When I walk into Gabriel Piemonte’s campaign office, he’s leaning over a set of newly laminated 5th Ward maps, highlighting the South Shore blocks he plans to walk over the coming months. The office itself, in a storefront along 71st Street, is sparsely furnished—a single bookshelf, a few posters, chairs and a sofa near the door. During our interview, Piemonte notes that he’s hoping to turn it into a public art gallery, or maybe a lecture space. Still, he might be forgiven for worrying about bigger problems first, such as the fact that his opponent in the race for 5th Ward alderman, five-term incumbent Leslie Hairston, has approximately $20,000 more cash at hand than he does. (According to his last quarterly report, Piemonte’s got $750 in his campaign committee account, though he has spent about $20,000 campaigning over the last ten months.) He recently received his first endorsement, from the South Side chapter of Democracy for America, the political organization of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
This week, Chicago will host its first summit on issues of cooperative economics. Cooperatives—often called “co-ops”—are organizations that are mutually owned or operated by all those involved; decisions are reached together and resources are shared amongst those in the organization.
For a few hours last Saturday, thousands of people gathered along King Drive in Bronzeville to take part in the annual Bud Billiken Parade. Stretching from Oakwood Boulevard to Washington Park, the street turned into an endless flow of dance troupes, drill teams, and high school marching bands from across the South Side, all there to celebrate education and the upcoming school year—this year’s theme.
In May, Pat Frazier became the National Youth Poet Laureate—the first ever from Chicago—after being named the city’s Youth Poet Laureate last September. Inspired by poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Safia Elhillo and her activism work with Assata’s Daughters—an intergenerational collective based in Washington Park that organizes actions around the city—Frazier’s first book of poetry, Graphite, will be out this September via Haymarket Books. In a conversation with the Weekly, Frazier talks about the intersection of her literary and organizing work. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tania Unzueta is a fierce advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants around the country. She helped found the three organizations that defend the rights of immigrants, including Organized Communities Against Deportation and its predecessor the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and Mijente, a national Latinx organization. She was first arrested for staging a sit-in in Senator John McCain’s office in 2010 in support of the Dream Act. These days, she continues to work with OCAD and serves as the policy director for Mijente, a political hub that calls itself pro-Latinx, pro-Black, pro-woman, pro-queer and pro-poor.
Earlier this year Jesús “Chuy” García scored a victory in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ lone Latinx-majority congressional seat. Born in a village in Durango, Mexico, if he’s elected to the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez in November he’ll be the first Mexican-American to represent Illinois in Congress. García’s been a Cook County commissioner representing the Southwest Side for the past seven years and forced a runoff mayoral election in 2015 between himself and incumbent Rahm Emanuel. García spoke to 90 Days, 90 Voices about his personal connection to La Villita and what he sees as its future.
Fanny was born in the state of Guerrero in Mexico and moved with her family to Little Village when she was six years old. She comes from a long line of community organizers and is a familiar face at political rallies and neighborhood events. Between 2005 and 2017 she worked at Enlace, a capacity building organization in Little Village. She now works as the sustainable community schools project manager at Chicago Public Schools. This initiative, jointly created by the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools, aims to support neighborhood schools by investing in wraparound services, restorative justice practices, culturally relevant curricula, and family engagement.
From the traditional dances to the colorful murals, Little Village is all about art, says Omar Magana. The self-taught sculptor has long been a figure in the neighborhood’s art community. His building on 22nd and Sacramento was home to the grassroots art collective Expresiones Artisticas from 2004 until a fire burnt down the building in 2008. Today, he runs the OPEN Center for the Arts, a space where artists can come together to showcase, refine, and develop their talents. Magana took some time to speak to 90 Days, 90 Voices about the art of La Villita.
Faustina Montoya is from the Mexican state of Guerrero and has lived in Chicago for twenty-seven years. She has five children and can be seen running down the sidewalks of Little Village three times a week as part of Viento, the local running group. 90 Days, 90 Voices sat down with her to hear about her decision to come to the United States and settle in Little Village.
Jaime di Paulo is the executive director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, di Paulo was recruited to come work with the thriving business community here. He sat down with 90 Days, 90 Voices to talk about how President Trump’s election has impacted Little Village, an oft-overlooked economic powerhouse.