Douglass Park returns to the people

2022 left many residents around Douglass Park in North Lawndale wondering whether they really lived next to a public park. That year, three major music festivals—Summer Smash, Heatwave, and Riot Fest—fenced off the southern half of the park for close to half the summer. Each festival took access away from locals for weeks at a time (due to lengthy set up and cleanup periods), and left the grass trampled, often destroyed. During the festivals, the neighborhood filled with thousands of attendees from around the city, suburbs, and beyond, taking up parking spaces and blocking ambulances to the two hospitals nearby. North Lawndale and Little Village residents, tired of losing access to their park during the summer, organized protests and attended Chicago Park District meetings and engagement events organized by Riot Fest to voice their concerns and demands. 

Heatwave and Summer Smash organizers saw the writing on the wall (literally) last year and moved their festivals elsewhere. Riot Fest held out one more year, but last week announced it was moving to Seatgeek Stadium in Bridgeview, where Summer Smash also took place last weekend. Riot Fest organizers said the decision was made entirely because of the Park District, ignoring the efforts of community organizers to put pressure on the Park District to deny permits to the mega-festivals, or at least use some of the money gained from festivals to fixing up the park’s dilapidated sidewalks and other amenities. Last year, the basketball court was repaved and just weeks ago the sidewalks were finally repaved.

Harold Washington Library acquires collection of photos of Pilsen in the 90s

You’d be hard-pressed to find substantial documentation of the city’s Mexican communities in Chicago Public Libraries, due to two factors in particular: for many decades Mexican immigrants lived in the shadows out of fear of deportation, and mainstream media had little interest and willingness to cover this demographic. But years ago, Pilsen residents finally felt seen when a slew of black-and-white photos emerged on social media from a photographer in Japan, Akito Tsuda, who took close to a thousand photos of the neighborhood from 1990-1994 as a student at Columbia College. Last week, more than a hundred of these images were acquired by and put on display at Harold Washington Library, with Tsuda attending the opening night on June 8 and related events, such as a walking tour in Pilsen and a meet-and-greet at Rudy Lozano Library. What makes his photography phenomenal is that he was able to enter people’s homes and yards to capture intimate moments of family, joy, and even the gang lifestyle in a way that was unprecedented. His photo exhibit can be found on the 9th floor of the library at 400 S. State St. until the fall, and his photos can be viewed privately and used for research purposes by contacting the Archives and Special Collections division.

Summer SNAP benefits

Last month, Illinois announced the launch of a new food assistance program, Summer EBT (better known as Link benefits), that will distribute a one-time payment of $120 per child for groceries this summer. Also known as SUN bucks, the program is a federally-funded initiative that began as a stop-gap measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to alleviate child hunger. In 2023, Congress made Summer EBT permanent nationwide. EBT cards can be used like SNAP cards at authorized grocery stores, but funds expire 122 days post-issuance. 

Some families will be auto-enrolled in Summer EBT through their current participation in SNAP or Income Eligible Medicaid. However, some families will have to complete an application. Starting on June 26, families can determine if they need to apply or are automatically enrolled by using the IDHS online tool at . IDHS encourages all families expecting Summer EBT benefits to verify their status online. 

All students are eligible regardless of citizenship status and participation in Summer EBT will not count in a public charge test. Children who receive free meals at school or camp this summer are still eligible. For summer 2024, payment won’t be expected until late August or early September. Until then, parents can text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304, or call 1-800-359-2163 to learn about local summer meal sites at nearby public libraries, parks and community centers.

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