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May-June 2015 - Chicago neighborhoods

May-June 2015 - Chicago neighborhoods

Cities within cities-cultures and communities (Volume 18 / Number 3)

  • 4 July 2015
  • Author: Shaggy
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May-June 2015 - Chicago neighborhoods
On the Cover: "The Chicago Bean," symbol of the city's growth, rebirth, and regeneration. Photo courtesy City of Chicago.

This issue of Illinois Heritage is chockablock with interesting snapshots of the "City of Neighborhoods," as Chicago is sometimes known. Sherry Williams offers and account of growing up African American in the Englewood neighborhood during the tumultuous Civil Rights era. Speaking of "two Chicagos, one black, and one white, separate and unequal," Christopher Ramsey details the ups and downs of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, commonly known as Marquette Park. And Devin Hunter adapts his Laoyola University dissertation on Uptown to share with us what he's learned about on of Chicago's more intriguing neighborhoods. Just north of Uptown is Andersonville, an old Swedish neighborhood that today is home to one of the largest gay and lesbian communities in all the Midwest. Peter Ellertsen tells us about this neighborhood - then and now. Ray Hanania examines the history of Arabs - Christian and Muslim  - both in the city and suburbs. Last, William Fury takes the reader on a sensory-filled tour of Chinatown.

As always, happy reading... Bill Kemp (Guest Editor)
Table of Contents
  • Highlights of the 2015 ISHS Annual Awards
  • Chicago neighborhoods
  • Guest editor welcome
  • Welcome to Andersonville
  • Footprint of the dragon
  • Chicago Lawn
  • Chicago after MLK Jr.
  • Uptown, the roots of diversity
  • Finding freedom in Chicago
  • Centennials of the Dixie Highway and Egyptian Trail
  • Historic Edwards Place comes alive
  • Founding physicians
  • Illinois Women Artists Series, Part 20, Florence Arquin
  • Pageant of death and remembrance
Issue Price$5.00
Sample Article #1

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. And by celebrating its ¬ethnic heritage, the city’s Swedish-American Museum helps define its North Side neighborhood—and with it, the larger regional com¬munity comprising Chicago and its suburbs. This was the case on a warm Saturday evening in December as the museum—and the diverse communities it serves—celebrated the feast of Saint Lucy, or Sankta Lucia as she is known in Swedish.

In the gathering twilight a dozen “Lucia girls,” wearing long white gowns and bearing candles, lined up in front of the museum, 5211 N. Clark St., while family and friends crowded the sidewalk. St. Lucy, or Lucia, was an early Christian martyr from Sicily, but the annual celebration of her name day in Andersonville is purely Swedish-American. Led by a girl wearing candles in her hair, the Lucia girls proceeded up Clark past a feminist bookstore called Women & Children First, the Ander¬sonville Galleria boutique mall, Andie’s Café Mediterraneo, Reza’s Mediter¬ranean and Persian restaurant, a hardware store, a shoe store, a UPS outlet, a coffee shop and boutique called Kopi Café, and Calo Ristorante, once a pizza place and now an upscale Italian restaurant. Crossing the street at Balmoral Avenue and pausing to sing Swedish carols, the girls wound back down the street past the Swedish Bakery, Lady Gregory’s Irish Bar and Restaurant, Erickson’s Deli, a dance school, a yoga studio and other upscale businesses, and back to the museum. As the girls passed by outside its large plate glass window, Svea Restaurant was packed with ¬customers ordering Swedish meatballs, lutfisk or a special Christmas platter of pork sausage, potato baloney, and pickled herring. In fact, business was booming in all of Andersonville’s restaurants.

Back at the museum, the Lucia girls presented their musical program again—singing in confident, well-rehearsed Swedish—to a standing-room-only crowd in a ground-floor gallery space and meeting room. The evening concluded with a Sankta Lucia Service at Ebenezer Lutheran Church on Foster Avenue, founded by Swedish immigrants in 1892. “Ebenezer serves an extremely diverse, multicultural community in the 21st century, but this Swedish heritage event brings us together as a community,” said Ebe¬nezer’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Fick. The service was all about community. Fick’s homily was on a traditional Advent theme of waiting for light to appear in the darkness. It was followed by Swedish hymns of the season—sung in Swedish—and performances by the Nordic Folk Dancers, the Swedish-American mixed choir Merula, and the Chicago Swedish Men’s Chorus. This service capped off a Festival of Lights that had begun the day before, downtown at the Richard J. Daley Center. When the Lucia girls from Ander¬sonville sang at the Daley Center, they were part of an “Under the Picasso” program that featured German Christmas songs by kids from Frederic Chopin Elementary School in the East Hum¬boldt Park neighborhood; “sounds of the season” by singers from Holy Family Ministries in Lawn¬dale on the far West Side; a winter showcase of dance, theater, jazz, and vocal arts by students in the Chicago public schools’ Advanced Arts Program citywide; and ensemble caroling by the Circuit Court of Cook County Office Choir, among others. If the Sankta Lucia procession on North Clark Street is a reminder of Andersonville’s ethnic heritage, the festivities at the Daley Center are an ongoing reminder that Chicago is a city of diverse neighborhoods. And in the case of Andersonville, the neighborhood’s Swedish heritage gives its business district a focal point.

