I’ve lived in Chatham since the fifties. My aunt and uncle were one of the first African American couples who lived here. It was an all-white area at the time. Within two years, white flight took place. African American middle class professionals moved here. Doctors. Policemen. Judges. Politicians. Dentists.
Courtesy of Pulse Theater Company
If you ask Kemati Porter, the executive director of eta Creative Arts Foundation, about the future of her theater, she will first tell you about its past. It’s the only answer that makes sense. How could anyone understand what eta needs to be right now if they don’t know that Maya Angelou used to line-dance in its back room?
Onstage, a man was delivering a stream of words and a woman translated his words into a stream of movement. Together, real-estate developer Peter Levavi and dancer Stacy Patrice composed a marriage of language and body, as if to symbolize the union of two phrases on the screen behind them: “ethical” and “redevelopment.”
The first thing you might notice is the lawns: carefully manicured, they bring to mind a preserved vision of the ideal American suburb of the 1950s. It’s not an accident. Block clubs in Chatham maintain a genial atmosphere and preserve a long-standing community within the neighborhood. It’s a feel that neighborhood citizens work hard to preserve in a time when the families of Chatham have begun greeting newcomers, renters, and unaffiliated buyers who nevertheless want to be a part of what is one of the most tight-knit communities in the South Side.
You can feel the pulse of the community best on a summer night along 79th Street. The sky is pink and perfect, wispy with clouds, while cicadas mingle with the rumble of traffic. People are driving home from work down Racine and Halsted. On Loomis and Parnell children are playing before dinner. From the grey monolith of St. Sabina Church the strains of an organ pour out in waves. Singing rattles the slightly open windows. Continue reading
Anne Holcomb was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1961, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in varying states of homelessness. Continue reading