Murmurs and greetings circulated through the wood-paneled meeting room of Bryn Mawr Community Church as one hundred South Shore residents settled in for the monthly 5th Ward meeting on May 23.
Before Charles Barlow moved to South Shore earlier this year, he wanted to scope out the neighborhood. He looked up the local grocery stores, got in his car, and drove to the corner of 87th Street and Lake Shore Drive, where he expected to find a Mariano’s. Instead of fresh food, he was greeted by grassland and the promise of future development.
A quartet of male performers walks solemnly onto dirt and rock, holding steel sheets above their heads. An aerial view of a flock of birds flying over the Calumet industrial corridor is projected onto two jagged concrete pillars with a break of open space at its center. The performers break away from formation and scrape the metal sheets in feverish circular motions, creating clouds of dust. Already the performers embody the spirit of steel mill workers and mimic the machines surrounding them.
“You never know what you can make with this stuff, and I’m always trying to get creative with the park.” – Todd Agosto
When Benyamin Macabee, owner of the only Black-owned art space in Chicago between Hyde Park and the Indiana state line, talks of South Shore, there is a pride in his eyes that doesn’t falter, a steadfastness that mirrors South Shore’s own spirit. “The work I’m doing, the work we’re all doing here, is the work of the universe.” Here, between 67th and 83rd Street, the road to community development is music-, art-, food-, and soul-filled, as evidenced by its unusual smorgasbord of claims to fame: the largest group of Black sailors in the country, a comic book collective called Team Visual X, soulful vegan, vegetarian, Chinese, Mexican joints, a huge public golf course, public and private beaches, weekly jazz concerts and musical jam sessions, are all located in the neighborhood.
It seems almost impossible that the geographical bulk of the South Shore neighborhood—running from Stony Island to Exchange and from 71st to 79th—encompasses only a few square miles of land. The neighborhood gives off the impression of being far more expansive. The commercial arteries are fat and long, stuffed to the brim with knickknack shops, convenience stores, and steam-filled restaurants. Stony Island is a massive six-lane thoroughfare cut along the middle by a huge median, while 71st Street and Exchange are both bisected by the Metra Electric tracks. Turn off any one of these boulevards, though, and you’ll find yourself on quiet, tree-lined side streets like 73rd or 76th, Paxton or Constance—streets filled with old houses where kids play in the street and men sit smoking on porches. Those same streets have seen the crime and gun violence that ranks South Shore just behind Englewood and West Englewood, the two South Side neighborhoods with the most incidents, according to Red Eye’s homicide tracker. Continue reading
In “Saviour?” the lawyer Michael Jamal Williams III, played by Parrish Morgan, repeatedly pulls out a tape recorder. Continue reading
Trumpeter Marquis Hill, originally from Chatham, returned to the South Side two weeks ago for a show at the House of Bing in South Shore, and also played at WHPK’s annual Black History Month concert last Saturday at the University of Chicago’s International House. Continue reading