1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
  6. The Exchange: Her.
  7. The Exchange: Lint
  8. The Exchange: Reality Check
  9. The Exchange: Caution
  10. The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
  11. The Exchange: The Path
  12. The Exchange: sTREEtS
  13. The Exchange: Butter
  14. The Exchange: The Bright Side
  15. The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
  16. This Empty Cage
  17. Paper Machete
  18. The Exchange: Marketplace
  19. The Exchange: One Year Anniversary

This section publishes creative writing submissions from the public that do not necessarily reflect the views of the South Side Weekly or its editors.

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sTREEtS
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

the way we refer to young people
changes depending on where you’re at.
like streets—
in some places they have names
and in other places they’re just numbers.
Lake, 71st, both running parallel,
the difference is a tax bracket, a shade of skin
a tone of voice.
imagine clear cutting a forest
leveling every home and habitat
and leaving the small things that used to scurry through the branches with no place
to burrow in.
so these small things,
they file into the City.
take up shelter in the crevices of Gold Coast,
nestle into the spaces between buildings on Michigan Ave,
rebuild their community
under Cloud Gate.
would you call that an infestation? or is that reparations?

in the summertime, every block is too hot to stand on.
don’t you know that Black attracts heat?
the kids run from east to west,
from south to north
like streets.
one minute they were numbers
and the next they are names.
which plot in the ground should i slide to if i wanna be safe?
which landmark is symbolic of home base?
or are we supposed to keep running?

when bullets hit your beautiful buildings and the glass sprouts branches,
they tell us we must miss our trees,
as if they were stomped out and not cut down.
as if a kid could carry a chainsaw,
or hold the responsibility of squandering resources they never got the chance to see,
let alone waste.
did you forget that they are small things,
looking for a place to hug, and laugh, and argue—

adults fight wherever they want.
in Florida,
eighteen cops opened fire to retrieve a stolen UPS truck and shot up the whole expressway,
killed the driver that was taken hostage,
and a random bystander.
where’s their curfew?
white boys in Lincoln park getting drunk and crashing Divvy bikes, fighting outside the bars,
where’s their curfew?
the suburban kids that flood in from the outskirts like roaches,
like rats,
leave garbage on every inch of the South Loop on Lollapalooza weekend,
trash Douglass Park for Summer Smash,
North Coast fest, jam packing the emergency rooms on bad drug trips,
curfew, perhaps?

the difference is a tax bracket, a shade of skin
a tone of voice.
Lake and 71st.
a number, a name, running parallel,
running side by side, holding hands to feel safe.
never called them kids,
how can anyone even call them home when you leveled all their trees?
claim you never called them outside, either.
so call them streets, tell them to keep running.

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about segregation in Chicago.

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Prompt

“What does your safe haven look like?”

This could be a poem or a stream-of-consciousness piece. Submissions could be new or formerly written pieces. 

Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com.

Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here

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