Chicago, Illinois, US
October 15
I enjoy riding my bike around Chicago in my free time, perusing art and gardens, enjoying good beer, and musing on the wackiness of life.


JULY 17, 2010 8:19AM

hope for peace

Rate: 9 Flag

Living in Beverly, a Chicago neighborhood with a well-deserved reputation for tranquility, I sometimes take that tranquility for granted. Englewood is at the other end of the spectrum in public perception.

This week, I attended the dedication of the Heritage Station community garden, a truly joyous celebration for the Englewood neighborhood.  Stay Environmentally Focus'd, a grassroots organization, worked with other neighborhood groups and Openlands, a Chicago-area environmental organization, to prepare the site, create a theme for Rahmaan Statik Barnes, who painted the mural, and get funding and work out the logistical details.  It took a lot of hard work to make it happen.  

The site of this community garden has a mixed legacy.  A railroad station formerly stood here, an entry point for African Americans arriving from the South during the Great Migration.  Many in the community take pride in that piece of history, and the mural celebrates it.  It was also the station where Emmett Till left for his fateful trip to Mississippi, a fact that some would prefer to leave behind.


The bridge in the background carries the CTA's green line.   Under that bridge, on tracks that run along the viaduct behind the mural, Metra, Amtrak and freight trains rumble through. Beyond the viaduct, an infamous site described in The Devil in the White City is now occupied by a post office.





Violent deaths (a 16-year-old boy, a police officer,and others) dominate news coverage of the neighborhood, casting a shadow over events that should have more positive coverage.

The garden joins several others in the neighborhood as places of hope for peace and healing.  One of the speakers at the dedication spoke of her wish for an end to violence in Englewood.  I share her wish.  I'd love to see more children grow up to follow their dreams instead of dying too young, and see families stay whole instead of being torn apart. We need to hear more about positive events and accomplishments in neighborhoods like this, not see them constantly portrayed as hopeless. 


Our city has many dark chapters in its history.  We can't escape or deny this part of our collective past.  We can work to overcome it through healing and unity, and work together to make the city whole again.  Projects like this garden can help.

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This is inspiring. Thank you for this lovely piece of good news.
Thank you. Anytime I see a project like this and experience the kind of positive energy I encountered at the dedication, it gives me hope that we can find a way to heal our city.
Really uplifting story and I love the photos. _r
If only all cities and towns contained gardens and sustainable lifestyles with hope for the children and families struggling.
If only.
Such good news in this piece. TY TY!!
Leah and Mission - Thank you. This is the newest of several community gardens in Englewood, most of which are used for growing food. Seeing this trend towards urban farming gives me hope that families living in neighborhoods like Englewood can have healthier food and build stronger communities. I also appreciate the educational opportunities these gardens offer for children.
Nice pictures and piece Bikes!
bpb, thank you for bringing this wonderful news to our attention. We (i.e. middle class white society) need to hear more stories like this to realize not all is doom and gloom in neighborhoods like Englewood. And neighborhoods like that need more of this community spirit to help them rise above their often sad circumstances.
I enjoyed this. Thanks for posting.
Thank you for sharing this with us. There is so much good in the world that as we take our daily wash in the bad, it sometimes gets overlooked. Good is the soothing antidote to bad and somehow we must make that ring louder and truer. Chicago has been having a bad year and I don't know why it is so different, expect I can't help but think the frustrations with joblessness, homelessness and the economy is a huge factor. Thank you again for this, the pictures tell a great story too. R
It's always good news to get a perspective like yours. I enjoyed reading a little about the history and seeing what is happening now. Hopeful.
A little spot of beauty can be uplifting and a sign of hope for a community. As Sheila mentioned, there seems to be an increase of violent crimes in the city this year. Or maybe our bankrupt newspapers are just reporting more such crimes in hopes of selling more papers. Really nice post.
Thank you, all.

Procopius - That was the biggest reason why I wanted to be there for the event and to tell this story. I have many middle-class white friends who would never willing set foot in Englewood due to fear of its reputation and fear of the unknown.

I have another friend who is a doctor at the community health clinic just down the street from the garden. For most of the year, he usually commutes by bike from the north side to 63rd St., and has never had any significant problems with people along the way.

I've ridden my bike many times through neighborhoods with similar statistics and reputations and rarely encountered any threatening situations. When I went to the garden this week, I took the green line from the Loop. South of Roosevelt, I was the only white face on the train, which is typical for this line. Some people seemed to be viewing me as a curiousity, and others were friendly. I walked along 63rd St. from the station to the garden. On the trip home, I walked to the red line and took that to 95th St., then took the bus.

Again - no hostility or threatening situations, where I was the only white face. I smile, I'm friendly, and I'll chat when people want to chat. The planet doesn't crumble in situations where we are in the minority.

Interestingly enough, I've often found that middle-class black friends who grew up in some of the really rough neighborhoods are just as resistant to going there as my white friends, but they don't want to see how much worse the old 'hood has gotten since they escaped.

Sheila and Stim - It seems like Chicago and many other cities are having a rough year, with a noticeable spike in violence.

I think that stories and projects like this are a great reminder of how the efforts of many individuals, added together, can make a difference.
FYI - Max Lulich, the boy playing violin in the last picture, was an amazing musician and struck me as an exceptional kid. Here's a Ch. 2 news story on him from earlier this year and a Tribune article from a few years ago.
Here's a video excerpt from his performance at the garden. I had a chance to chat with him a bit when he wasn't playing. He's 11 years old and home schooled. He struck me as extremely intelligent, articulate and perceptive. I'll be curious to see where he goes from here.
Great pictures . . . and what a hopeful moment!
Owl - Thank you. I'll be curious to see how this garden looks a year or two down the road. I'm also curious to see how young Max does with his music over the next several years. Both he and the garden have great potential.
Here's more on Max. I really enjoyed having a chance to chat with him and get a sense of how intelligent and articulate he is.