About ten years ago, Maya Hodari says, she noticed an uptick in burglaries on her block, 65th Street and Drexel Avenue. In response, she and several other people living on her street formed a neighbors’ association, which began a series of projects—beautification, Clean and Green days, homeownership promotion—in an attempt to change the street for the better. One product of the group’s work with other Woodlawn residents was the Woodlawn Community Summit, an annual one-day neighborhood gathering entering its tenth year.
At the intersection of 51st Street and Washtenaw Avenue in Gage Park rests the political fate of the 14th Ward. The northeast corner is home to the office of its alderman, Edward Burke, who holds a number of other important distinctions: longest-serving alderman in Chicago history (since 1969), largest stash of aldermanic campaign funds ($12 million), until recently chair of City Council’s Finance Committee (considered by many to be one of the most powerful positions in city government), and, as of a couple weeks ago, the latest Chicago alderman to be charged with corruption by the federal government. A towering, two-story sign reads “14th Ward Regular Democratic Organization,” lest you forget who still runs this place.
Nicole Johnson is one of between five and twelve candidates (depending on how petition challenges shake out) running to replace outgoing Alderman Willie Cochran in the 20th Ward, who has been indicted on corruption charges. The ward is made up of parts of Woodlawn, Washington Park, Englewood, and Back of the Yards. Johnson lives a block west of Halsted in Englewood—in the same house she grew up in—and has worked across the city: as a third grade math teacher on the South and West Sides, a consultant at Magic Johnson’s education nonprofit the Academy Group, and at community development nonprofit Teamwork Englewood. She’s also a peer advisor at the Obama Foundation, and volunteers with Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Chicago YMCA.
Jeanette Taylor first began thinking about a run for alderman after a September 2017 event with the Obama Foundation. Taylor, a local activist with the coalition calling for the Obama Foundation to accept a Community Benefits Agreement for its Presidential Center, asked the first question of Obama himself. (It came as a surprise: she didn’t know he’d be showing up to talk to the audience by video call.) The former president’s response to her request for a CBA was disappointing. If the center announced they might sign one, he said, “next thing I know I’ve got twenty organizations that are coming out of the woodwork.” “He got a lot of nerve saying that,” Taylor told Politico last year.
In her debut album Alone at Last, Tasha—poet, activist, and singer-songwriter—digs into themes of music as healing and radical softness as a political act; the sweatshirts she crafted to sell along with the album are embroidered with “I love myself and hate police.” In an interview with the Weekly, Tasha describes her journey of creating Alone at Last, from self-releasing the Divine Love EP in 2016, to signing with Father/Daughter Records last year, to her debut release this October. Listen to a full version of this interview that aired on SSW Radio, the Weekly’s radio show and podcast:
Artists from throughout Chicago will be participating in a new, multi-venue festival this weekend. Decibel Crawl Fest, organized by Beverly native Clyde Moreau, started with the goal of highlighting local artists of color and LGBTQ+- and women-identifying artists, and paying them fairly “in exchange for what they give to inspire us.” The new DIY festival has shows in venues across the city, including Bohemian Grove in McKinley Park. The Weekly spoke with Moreau in Hyde Park about their hopes for the festival and the challenges of pulling together a festival in seven venues with over thirty performers, including ONO and Sasha No Disco. This interview has been edited for length and clarity; listen to an SSW Radio segment that includes Moreau’s interview as well as interviews with Decibel Crawl Fest performers Audra Vidal and Eiigo Groove:
In the thirty-plus years that Joan Lawson, eighty, spent treating sick people in their homes throughout Chicago as a public health nurse, she gained unique insights into the human condition. It wasn’t until the Vatican selected her to be part of a collection of stories about elders from all over the world, however, that she realized her words could have an impact.
For the past few years, Byron Sigcho Lopez has been a ubiquitous fixture around Pilsen. As the director of the Pilsen Alliance for the past three years, he’s helped organize a wide range of community meetings, protests, and referendums, with a special emphasis on housing justice. Sigcho Lopez has now taken a leave of absence from the group to run for alderman in the 25th Ward, which stretches from a northeastern corner of McKinley Park, across all of Pilsen, north to parts of the West Loop and South Loop, and south to Chinatown.
On his first full-length release Hold Your Tongue, Melo Makes Music confronts depression, mental wellness, loneliness, and heartbreak with a sense of self. The South Side rapper might be best known for last year’s “Sleepless,” his song featuring Taylor Bennett, but he’s been evolving as an artist since early songs like “Murphy’s Law” (featuring Ju & Tatiana Hazel) and “Drain U” (featuring Ravyn Lenae). Now, on “Hold your Tongue,” he confronts his inner demons with music—and comes out of the other end with a message of positivity.