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.
Jimena migrated to the United States with her parents and two siblings when she was five years old. For a long time, she tried to suppress her memory of crossing the border. It wasn’t until she was a lot older that she was able say that it wasn’t a dream.
Melkbelly—comprised of Miranda Winters (guitar and vocals), Bart Winters (also guitar, and Miranda’s husband), Liam Winters (a bassist and Bart’s brother), and James Wetzel (drums)—recently sat down with SSW Radio in its cozy practice space in East Garfield Park. Amongst Christmas lights, a number of effects pedals, and jamming from adjacent practice rooms, Melkbelly’s members shared their feelings about their recent tours—headlining in Europe and supporting bigger names like Protomartyr and The Breeders—and provided a new meaning to the term yard sale. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tracye Eileen is living her dream. At eight years old, too shy to act in the school play, her teacher asked her to perform one of the play’s songs. From there, she caught the singing bug. Fast forward to today: Tracye has a label, Honey Crystal Records, and a residency at Buddy Guy’s Legends in the Loop, where she performs monthly jazz and blues sets. And last Sunday, she celebrated the release of her newest album, WHY DID I SAY YES. The Weekly sat down with Tracye Eileen to talk about her new music and career. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.