This week on SSW Radio we talked with Kristiana Rae Colón of the #LetUsBreathe Collective and heard from the Weekly Read
An estimated 300,000 demonstrators—nearly fifty thousand more than organizers counted last year—took to the streets of downtown Chicago on Saturday to mark the one year anniversary of the national women’s march.
Weekly photographer Sebastián Hidalgo attended the last Increase the Peace campout—youth-led anti-violence demonstrations across the South Side—of the summer. On August 4, dozens gathered outside of St. Michael’s Church in Back of the Yards for games, music, and food to celebrate the community center’s reopening after over ten years.
Every few weeks this summer, a block in a South Side neighborhood was taken over by peace marches, workshops, free food, and an all-night campout. This is the Resurrection Project’s Increase the Peace campaign, a youth-led program that grew out of the tragic drive-by shooting of high school senior Naome Zuber in the fall of 2016. Naome was riding in the back seat of a car when a stray bullet ended her life. Her death galvanized her community; since then, other neighborhoods from Little Village to Englewood have come together as well, on these warm summer nights, to think about structural ways to stop gun violence long after the campouts end.
Of the 150 individuals who attended the first Washington Park Summit on April 1, only fourteen actually lived in the neighborhood, according to the Hyde Park Herald. Cecilia Butler, longtime Washington Park resident and president of the Washington Park Resident’s Advisory Council, called the meeting “insulting” due to the lack of notice given to neighborhood residents. An event posted on the neighborhood bulletin website EveryBlock did not appear until less than a week before the event.
In the airy hall of the South Shore Cultural Center (SSCC), the audience screamed with excitement when former president Barack Obama walked in with the first renderings of the planned Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park on May 3. The OPC is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for investment in the South Side—and the audience had reason to be excited, as the former president, with his usual charisma, introduced a “transformational” plan that’s supposed to revitalize the nearby neighborhoods with employment, training, and business opportunities.
In the summer and early fall of 2015, all eyes in Chicago’s education community were on the campaign and thirty-four-day hunger strike organized by community organizers, families, and educators, that successfully led to the reopening of Dyett High School in Washington Park as an arts school. Among the activists in the “Save Dyett” campaign were Dyett alumni and students, many of whom mobilized after feeling their communities and schools were being undervalued by city officials.
On January 10, as then-president Barack Obama prepared to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place, Rosa Esquivel was setting up chairs and tables at a Chicago Public Library named after another prominent community organizer, Rudy Lozano. Esquivel, a Guatemalan immigrant who has lived in the area since 2003, volunteers as a community board member for Pilsen Alliance, a grassroots social justice organization headquartered two blocks west of the Rudy Lozano library. The day’s community meeting marked the latest chapter in the organization’s nearly two-decade history of working to protect its neighborhood.
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.
On August 5, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided a gas station on Belmont and Milwaukee Avenues that has long been a hiring site for day laborers (jornaleros) in Chicago. A group of workers—most of whom specialize in construction and landscaping—gathered that morning, as they do every day. They waited for employers who regularly come by to make job offers and negotiate a pay rate. The workers who frequent this particular site in Albany Park are black, Polish, Eastern European, Latinx. Some are immigrants, and some are not.