Lit Issue 2019

All About Love

The first biography of Margaret Burroughs struggles to codify the multilayered artist, educator, and activist who created a signature South Side cultural institution

When Margaret T.G. Burroughs passed away in 2010 at the age of ninety-five, condolences flowed in from across the country. President Barack Obama praised her as an “esteemed artist, historian, educator, and mentor,” and called the DuSable Museum in Washington Park, which she founded, “a beacon of culture and a resource worldwide for African-American history.” But for Purdue University Fort Wayne English professor Mary Ann Cain, author of South Side Venus: The Legacy of Margaret Burroughs, Burroughs’s passing was surprisingly personal. “I felt incredibly sad, unexpectedly…I just felt, you know, really deep, deep loss,” Cain remembered. They were not especially close, but had crossed paths a few times after Burroughs initially helped Cain with background research for a novel. Like many others who met Burroughs, Cain had been touched by Burroughs’s generosity. “She was just so incredibly generous to take time for somebody she didn’t know,” said Cain.

Chinatown | Food | Food Issue 2019

Underground Dives at the Richland Food Court

The big dreams at work in Chinatown’s unassuming basement food court

Tammy Xu

In 2011, when Jinxi Liu saw the Richland Center Food Court for the first time, it didn’t look like a welcoming place for new beginnings. Located in the basement of the Richland Center in Chinatown, the hall had been open less than a year and still looked mostly empty, with only a couple food vendors attending to their stalls. But to Liu, who had moved to the United States from the Chinese coastal province of Guangdong three years earlier, it nonetheless seemed like a promising place to start a restaurant of his own. In June of that year, with money he had borrowed from relatives and saved from working in various kitchens, he opened Yummy Yummy Noodles, the food court’s newest stall specializing in noodle dishes.

Chinatown | Elections | Politics

A Chinatown Civics Lesson

Building power in a neighborhood without representation

milo bosh

The evening of January 28 was cold and snowy, but around 150 people made their way up four flights of stairs to the grand auditorium in the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown for a 25th Ward aldermanic forum. The center serves as one of the hubs of the community, hosting English and computer classes, services for new immigrants, and a Christian school. With its terra cotta facade and handsome, finely detailed interiors, the building is listed on the register of Chicago Landmarks and in 2007 placed first among twenty-five sites across Chicagoland to win a $110,000 preservation grant through wide community support.

Education | Technology

Learning to Program—Swiftly

The first cohort of students complete City Colleges' coding bootcamp pilot

Maira Khwaja

Last year, City Colleges of Chicago partnered with Apple to offer coding “bootcamps”—crash courses in computer programming designed to get students up to speed and connect them with jobs in the software industry. The pilot program, which was free and ran from April to September, was to test how a bootcamp-like course would work in a community college context and to set up course graduates with jobs and internships. Students who participated said they enjoyed and learned from the pilot, which has the potential to be a great resource. But as the second bootcamp begins this month, the program’s limited selection of applicants and poor job placement—one of the metrics of its success—raises questions about its future at City Colleges.


A Different Taste of Chicago

The second annual Taste of Black Chicago drew big crowds in South Shore

Toure Muhammad (Courtesy Taste of Black Chicago)

When Toure Muhammad organized the first Taste of Black Chicago last year, his goal was to showcase Black-owned restaurateurs, caterers, and bakers from across the city and to help them find new customers. So many people showed up that vendors sold out of food. Before the day was over, people were asking about plans for next year. “I was totally caught off guard by the number of people who attended,” said Muhammad, founder of Black Chicago Eats.

History | Lit | Politics

Redlining Remembered

A new memoir wrestles with a familial history of racism and redlining

Linda Gartz’s family lived three generations in West Garfield Park, from the time her father was born in 1914, when it “was a neighborhood of wooden sidewalks, dirt streets, and butterflies fluttering above open prairies” to her senior year of high school in 1966. By the time the family moved away, racial riots had destabilized the neighborhood, and white residents were fleeing for the suburbs. Gartz’s new memoir, Redlined, combines recent scholarship on redlining with the intimacy of a treasure trove of diaries her parents kept throughout the years. The result is a compelling chronicle of both a neighborhood’s journey and a personal one, as Gartz pieces together her past and works to place the events of her childhood in historical context.

Visual Arts

Reflections on a Tender Power

Two artists on the experiences of Black women

milo bosh

On Friday the 13th, Rootwork Gallery, an arts space in east Pilsen, felt inviting and meditative as people arrived for the artists’ talk of “A Tender Power: A Black Womanist Visual Manifesto.” Soft music played as the founding curator of Rootwork, Tracie D. Hall, greeted attendees, answered questions, and served portions from an epic vegan lasagna to early arrivals.

History | Lit

Uncovering Forgotten Histories

A new guidebook brings forth Black women’s contributions to their South Side communities

Lifting As They Climbed co-author Essence McDowell speaks at the book's release at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park (Kiran Misra)

All of my life I sat in history classes when we were young, and we didn’t see ourselves. No one ever handed me a book full of Black women, about Black women, by Black women, ever, in my public education.”

Agriculture | Animals

A City of Hen-Keepers

The joys and challenges of keeping backyard chickens

Tammy Xu

Around noon on a Saturday in February at the Southside Occupational Academy in West Englewood, the school’s hallways were filled with urbanites clutching pamphlets about raising bees and goats and ducks. The occasion was the sixth annual Urban Livestock Expo, where residents curious about urban agriculture from all over Chicago could learn from organizations such as Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Chicago Honey Co-op, and Chicagoland Chicken Enthusiasts. In the auditorium a crowd listened attentively as the manager of a beekeeping supply store explained the best ways to monitor a colony’s health during Chicago’s bitter winters, while down the hall a classroom played host to a goat and its many admirers.


Charting Chicago’s Latinx Population

“The Latino Neighborhoods Report” puts urban planning in conversation with urban communities

Little Village's 2017 Mexican Independence Day Parade (Bridget Gamble)

On October 11, a study of twelve predominantly Latinx community areas in Chicago was published by the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) and the Great Cities Institute, research centers affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). “The Latino Neighborhoods Report” examines income levels, employment opportunities, homeownership rates, and health insurance coverage in each of the twelve community areas; most notably, it finds that education rates among Chicago’s Latinx communities lag well behind their Black and white counterparts.