When Anne Keough, the branch manager at Blackstone Library, looked in the cabinets behind her desk during recent renovations, she didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of historic documents. Blackstone Library opened in Kenwood in 1904 as the first branch of the Chicago Public Library system. In Keough’s office sat volumes of Shakespeare from the late 1800s, old copies of the Hyde Park Herald, and decades-old library policies. Weekly editor Rod Sawyer spoke with Keough about her discoveries, the history of the Chicago Public Library System, and the importance of time capsules.
Afifty-five-inch flat-screen TV framed Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford, and Rebecca Zorach, the three editors behind The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Liberation in 1960s Chicago. It stuck out—not because of its sheer size, but because it was a backdrop providing a constant reminder of the event’s purpose: the importance of visibility.
Chicago’s second-ever Youth Poet Laureate is artist and activist Patricia Frazier. Frazier grew up in the Ida B. Wells Homes in Bronzeville and later in Englewood, and has been writing poetry since elementary school. She was a two-time finalist at the Louder Than A Bomb spoken word competition while a student at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. In her poems, she says, she is “trying to disrupt mainstream narratives as often as I can, and also trying to make space for everyone’s narrative, and trying to make space for detail and specificity. A broad narrative is okay, but a narrative that has no holes, that does not tell a single story, is the most important to me.” She’s now publishing a collection of poems with Haymarket Books, which will be out next summer; in the meantime, you can follow her on Twitter @hakunamattities.
Only those of us who come from you
understand. Even within the inner core of your
madness there is beauty. This is the side of you that has never been seen.
Today they say bad things about you, their reports are
short-sighted, good to suit the taste of today’s sensations.
But I still love you Englewood. Your harsh realities became the chisel
that shaped my soul. I didn’t forget about you Englewood, Dear Englewood
We made your vacant lots playgrounds
Milk crates were carved and cut for full court
Old sneakers became street ornaments that dangle
From your power lines
Your fire hydrants transformed our corners into water parks
at dawn we pitched pennies along the cracks of your concrete
Dear Englewood… your blocks were our universities
Your corners became the designated location for our panel discussions
your night-time skies were our philosophers,
your alcoholics were our poets, but only those of us who come
from you would understand. In the spring your rain drops
became our libations, the rain water that accumulated in your potholes became our wishing wells. I often think of you Englewood…Dear Englewood what would our lives have been like if you weren’t economically deprived? Would I have had fewer friends who lost their lives? Would there have been better schools and parks?
Would I have seen fewer lives fall apart?
I eyed widely
things I couldn’t buy.
“Nice!” and “New!” nosed, but no.
MISSING PEOPLE. People-missing.
Below something, behind peepholes.
I would too. I have to. I have two.
Flipped sign. Closing time.
“Have a good one.”
Man can go to the moon, but a person who is DeafBlind drinks a glass of water, and people say it’s ‘Amazing’!”
The delivery work was kind of hard on me. Those sacks of rice and potatoes could get pretty heavy. Most times there was another boy on the truck to help out. On this particular day Micah Lieberman worked with me. He was a couple of years older than me, and bigger. Had dark, curly hair and seemed to be smiling all the time. He lived several blocks from me. We saw each other mostly at school, but we weren’t really close friends.
The cover of our fourth annual Lit Issue offers a sort of visual game to its reader: can you reconstruct the original photo, before it became collage? Say, is that the cover of a book by Albert Camus? What’s with those books repeating in the top corner? It’s not really a game you’re meant to win: the artwork offers literature in motion, bringing history into our present—and onward, into our future.
Vida Cross’s Bronzeville at Night: 1949 is full of spells—spells to protect children, spells to blind ignorant sociologists, spells to aid in grieving and remembrance. The poet, professor, and third-generation Chicagoan’s debut poetry collection is a web of stories that, like spells, are small in scope and broad in impact.
South Side Weekly Stage & Screen Editor Nicole Bond recently had a chat with children’s author Senyah Haynes. Haynes is the Founder and Executive Director of Diasporal Discoveries, a nonprofit that connects youth to the history and culture of the African diaspora. In this conversation, what started out as two old friends catching up over coffee turned into a discussion about the role and responsibility of literature to its youngest audience.