Best Pile of Rocks
Jerrold “Just Flo” Anderson is a motivational hip-hop artist and speed painter living in Englewood. He specializes in poetry, rap, singing, live artistry, comedy improv, illustration, murals, and tattoos. His goal is to “create harmony and cultivate healing within my family, community, and throughout the world.” He has performed with local, indie, and major artists, including Nas and Rick Ross.
When you are a poet and a bird hits the window at your grandma’s house you feel like you need to say something about it/you need to mean something about it/you need to know something about it. What I know is what I saw: the feather drifting down in a serene spiral after what I heard: the bang against the glass and the shriek from my sister’s mouth. My dad and grandma went over to the window and watched the life drift out of the struggling bird. After my dad and the caregiver returned from the backyard with a lifeless plastic bag, my grandma said, shouldn’t we say a prayer for it or something? I said we could say the mourner’s Kaddish but I don’t remember the words. She doesn’t remember a lot of things, but she remembers my name, lets it ring into the hall in surprise when we enter the house. There is no grand metaphor about the bird or my grandmother or life and death. What I know is just what I saw. It died and there was nothing we could do.
I got so used to a closet without a light
That now the landlord’s fixed it
I have forgotten it is there, still digging around for my underwear in the dark.
Every time I remember and pull the chain
it’s like god creating the world again,
and it is good.
You likened our relationship
to a math problem. You say
we are solving it. It’s been a long time
since calculus, since I folded numbers
into boats and eased them into a stream
and watched them come back. In Paris
there is a fountain where they do this,
send off their toy vessels, wobbly fish in a
tiny harbor. I want that afternoon back,
my father and I in the half-hot Europe sun
watching the young boys crowd around
and beckon their earless boats.
Everybody left with what they’d brought.
Daniel Borzutzky’s new poetry collection Lake Michigan slides from the familiar to the fictional in the space of one line, so quickly you might almost miss it. In the collection’s opening poem, “Lake Michigan, Scene 0,” the poet writes, “And the mayor said…we can no longer have empty schools we can no longer have / failing schools we can no longer have public schools we can no longer have public / bodies.”
In mid-March, the New York Times published a warm profile of Theaster Gates’s new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., describing his creations as “monumental structures that echo abstract canvases elsewhere in the institution, but are embedded with unsung stories of black laborers and entrepreneurs.” Part of the piece also detailed how Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims at neighborhood and community revitalization through arts-related projects, had acquired the dismantled pieces of the gazebo in Cleveland where twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in November 2014. Rebuild would use the pieces, the article said, to create a memorial for Rice later this year at the Stony Island Arts Bank, the organization’s South Shore home and exhibition space.
The University of Chicago announced on January 26 that over the course of this year, the nonprofit South East Chicago Commission (SECC) will gain considerable independence from the university. Much of the SECC’s university funding will be cut, and the university will no longer be able to appoint or approve the organization’s board members. According to both parties, the move reflects the SECC’s need to reevaluate its direction as an organization.
The wide boulevard where the Elam Home sits in Bronzeville has had many names, and the mansion, in place since 1903, has known all of them. The ornately carved windows—these days shuttered by gray boards—have peered out at over a century of history in an ever-changing city, watching as Grand Boulevard become South Park Way in 1923 and then Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in 1968. As the neighborhood became majority Jewish and then quickly became majority black; as the surrounding area earned a new moniker, Bronzeville, and a new reputation as a thriving black cultural center.
On Saturday, an estimated 250,000 Chicagoans joined over two million people around the world to march in favor of women’s rights and in opposition to the Trump administration. The march was officially called off and converted into a rally because of unexpectedly high turnout, but that didn’t stop the Chicago crowd, who spilled out from Grant Park and crowded the streets of the Loop, chanting all the while. Drawing large crowds new to activism, the march generated excitement about the beginnings of a mass social movement opposing the Trump administration. However, the march drew criticism from some veteran activists because of messaging that excluded trans women by equating womanhood with biology. These critics expressed hope that the large numbers of white women who marched would continue to show up beyond Saturday’s rally. The Chicago march’s speakers and performers indicated what this might look like, advocating for causes from immigrants’ rights to reproductive rights to the Fight for 15 campaign to Black Lives Matter. The list included many organizations and performers from the South Side. The Weekly contacted South Side performers, speakers, and participants to get their reflections on being part of the march.