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.
Dr. Tara Betts is a poet and professor. She has written for and been anthologized in a number of publications, including Poetry Magazine and The Breakbeat Poets, performed at a variety of venues, and taught at several universities and for nonprofits like Young Chicago Authors. Her newly published collection of poetry is titled Break the Habit (Trio House Press, 2016); she is also the author of Arc and Hue and numerous chapbooks.
This month, TRQPiTECA, created by Natalie Murillo (aka La Spacer) and Jacquelyn Guerrero (aka DJ Cqqchifruit), celebrates its two-year anniversary. The monthly event, most often held at Junior’s Sports Bar in Pilsen, is part tropical dance DJ night, part performance art, and part electric beach aesthetics (think sequins, disco balls, and blow-up palm trees). The result is a sensory paradise that revolves around the vast array of artists and performers in Chicago’s queer scene. The Weekly spoke with co-hosts Natalie and Jackie about the inception of TRQPiTECA, the importance of Chicago’s house music scene, and dancing as a form of resistance and healing.
On the third Wednesday of each month, salsa dancers from all over Chicago flock to the Promontory in Hyde Park. Deep purple lights flood the dance floor, creating a sultry ambience. Drums pound and trumpets roar, setting a rhythm for the bodies spinning and swaying on the dance floor.
Ruben L. Garza, Jr. is the vocalist for Through N Through, a four-person band of Little Village natives who write music about their experiences growing up young and Latinx on the South Side. They are not the first to do so: punk bands like Los Crudos have become synonymous with the local music scene in Little Village and Pilsen by wearing their heritage on their sleeves. But Through N Through is different. Although Garza says he prefers the label “hardcore” for Through N Through’s music, the thick guitar tones, crushing palm-muted riffs, and cutting kick drum all show the band’s heavy metal roots bursting through to the surface, with Garza’s hardcore punk vocals adding a defiant and satisfying finish.
If it wasn’t footwork crew The Era’s In The Wurkz stage show, which brought the “life of a footworker” to Englewood’s Hamilton Park, something else in their jam-packed 2016 would floor you: their multimedia gallery on the genre’s history at Columbia College Chicago; or their In The Wurkz FM EP, where they sucked hip-hop and footwork into a vortex as unprecedented as it was trunk-rattling; or the time they taught footwork in Kuwait. This much is clear: no longer rising stars, The Era are true innovators and masters of the form. Why don’t we let them speak (and wurk) for themselves. (Austin Brown)
Two nights before the end of a wild, rocky year, I watched Patti Smith, Godmother of Punk, tear through her seminal debut album Horses. It was her seventieth birthday. She started out by calmly moving through the album, until about halfway through, when she started to talk about the thing she couldn’t not talk about. “Not my fucking president!” she howled, and bang: for the next hour or so the agenda was rock ’n’ roll, love, and freedom: songs written in 1975 twisted for the present age. “Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer (De)” was reformulated as prophecy for the new generation: “They will rise up with a new optimism never seen before!”
Beyond Chief and Chance
“Forever’s Gone,” DRAMA