Twenty-two year old Raymond Shaq McDonald was a child when the high rises at Cabrini-Green fell. Nijole Kasuba, a grandmother now, was just seven when her family decided to flee the advancing Red Army after they saw family members deported and killed in Siberia during the first Soviet Occupation in the 1940s. Their stories of displacement might seem very different, but last Saturday’s event, part of Inherit Chicago’s intercultural festival, explored the similarities in these stories of displacement.
In January, the Weekly published an investigation into the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)’s failure to redevelop public housing in Bronzeville after demolishing much of it in the early 2000s. The demolition of projects such as Ida B. Wells, Robert Taylor, and Stateway Gardens was part of the now-notorious Plan for Transformation, a federally funded initiative that promised to replace the demolished high-rises with new housing developments that would combine subsidized and market-rate housing units. The Plan also promised that the CHA would rebuild or rehabilitate a total of 25,000 units overall.
Nearly a month ago, the South Side’s only emergency shelter for homeless youth was badly damaged in a sudden and unexplained fire. The shelter, Ujima Village, was located on 73rd Street just off the Dan Ryan expressway, and provided beds for some twenty-four homeless young people every night. Some of those beds were dedicated to long-term residents of the shelter, while others were available to whoever arrived first on a given night.
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.
A typical Monday night at Concord House unfolds with a motley group of nearly twenty adults dishing up bowls of lentil stew in their Hyde Park home. A strong family dynamic is evident in the dining room, which is adorned with photos, calendars, and bulletin boards; a crowded bookshelf; and a central table, upon which rest six bunches of bananas, a carton of assorted hot sauces, and an oversized jar of some mystery vegetable, presumably pickled, labelled “DO NOT STIR.” Like many of the objects in the three-story home, these table items are communally shared among its residents, who are related not by blood but rather by chosen lifestyle: that of the housing cooperative.
Mahalia Jackson, the New Orleans-born gospel singer and civil rights activist, spent the later part of her life living in Chatham, in a spacious 1950s brick ranch house complete with seven rooms, a garage, a large chimney, and green lawns, located at 8358 South Indiana Avenue. When she moved to Chicago in 1927 at just sixteen, she lived with family and in various flats while she sang in churches up and down the South and West Sides of Chicago. After her 1947 hit, “Move On Up a Little Higher,” she gained international fame. With profits from her recordings and tours, she began investing in real estate on the South Side and looking for a home of her own. But when she began inquiring at homes with “For Sale” signs in Chatham, which was a majority-white suburb at the time, she was turned away by many homeowners—that is, until she stumbled across a white surgeon who had heard Jackson sing and was glad to sell his house to her. She bought the house in 1956 for $40,000 and was the second African-American homeowner on the block, after her neighbors, the Grants, who had moved in two years earlier.
Last November, when William and Jacqueline Lynch moved their art gallery into the recently reopened Strand Apartments on 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, they were unaware of their new building’s historical import. “I did know about the Grand Ballroom down the street,” said William. “I didn’t know anything about this building.”
It’s 1986 and I’m born on the South Side of Chicago. My mother Sharon’s a Chicagoan too—born in 1964…six years into her parents’ northern life. My grandma Pearlie Mae is born in 1942 in a Mississippi Delta town founded by formerly enslaved people. My great-grandmother Wyona’s the first of us to be born in the twentieth century and would be eleven when white women got the vote, forty-five when segregation fell on paper, and fifty-nine when Dr. King was shot. Her mother Trudy was born in 1887 just up the road in the town where WC Handy first heard the Blues. Her mother Lucinda was born in 1862, one year into a war that’d color the conscience and collective memory of a nation. Her mother Martha was born in 1820, part of the generation begging for that slouch toward justice and would be forty-one years old when it began.
The Lorraine Hansberry House in northwest Woodlawn is unremarkable in appearance. Its brown brick walls and minimal adornments mimic thousands of other brick three-flats built in Chicago throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its outward appearance is transformed, however, when one learns that many of Hansberry’s experiences growing up in this house served as the inspiration behind her canonical play A Raisin in the Sun—a fictionalized reflection of her parent’s fight against housing discrimination in this very home.
The following are excerpts of articles from the Tribune that cover the city’s hotels during and after the 1893 World’s Fair. The news reflects changing opinions about living in hotels and how hotel buildings should be used, or not used, as public spaces.