When students’ education is on the line, having more options isn’t always better if it means that parents and their children are being forced to choose between non-negotiable fundamental values like community, academic rigor, and safety. Yet, many parents and their children face this predicament when selecting between public neighborhood, public selective enrollment, or private schools in Chicago.
The day before the opening night of Hancock College Preparatory High School’s theater showcase “Content Warning: Real Life,” the students in Sarah Baranoff’s Drama II and Drama III classes are thrumming with nervous excitement. In the darkened performance hall within the West Elsdon selective enrollment high school, students walk in and out with costumes in hand, leap on and off the stage, and chatter in the audience seats.
Last week, I asked the founders of Jackson Park Watch (JPW) to take me on a guided tour of Jackson Park. Headed by two women, Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid, JPW has been an undeniable community force for just over a year in demanding more transparency and public input regarding the changes coming to the park, including the Obama Presidential Center, the proposed golf course redesign, and a revamped Wooded Island.
On Monday, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy (IRRPP) released “A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago Report,” a study that analyzes disparities in housing, economics, education, justice, and health between Black, Latinx, and white communities in Chicago. Using robust quantitative evidence from a variety of sources, each section delves deep into the history, causes, and consequences of these racial and ethnic inequities that “remain pervasive, persistent, and consequential” in Chicago’s institutions and neighborhoods.”
In late February, Jolyn Robichaux, former president of the historic South Side company Baldwin Ice Cream, passed away at 88 years old. Born and raised in Cairo, Illinois, Jolyn Robichaux studied at both Fisk University and Chicago State University before getting hired at the National Labor Relations Board. Around that time, she met Joseph Robichaux, whom she married in 1952. Joseph Robichaux worked under then-Mayor Richard Daley and served as the 21st Ward Democratic committeeman and a Cook County jury commissioner. During this time, Jolyn became the first Black employee of Betty Crocker, and is also said to have been the first Black woman to do product demonstrations for the company. She would go on to become the president of Baldwin Ice Cream, a Black-owned ice cream parlor chain on the South Side.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in 2013 the closing of nearly fifty Chicago public schools, he attempted to address the concerns regarding student safety by calling for the expansion of the Safe Passage program. First launched in 2009, Safe Passage is a combination of programs that harnessed community involvement to ensure the safety of students traveling to and from school. The program enacts stronger punishments for the possession of guns, ammunition, and other dangerous weapons in designated Safe Passage routes and school safety zones. These routes linked closed schools and the “welcoming” schools that students were redirected into in 2013; the school safety zones cover 1,000 feet around any school and public park within the area.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) revealed late last year in their 2017 capital plan that a new seventy-five million dollar high school would be coming to the South Side. Initially, CPS did not release the location of the new high school, and several neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Englewood, had been organizing and campaigning to be involved in the decision-making process.
On January 12, the National Park Service (NPS) granted funding for preservation projects on thirty-nine African American and Civil Rights landmarks across the United States. The African American Civil Rights Grant Program was approved by Congress in 2016 through the Historic Preservation fund, which uses “revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf to provided assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expanding tax dollars,” according to the NPS. Spread over twenty states, the grants cover the restoration, preservation, and education costs of landmarks such as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Alabama, which was bombed by white supremacists during the Civil Rights Movement, and Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of the first schools to undergo forced desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education.
The creators of Midway Documentary, Ryan Brockmeier and Chad Sorenson, believe that behind the success of big names in Chicago hip-hop are many unheard stories of artists who built the genre.
On October 17, Yoko Ono unveiled her permanent public sculpture “Sky Landing” in Jackson Park. The installation, composed of twelve twelve-foot-tall steel lotus flower petals rising from the ground, is one of the many ventures of Project 120, a nonprofit working with the Chicago Parks District and community members to “revitalize the South Parks” and initiate a “South Side cultural renaissance and resurgence,” according to its website. Park-goers can walk through the installation and around each of the towering lotus petals, while simultaneously admiring the surrounding garden in the Wooded Island section of Jackson Park.