Tag Archives: community

About Neighborhood pt. I

Neighborhood is important.

The word not only signals the community that builds itself up in a particular place or topos – it also signifies context.  Walk down any city sidewalk or backwoods path and you are walking over history.  The particular feel of a place can be so strong that you can, well, feel it…

As we prepare for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry we’ve been getting to know a neighborhood just to the south of downtown.  We’ve walked it sidewalks and biked its roads and back alleys in search of the restaurants, attractions, and hidden gems of this oft overlooked neighborhood.  In the meantime we’ve stumbled upon a remarkable history that still whispers its unique mixture of splendor, vibrancy, and struggle from bricks and mortar.  We’ll have a bit more on the history of the neighborhood tomorrow, for now, check out the hidden gems we encountered:

Local Attractions Map

1. Lakeshore Trail – Walking/Running Path
2. National Vietnam Veteran’s Art Museum
3. Chicago Women’s Park & Garden
4. Lakeside Bank Branch
5. Second Presbyterian Church
6. Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden/Formerly Chess Records Studio
7. Former Site of Lexington Hotel (Al Capone)
8. Historic Motor Row Automobile District
9. Trinity Episcopal Church
10. Chinatown Neighborhood
11. CTA Red Line – Cermak/Chinatown Stop
12. Closest CTA Bus Stop & Metra McCormick Place Station
13. The Shrine Night Club
14. Reggie’s Music Joint & Rock Club
15. Historic Bronzeville Neighborhood

Local Restaurants

In addition to the food and beverage options here within the Hyatt, consider venturing out into the neighborhood to find some of the hidden jems of Chicago’s Near South Side.  This map details 20 food options within short to moderate walking distance.  Cabs and busses also operate along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and can take you up Michigan Ave. directly to the heart of downtown Chicago: the Loop.

1. Triad Sushi Lounge
2. La Cantina Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar
3. Kroll’s Bar & Grill
4. Cafe Society Coffeehouse
5. McCormick Place Foodcourt
6. McDonald’s
7. Burger King
8. Pizzeria Brandi
9. Chef Luciano Gourmet Chicken
10. White Castle
11. Harold’s Chicken Shack
12. Liang’s Kitchen Chinese Food
13. J & J Fish & Chicken
14. Cafe Biondia Italien Restaurant
15. Opart Thai House Restaurant
16. South Loop Market Grocheries
17. South Coast Sushi Bar
18. Green Leaf Food Market Groceries
19. Dunkin’ Doughnuts
20. Chinatown Neighborhood (numerous options)


The Call towards Peace

Called towards Peace in a Culture of Violence

[originally published in the 2/11 issue of the Concord, the literary journal of Luther Seminary – St. Paul, MN]
[painting by Alex Roulette]

Driving past that spot became a sort of ritual for me – a litany my body would recite.  An act of devotion to a child who had been gunned down on a sidewalk I couldn’t, for the life of me, distinguish from the others around it.  A sidewalk I couldn’t distinguish from those I had grown up on two states away.

Weeks earlier the evening news had described details more concretely: South Side of Chicago, 15-year-old African American boy, sophomore in high school, robbed at gun point, fatally shot in the chest.  Within hours of the initial report he had a name: Marquell Blake.

In any sensible world these details alone would have been enough to unhinge an average day.  Chicago though, like many American cities, has been awash in tragic details all too similar to these in recent years.  By April, Marquell Blake was the 32nd Chicago Public School student shot and killed in the 2008-2009 school year.  Several journalists had already remarked that the death rate of students from Chicago was 24 times higher than that of soldiers from Chicago serving in combat zones in Iraq.

Even so, it wasn’t until I heard the final detail that something shook loose within me: 7700 block of South Carpenter Avenue.  This shooting had occurred a mere four blocks from the church where I had been doing my internship for a Masters in Urban Ministry through SCUPE and Luther Seminary.  Something about the proximity to a place that had become dear and personal to me through daily work and connections meant that I couldn’t just excuse this as just another tragedy in another part of town.

In Auburn Gresham I had heard the stories of the diligent work of tireless community members to better their neighborhood, had heard the sermons and the press conferences calling city and church leaders to no longer simply provide the vigils and eulogies after acts of violence but to actively work to prevent violence.  This was a community like all of the others I had lived in: people cared for each other and came together to address mutual concerns.

Suddenly, I came to see that I had been sold a false bill of goods.  Since childhood, I had been taught that some neighborhoods were safe and some weren’t.  It was implied that, as long as I stayed within the respectable racial, cultural, and socio-economic borders I would float through life excused from the impact of violence.  This de facto division of the world into safe and not safe, into good neighborhoods and sketchy neighborhoods, was as a veil drawn over my eyes.

In a flood, I recalled the teenager who was shot dead on his bike just up the hill from my childhood home in suburban Minneapolis.  I saw the face of the middle school student in pristine Rochester, MN who had taken his own life with his father’s rifle.  I felt a pang go up my side like I used to get on long runs with a friend who abruptly ended his own life after returning from active duty to civilian life with his family.

Now I am convinced: there is no safe and no unsafe America.  We all breathe the common cultural air of our environment and that air is currently polluted with the toxins of violence.  On streets, in families, in schools, at our borders and across the oceans, America has come to rely on the intoxicating atmosphere of violence often as a pathway to power (individual, institutional, international, etc.) but sometimes merely senselessly.  As a result, we have lost the creativity and hope to imagine a world that doesn’t opt for violence as a first resort.

Prior to the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona, faith leaders had been wrestling with concerns over an ever increasing tolerance for violent rhetoric, random shootings, domestic violence, and war zones as they prepared for a conference on violence in March of 2011.  The unrest and concerns of these religious leaders have been highlighted by the tragic events in Tucson and the continuing gun and community violence in Chicago and other metropolitan areas.

It is in critical times such as these that faith and community leaders from across the nation will gather at the SCUPE Congress on Urban Ministry to commit ourselves towards Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence.  The faith community is finally finding its collective voice on this issue – teachers, social workers, psychologists, and law enforcement have all weighed in – but the church has not.  Now is the time for faith institutions to join in action and in voice on actively resisting violence in our streets, in our cities, and throughout our nation.

Theologians and faith leaders like Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, Renita Weems, James Forbes and Michael Pfleger have answered our call to be prophetic voices of peace at the conference.  What is needed now are individuals committed to adding their voice to the growing call for peace by participating in the gathering.

As future and current church leaders will you join leaders from communities all across the nation in taking a stand against violence and discerning a path forward in which our churches can play a vital role in creating a more peaceful future for all people?

We hope to hear your voice at the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry.

For more information please visit: www.congressonurbanministry.org

Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence

Silence The Violence Rally

Last Friday a beautiful summer afternoon was suddenly transformed into a brutal Chicago summer storm just hours before a crucial anti-violence rally and march led by Mayor Richard M. Daley and Father Michael Pfleger.  By the rally’s start time the skies were back to their clear, calm, early-summer brilliance but the violent storm served as a reminder of the violence that erupts in Chicago and cities around this nation.

While the event was, predictably, under-covered by the local media (video here and briefly here) there was quite a list of mentionable civic and community leaders present for the empowering rally and march.  Joining the hundreds of concerned citizens in attendance were U.S. Senator Roland W. Burris, IL Senator Jackie Collins, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, CPS CEO Ron Huberman and many others.

The crowd read together a list of Community Take Back Demands as prepared by Father Pfleger that were concrete, detailed, and focused on addressing the violence in our communities with the assets of our communities.  Here is the list:

  • Whereas, we acknowledge that our community has been unlawfully seized from us while we were silent, and that we have not only the right, but the duty to take it back;
  • Whereas, we desire to improve the quality of life of those living in our community and acknowledge that all people deserve to live in a safe, loving and nurturing environment;
  • Whereas, violence and abuse in all forms are serious social problems that can be prevented and that everyone must work to end.
  • Whereas, as adults we are responsible for providing safety for our children and are called to secure for them their future.
  • Whereas, the strength of any community is found in its citizens living and working together in a spirit of cooperation across lines of class, culture, color and creed to develop, rebuild and sustain that community; and by working together, all are enriched.
  • Whereas, preventing violence and abuse begins with each one of us as individual stakeholders in our community;

We make the following demands of each citizen of our community.

  • We demand that every business that benefits from our patronage, whether uptown, downtown, or here in the community, whether small or large, employ at least one youth part-time or full time this summer.
  • We demand that park districts establish attractive quality programming for our youth.
  • We demand that every church, mosque or synagogue open its doors for youth, and develop and maintain quality youth programs to draw our young people off the streets. And call them to meet outside before Bible Study and choir rehearsal to create a presence in the community.
  • We demand that each citizen commit his/her support to community organizations and faith-based organizations worldng to end all forms of violence.
  • We demand that the residents of each block maintain the cleanliness and order of their property and turn on their porch lights at night.
  • We demand that each resident take charge of the safety of that block watch and patrol that block, hold outdoor block club meetings and activities for the residents and youth on that block.
  • We demand that CAPS hold their meetings outdoors during the summer.
  • We demand that every parent provides for and ensures the supervision of their children and enter into partnerships with the schools that their children attend.
  • We demand that all schools continue to make adequate yearly progress on strengthening the curriculum and teaching conflict resolution so that our youth become aware of their relationship to each discipline, are able to compete on the world stage and can see themselves and others depicted accurately in history.
  • We demand that the violence plaguing our cities be seen as a National Emergency and that Federal financial resources be given to cities for jobs for adults and youth, youth alternatives and strategies to stop the violence.
  • We demand that elected officials in Springfield and Washington ban assault weapons and stop the easy access to guns by titling guns like cars.
  • We demand that each citizen work collaboratively with the schools in their community to expand programming and improve their capacity to serve the needs of our youth and prepare them to give service to themselves, their families, their communities and society.
  • We demand that every parent, teacher, mentor, neighbor and street organization member challenge our fellow community members to recognize that they can be powerful without making others powerless.
  • We demand that each member of our community commit to treating one another with dignity and respect.
  • We demand that each citizen take a stand and never commit, condone, accept or remain silent about violence.
  • We demand that each citizen does that which is necessary and within his/her realm of influence and power to foster a community which is respectful, safe, and fair for all people.

For a detailed account of the rally with quotes from the various speakers, read this article by Chinta Strausberg.

Mayor Richard M. Daley