Sample Article #2

Residents of Chicago Lawn, commonly known as Marquette Park, feel the weight of history keenly. Even in a city where few communities are untouched from a checkered racial past, this predominantly residential neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago possesses a special notoriety. After all, it was where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared that bigoted Southerners “ought to come to learn how to hate” after an angry mob of thousands hurled epithets and projectiles at the famed civil rights leader and his supporters in the summer of 1966. A band of neo-Nazis made it its headquarters throughout the 1970s, instigating ¬several ugly riots against integration in one of the city’s most breathtaking parks. Chicago Lawn also was one of many Southwest Side neighborhoods that opposed the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, in the early 1980s, and it led the city in hate crimes until the early 1990s. Scholars and journalists alike still hold it up as an example of the deep-seated bigotry that fueled the resistance of many working-class “white ethnics” to civil rights, cementing Chicago’s status as one of the most segregated metropolises in the United States.

Years of trouble; years of hope
This narrative is rooted in truths, but it fails to show the complete picture. Not every white Southwest Side homeowner threw rocks at Chicago Freedom Movement marchers, and many felt disgusted at their neighbors who did. They tuned out the extremist rhetoric of the Nazis. They forged a partnership with Harold Washingt on as the “Council Wars” raged on and openly welcomed African American, Hispanic, and Arab immigrant families into their community when Chicago Lawn integrated during the 1980s and 1990s. The violence against King inspired tolerant residents to create new community organizations dedicated to finding a peaceful way to integrate the Southwest Side while staving off the economic disinvestment that plagued so many other “transitioning” Chicago neighborhoods throughout the 1950s and 1960s. These organizations offered alternative and ultimately more effective methods of empowerment than brute force. They refused to allow peddlers of fear, from unscrupulous “blockbusting” realtors to hatemongering neo-Nazis, to consume their homes and community. In doing so, they left Chicago Lawn with a legacy of neighborhood activism that remains alive today even as its racial and ethnic makeup markedly changed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s open housing march represented the climax of the Chicago Freedom Movement. King and other leaders of this movement zeroed in on housing discrim¬ination as the main barrier to racial equality in northern cities. They marched through Chicago Lawn, then an all-white community, to show the difficulties black families faced in obtaining property outside of a handful of deteriorating neighborhoods. Yet even prior to King’s arrival, progressive-minded white residents formed groups that voluntarily wished to integrate to prevent the disastrous pattern of “block-by-block” segregation from replicating itself on the Southwest Side—as it had in formerly prosperous communities such as Englewood. The Southwest Committee on Peaceful Equality (SCOPE) and South Lynne Community Council (SLCC) ¬supported the city’s fair housing ¬ordinance, the national civil rights movement, and school busing on legal, moral, and pragmatic grounds. Both groups understood that many unscru¬pulous real estate agents would exploit the racial anxieties stirred by King’s march for personal gain. Realizing that such a threat would be too much for any ¬singular institution or parish to handle alone, they united with a wide array of civic groups, businesses, and churches to create the Southwest Community Congress (SCC) in 1969, a large umbrella, Alinsky-ite community organization. The SCC provided a workable model of stable integration. From its inception, the SCC accepted black members by extending its boundaries to include a large portion of West Englewood, a neighborhood undergoing rapid racial change by 1970. Its constitution pledged to “lessen neighborhood tensions; eliminate prejudice and ¬discrimination; defend human and civil rights secured by law; to combat ¬community deterioration and juvenile delinquency; to lessen the burdens of government; to relieve the poor, the ¬distressed, and the underprivileged.” SCC leaders encouraged picketing real estate offices whose brokers engaged in panic peddling and racially discriminatory practices. If this failed, the SCC marshaled its resources to bring them to court for violating the city’s fair ¬housing law. With the SCC’s encouragement and support from the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, Mayor Richard J. Daley suspended the license of one such real estate company in 1970. The SCC made it clear that their community would not be easily cowed. The SCC also became vocal opponents of the small Nazi group infesting Chicago Lawn and frequently denounced it in the press. It even ¬suggested banning the swastika in the city as a way to demonstrate that the Southwest Side did not welcome such hate groups. When the first black ¬residents crossed Western Avenue to move into Chicago Lawn in the mid-1970s, only to see their new houses firebombed, the SCC helped a black community worker and future alderman, Marlene Carter, organize the Bell-Oakley-Claremont Block Club for the safety of the ¬newcomers. The SCC also became one of the first organizations on the South¬west Side to ally with Harold Washington following his bitterly contested mayoral election, inviting him to inaugurate the organization’s officers in 1984 and naming him “Person of the Year.”

The SCC also nurtured other progressive movements on the Southwest Side, such as a working-class women’s liberation group. One of its most important member agencies, a local branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), contributed numerous officers to the umbrella group throughout its history. They came up with innovative proposals to integrate the Southwest Side along feminist principles. Judith Jager, executive director of the Southwest YWCA, won the presidency of the SCC on a platform that put women’s issues at the forefront. She pledged to provide extra resources and services for working mothers to make Chicago Lawn a more attractive place to live for young families. Many of these women’s liberation activists also contested the Southwest Side’s poor image in mainstream media, arguing that their ability to reconcile their traditional social values in a heavily Catholic neighborhood with feminist ideals and racial integration proved that external critics misunderstood their community.

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