Development | Lit

A City Built on Sludge

An ambitious book chronicles the early years of the South and West Sides’ sewage systems

May 11, 1937. The sun is shining through the access manhole above and through floor manholes into the gate chamber. Access to the backwater gates on West Town's outlet sewer section 3 is through the operating gallery above the gate chamber. (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Archives)

The largest and greatest sludge plant in the world… wasn’t intended to be that way,” Richard Lanyon, former executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), said to a rapt audience, a playful smile spreading across his face. “It just happened.”

Education | Lit

Separate But Equal

Researchers make the case against charter school expansion in Chicago and beyond

The charter school movement—which largely started in the 1990s with earnest mom-and-pop efforts to provide quality alternative education options—has resulted in a system of “educational sharecropping” for many of Chicago’s students of color, David Stovall argues in a new essay. A professor of educational policy and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stovall traces in his essay efforts on the part of business interests, political opportunists, and outright criminals to decentralize the city’s public education system and spread the use of charters, largely on the South and West Sides.

Lit | Nature

Leisure at a Price

A new history showcases Black Chicagoans’ complex relationship with nature

Brian McCammack wants to push against the idea that the history of African Americans’ use of public space in and around Chicago can be summed up simply.

Lit

When Words Become Witchcraft

A review of ‘The BreakBeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic’

The aptly named Black Girl Magic, sequel to 2015’s The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, pays homage to womanhood and livelihood as it asks what it means to be Black and female. With the editorship of Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, and South Side household name Jamila Woods, Black Girl Magic compiles work from more than sixty Black women from across the diaspora, including well-known artists like Chicago’s Noname.

Education | Lit

Recommended Reading

Choosing books for CPS students in an era of library cuts

Ellen Hao

When people read stories, the first inclination is to find yourself on the shelf – things that reflect you, what your current knowledge and current experiences are,” says Tamela Chambers, the school librarian at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in Avalon Park. But are CPS kids on the South Side reading the age-old standards like Hamlet, flashy titles like Divergent, or something else altogether? In short, are students reading books they can find themselves in?

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.”

History | Lit

Roots of the Riot

“A Few Red Drops” looks beyond an incident of chaos to understand its underlying causes

In national conversations about the legacy of anti-Black racism in America, the subject of racial violence is often only discussed as being a Southern phenomenon. We can recall examples of the violence used to enforce the South’s racial hierarchy: Jim Crow laws, the lynching of Black men, and the bombing of Black churches. Despite the popular narrative of the North being much more progressive than the South, with the abolitionist movement and more economic opportunities for African-American citizens after slavery, the history of Chicago in the early twentieth century also exhibited continuous occurrences of racial violence and discrimination. The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, which lasted for a full week and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and over 500 people injured, is an often-overlooked event in Chicago’s history that undergoes new examination in the book A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield, published this January.

Arts Issue 2018 | Lit | Poetry

Living in the Blankest of Times

Daniel Borzutzky’s “Lake Michigan” puts forth the monotony and horror of violence

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.”

Essays | Lit

The Staples Letters: Daydreaming About My Class

Lizzie Smith

Inspired by C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the Staples Letters are a series of essays in the South Side Weekly written in the form of letters from a veteran teacher, Staples, giving advice to a young teacher, Ms. T. All events in the Staples Letters are drawn directly from real-life experiences in Chicago schools, and names and identifying details have been removed in the interest of privacy. Though fictional in form, the letters are used to address a variety of issues in education, from quotidian classroom considerations to national policy.

Essays | Lit

The Staples Letters: The Stories Teachers Tell

Lizzie Smith

Inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the Staples Letters are a series of essays in the South Side Weekly written in the form of letters from a veteran teacher, Staples, giving advice to a young teacher, Ms. T. All events in the Staples Letters are drawn directly from real-life experiences in Chicago schools, and names and identifying details have been removed in the interest of privacy. Though fictional in form, the letters are used to address a variety of issues in education, from quotidian classroom considerations to national policy.