I am happy to announce that I am still in love with Chicago. I haven’t been back since 2012 and I have never been there as a tourist. This was the first time I could indulge in the more touristy side of the city, and it was a very different experience.
Back in 2004 when I lived there briefly, I was studying race relations, gentrification, homelessness, and social justice issues through the Urban Life Center (Now called the Chicago Center). Our days were made up of meeting community activists, going to internship, and learning about the changes over time in Chicago’s 70+ neighborhoods. I hardly ever went to the Loop or did anything a tourist would do.
When I went back in 2012 for a friend’s wedding, I did what I knew: visited neighborhoods, talked to old friends, sought out old haunts, and visited homeless shelters. As a result, Andrew had a very skewed view on Chicago and didn’t understand all of the hype.
So this time, we still stayed on the South Side, but we made an effort to see the more famous parts of Chicago. We took an art deco tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We went for drinks at the top of the Hancock tower. We walked from Lincoln Park to The Art Institute along the lake. We ate at some famous and fancy restaurants. It was a different kind of experience.
However, we stayed on the South Side and got a chance to make community connections as well. Because of our jetlag, we woke up at 6am really hungry. There was a cafe nearby that was open. We found Cafe on the Grove, run by two friends who immediately gave us a warm welcome at 7am! We got into a conversation about the neighborhood, how it has changed over time since I lived there, and gun violence. One of the owners took us next door to meet her husband, a pastor who has started his own campaign against violence in the area. We talked to him about his work with Rev. Jesse Jackson and his vision for his organization.
As of April 23rd, 2016 the day we arrived in Chicago, there had been 175 murders in Chicago. The death toll for 2016 alone so far is 551 at the time I’m writing this. These are murders, but hundreds more have been wounded by gun violence. Talking to the pastor and thinking about how real and prevalent the threat of gun violence is and how it effects everyone, made me even more aware of how safe I feel on a daily basis and what it would be like to not feel that safe.
Well this post has taken a turn, but that’s life. You’re bobbing along looking at Art Deco mailboxes and then you have a totally different experience.
There were no rainbows on this trip! All of our photos are grey-ish. I’ve always loved the Chicago Neighborhoods Map and that’s sort of rainbow-y, so here you go: