getting their blood pressure taken. Many customers and vendors are on a first-name basis. Everyone is carrying around and exchanging oddly colored money that looks like it came out of a Monopoly box, and the friendly atmosphere adds to the sense that one is standing inside a utopia of healthy food. Continue reading
“The women here are learning to live,” says Clara Kirk. “It’s not just a flophouse.”
South Side thrashers Haki have found their groove in their latest release, Haki’s Big New EP, which, despite its fifteen minutes of playtime, is unexpectedly big, full of doom, and eerily cool. With lyrics that are maybe brilliant but also maybe terrible and senseless, you can’t help but feel part of something visceral, emotional, elevated—brutal. Continue reading
On the bank of the Calumet River, a few blocks away from the Indiana border and Chicago’s historic Calumet Fisheries, is a land that speaks of another time.
With her work existing at the intersection of prison abolition and transgender rights, Monica James visited Geneva this month to address the United Nations Committee Against Torture on the criminalization of transgender women of color. There, she spoke alongside members of the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP) of Illinois, United States Human Rights Network, and the Women’s All Points Bulletin. Her trip was made possible through a crowdsourcing campaign that raised over five thousand dollars. James, herself a transgender woman and activist born and raised on the South and West Sides, works with the TJLP to help low-income and homeless transgender people access fair legal counsel and adequate healthcare. I met with Monica James to discuss her activism, her upbringing, and her trip to Geneva—her first time entering an airplane. Continue reading
Twenty-seven years ago this past Saturday, major newspapers across the country quoted then-Secretary of Education William Bennett as calling the Chicago schools the worst in the nation. Two months before Bennett’s comment hit the headlines, in September of 1987, CPS teachers had taken to the streets in a strike that lasted nineteen school days, the ninth in nineteen years and the last until 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike again. Later that year, thousands of children—largely on the South and West sides—learned that their neighborhood schools would close, yet another in a list of controversies that CPS has been the center of in the last quarter century. Continue reading
Masjid Al Farooq, located in Calumet Heights at the intersection of 89th Street and Stony Island Avenue, considers itself one of the main Islamic centers on the South Side. The closest place of Islamic prayer that isn’t in a storefront or house is Masjid Al- Faatir, located about forty blocks away at 47th and Woodlawn. Continue reading