March 18, 2013 · Comments Off
“People didn’t love Rome because Rome was great. Rome was great because people loved her!”
After this week I realized that the magnificence of the great city of Chicago does not lie in its skyscrapers, its architectural wonders, its famed Chicago mixed popcorn, deep dish pizza, or prized hot dogs. The authentic richness of one of Americas greatest urban centers, resides amongst its proud inhabitants. Just as Rome would have existed as a land plot of little consequence, if its citizens hadn’t adored her, so too would Chicago have disappeared in the early days of land speculation had some not taken heed and invested. Still it takes more than just capital for a city to achieve greatness. Everyday I was reminded of how proud residence of Chicago were to be from Chicago. People in Chicago are invested in there communities. Even where the outside world may grimace at the impoverished and neglected peripheries of Chicago, those who live their find beauty in the cracked side walks of the their community and the struggles of their neighbors. Leaving Chicago the image of the city’s greatness that is etched in my mind are the faces of those who labor to enrich the greatness of Chicago, through their actions, advocacy, and creative expressions, together their collective greatness shadows the city’s tallest buildings.
As I have come to realize, people have not and do not love Chicago, because it is intrinsically a great city, rather Chicago was born, raised, and continues to be cherished because so many of its people love her!
March 16, 2013 · Comments Off
Thursday began a bit slowly…waking up had become more and more difficult as the week progressed. However by 9:15 we were off to Boyztown to the Center on Halsted-a safe haven for those who identify with the LGBTQ community. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleased with what I found. The building itself it 3 stories tall, the interior is bright and cheeryand invokes a sense of hominess to the lobby. Through the tour we were informed of the different types of services provided by the facility. Overall the organization impressed me. It is a facility to help support people of all ages who identify as LGBTQ in whatever they can-it gives them a safe place to be themselves, especially when they’re in need of support. We discussed a bit about the attitude of the community to the center as we walked through the Center and it seems that there has been progress in the way the Center is perceived by the community that surrounds them. The aspect of this center that impacted me the most is not only the various ways that it assists those in need but that it promotes such a sense of well being for the person’s emotional and mental and physical state-all for no cost to those who go.
After the tour we had a discussion with David Zak, a longtime advocator for LGBTQ rights. The discussion was fruitful and definitely a test of where we stood on LGBTQ issues. It definitely made me consider where I stand but also it made me aware of how little I know of the LGBTQ community. I never grew up around people who associated with this community and thus I never was exposed to it and know very little of it. It was quite useful to affirm my stance in that people should NEVER be discriminated against or treated poorly because of their sexual orientation. I feel that I realized, through this discussion, that while I’m a pretty conservative person I’ve never felt that I or anyone has the right to judge someone, and much less condemn them for the way they choose to live their lives. Many people receive organizations such as the Center on Halsted and advocates for the LGBTQ community, like David Zak, in a poor manner. I’ve always been of the thought that being respectful of others isn’t a question of agreeing or disagreeing with their beliefs, or choices, or in this case sexual orientation. It was great to know that this facility has become such a useful resource to the LGBTQ community in Chicago and that they’ve done so much good for so many people.
Following this we took a tour of the Loop District and got to see beautiful architecture of this area. The biggest impact during this hour and a half of walking in and out of the cold Chicago wind was that architecture is part of the city’s personality. It tells stories and histories and even affects how people view the city. It is a form of expression and Chicago’s architectural personality is rich and full of tall buildings designed by very talented-albeit very different- people.
We ended the night with the Fall of Heaven a play about a man named Tempest who gets gunned down and faces judgmentby none other than Saint Peter in all his glory. Shockingly, Tempest refuses his judgment and is sent back to earth so that he may see and admit that he belongs in Hell, as Peter stated he did. Tempest is assigned to and angel named Joshua who is in charge of making him see his sins and admit his wrongdoings. He goes on to show Heaven’s finest that right and wrong, good and bad are not quite as black and white as they may seem, and that the best way to really KNOW about something is to experience it oneself. That angel was on for a crazy ride and a true test of if his knowledge of good and evil. It was an excellent metaphysical issue to end the night and make one think about exactly where on stands on that spectrum of the moral right and wrong.
