The stately Hamilton Park Cultural Center is home to an overwhelming variety of community programming. In a given month, the auditorium’s stage might be the backdrop for a yoga class, a film screening, or a footwork showcase by dance crew The Era. On Saturday, October 15, it served as the site of the first annual Englewood Art Fair, which drew over a hundred attendees. Teenage girls circled booths selling jewelry, drawings, t-shirts, bags, and aromatherapy oils, snacking on complimentary tea sandwiches and brie. An African art pop-up store took up a side room by the entrance, displaying dozens of West African carved statues and paintings for sale at unbelievably reasonable prices. In the auditorium, toddlers climbed up the stairs to the stage, where featured artist Tonika Johnson’s photos were displayed.
What do bicycle and nature trails have to do with gentrification?
My family was the third African-American family that moved into the community. I did experience the change, I did experience some of the racism that I endured as I was brought up in Englewood. I graduated from Henderson School in 1979, and I went to Gage Park High School, and you’ve probably heard about the racism, the riots there. Then I had my kids, then I went to Chicago State, where I obtained my Bachelor’s. So I’ve been working in Englewood a long time.
“Because right now it seems like ‘Oh, there’s just so much land, we have to get this into the private market or figure out what to do with it.’ But soon there will be none left, and whatever is left will be super expensive.”
As with many of the kids there, contact with the police in a friendly context was a new experience.
Englewood’s residents would be able to breathe deeply, but not on 57th and Normal.
It’s 1965, and it’s time again for my father to purchase an almost-new car. My father walks less than a mile from our home to Crown Buick Co. at 63rd Street and Throop and buys a fire engine red Buick Riviera. He had previously marveled at this beauty in the showroom. As he negotiates a price, my sister Audrey and I take advantage of a warm October day to walk to Coney Island at 63rd Street and Ada, just west of Crown. Coney Island is the neighborhood fast food joint (I guess it was named after the famous New York attraction).
Elaine Hegwood Bowen will never forget the race riots that she witnessed almost every day as she made her way to Gage Park High School near 59th and Maplewood. It was 1969. Continue reading
Kusanya Cafe had been brewing as an idea in Englewood long before it served its first cup. For five years its board of directors struggled to find financing or an affordable space for the proposed café. It finally opened last November, to appreciative, even glowing reviews, but the café has always aimed to be more than a coffee shop. It’s an idealistic place, with hopes of neighborhood empowerment, but one that knows the limits of its resources. Kusanya wants first to be a place where people can meet over coffee, within the neighborhood, and to see where things go from there. Before the café took over the previously vacant, hundred-year-old building at 825 W. 69th Street, that was something Englewood didn’t have. And Phil Sipka, who runs the café’s operations, says it’s still hard to picture how a for-profit café in Englewood could work—Kusanya is a 501(c)(3). I sat down with Sipka to talk about Kusanya’s vision for the neighborhood, who’s behind it, and how it’s panning out. Continue reading