Overall the day was excellent and quite enlightening. The communities we saw showed me the importance of expanding my knowledge of the communities within my own and helping those in need. I was impressed by how Chicago has so much to offer and readily provides issues with which may have to give much thought to and wrestle with in order to understand one’s own position on the subject.
March 15, 2013 · Comments Off
Today allowed an opportunity for the group to be exposed to the great presence of the LGBTQ community in Chicago. Our day began with a visit to the Center on Halsted, the most comprehensive LGBTQ community center in the midwest. The group was first given a guided tour of the facilities. The center offers various programs for the LGBTQ community, among them sports leagues, weekly senior luncheons, after-school youth programs, and so on. The center serves LGBTQ identified individuals throughout the city, and offers services for low-income individuals to travel to the community center to experience the various services offered there.
After our tour of the center, our group was given the opportunity to participate in a discussion with David Zak, a play-write and longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights. For me, this dialogue challenged me to consider my own heterosexual biases. Growing up, I had been exposed to the LGBTQ community at a young age. I remember attending a Gay Pride parade when I was in grade school and hearing my mom openly express her support of the Gay community. Today, I have some family members who identify as Gay. However, when David jokingly asked me if I was on the “Down-Low” (a term commonly used in the African-American community referring to people hiding their homosexuality), my immediate reaction was one of defense. Though David was joking, I recall raising my eyebrows in shock that he would even assume this identity on me.
Then I took a step back. Why was I so defensive when he made this remark? Maybe I feared any inkling of doubt among peers as to my heterosexual identity. This reveals my own underdevelopment as an LGBTQ ally. I have always believed that the LGBTQ community should be granted the same freedoms in marriage and other privileges given to heterosexual individuals. However, I do not have any close friends who identify as LGBTQ and am immersed in a community that promotes heterosexual models without giving equal exposure to the LGBTQ community. While I continue to support the LGBTQ community and identify as an ally, I am unable to fully understand internal struggles of self-identified LGBTQ people. I appreciated what David did in purposely making the comment in order to challenge my own comfortability as an identified ally. The feelings that his comment evoked show that I must continue to develop my awareness of issues within the LGBTQ community and gain continual exposure to the community. I need to continue to challenge my heterosexual worldview in order to ally myself with the cause of the community.
Rene Alvarez Jr.
English Major; Secondary Eduction
March 14, 2013 · Comments Off
Today began at the crack of dawn (aka 8 am) with a chai tea latte and blueberry scone at the Bourgeois Pig. Unfortunately, the breakfast was not as good as the name, but it was a successful trip nonetheless.
Our first Chi-Urban activity of the day was at the National Museum of Mexican Art. I actually wish we’d spent more time in the museum because there were so many fantastic pieces. At any rate, we went on a tour around Pilsen. There were some very cool murals with so much history (from political leaders to famous singers) within them. Jose showed the group his print studio and we had a DELICIOUS lunch at Nuevo León.
After lunch, we met up with the Reverend Saunders. He gave us a tour of the South Side of Chicago. Once again, there were so many murals. The murals have probably been my favorite aspect of the trip. I feel like in Washington and Oregon, people grafitti because they’re jerks and have nothing better to do. But the murals in Chicago serve as inspiration, group pride, and a reminder of history. We saw many distinct and impoverished neighnorhoods similar to Pilsen on this tour as well. It was shocking to go a block from a predominantly black and poorer neighborhood to a predominately white and thriving one. At any rate, after the tour, the remainder of the day was free time.
I actually have a friend from high school attending DePaul University-a mere four blocks from the hostile. It was great to visit with her and I’m pleased to report that college seems to be treating her well.
I was also able to do some of the more touristy things. I went to the 103rd floor of the Willis (Sears) Tower and enjoyed walking along the Magnificent Mile. My ten year old self died in the American Girl store and I just about died in the Ghirardelli shop. It was a beautiful night so I walked quite a bit (resulting in a fairly gory blister). I was so in awe of the city that I forgot about dinner and, apparently in Lincoln Park, nothing is open past 10. So dinner wa a McDonald’s salad and some 7Elleven Milk Duds.
Lessons of the day?
1. Chicagoans are generally bad drivers.
2. Eat dinner before 10 on week night.
3. Get the enchilada with red sauce at Nuevo León.
4. L trains=fastest form of transportation in the city (–>Spokane needs a better system)
Okay, in all seriousness. Chicago is a great city but it’s almost sickening to see such distinct neighborhoods. Together the neighborhoods make a diverse city, but there is very little diversity within them. It’s sad to go from the incredibly impoverished Bronzeville where one can hardly afford fresh produce to the downtown area where people are dropping 100s of dollars on clothing and accessories. Something clearly needs to change. As a fellow Chi-Urbanite pointed out, the sense of activism within the different communities is so strong. It gives me hope for the people of Chicago, that some unity among the different groups of people can be formed.
Accounting & Human Resources Major; History Minor
March 14, 2013 · Comments Off
Our day began with a tour of the murals in Pilsen led by Jose Guerrero. It would be impossible to understate the importance of these murals, because they depict the deep and proud history of the Mexican community. They are reminders of the past, while also guides for the future encouraging a rich engagement with one’s personal culture. What struck me most about this tour was when an elder woman from the community stopped and talked about the murals for a moment. She described the importance of the murals, especially their relation to educating the younger generations. We couldn’t have gotten a more genuine point of view from anywhere else.
In addition to the history that murals tell, there is also an aspect of art found in Chicago that has a political nature about it. Jose was talking about how many of the elder artists in the Pilsen community sought, and continue to seek, to draw and print murals that call out to the social issues of the day. Art, especially murals, is a way to create a semi-permanent impression upon the physical landscape that will impact countless numbers. This is evident not only in the Pilsen community, but also Paseo Boricua where we were early in the week, and also Bronzeville with a large mural that depicted strife, pain, and issues in the African American and greater world community.
Today was a challenge as we were faced with the juxtaposition of abject poverty and abundant wealth found within the Chicago City. The tour by Rev. Saunders was the most eye opening experience I have had the entire trip. I have never been in a place where it takes but crossing the street to go from poverty to wealth. Nothing can prepare your heart when confronted with touring through a neighborhood where you see no grocery store, no restaurants, no extracurricular options and no social services like police forces and firefighters; and then moments later you are in a neighborhood with well kept streets, a fire station and police station on the same block, a private well funded school and every brand name you can think of in consumer products.
I hope it hurts others as much as it hurts me to see that this separation was also accompanied by certain changing demographics. The poorer areas were disproportionately filled with African-Americans, while the richer neighborhoods swelled with Caucasian individuals. On a map it is possible to literally draw the lines that would separate those who can dream, from those who can’t. It was too easy for me too imagine myself as a young black man standing on the side of Washington Park, surrounded by boarded up windows, dirty streets, and a littered sidewalk; unable to see beyond the trees to the University of Chicago and the glass buildings and wealth that lay beyond.
It shouldn’t be necessary for me to say that change needs to occur. These neighborhoods of poverty and desolation are prisons for the individuals living within them. Many are considered to be food deserts, yet a tourist needs more than one hand to count the number of alcohol stores that can be found within. That just isn’t right. There are no opportunities for upward mobility, but rather only perpetual poverty and suffering. No one can tell me they care about everyone, and then be content to live in a place where literally the north facing side of a building may look repainted and well decorated on the wealthier side, yet the south side is left to deteriorate and fall into ruin, a visceral marker of the inequity that lies on the plain surface.
Worst of all is the already destroyed dreams of the people who live and grow in these places. No aspect of their life is exempt of the failing infrastructure and lack of care. Their education will be worse, diet less healthy, opportunities more limited, housing more decrepit, transportation nearly uncertain, security non-existent, and health poisoned by their surroundings. There is no wonder why there is so much violence in these areas. When you take everything from a person, and leave them with an image of beauty far away, while their feet are cast in broken stone and unattained dreams, power is scarce and any notion of strength is an escape from the reality at hand. It is a vicious cycle that is maintained with the focus of investments and resources on those things that are profitable, while finding ways to more effectively ignore and disengage with the broken communities.
With all that was said please do not think that there are not great people out there doing beautiful work. Jose Guerrero, Eddie Arrocho, Reverend Saunders, Reverend Pfleger and many others live everyday in service to their community, passionately living out their love for the people and the vision that they can see for their futures. And that is what this world needs, more great people doing beautiful work. I know that is the only way I want to live.
Political Science & Criminal Justice