Week five has brought me to Seward Park, located in the Near North Community of Chicago in the notorious Cabrini Green Projects.The name Cabrini Green precedes itself, so it shouldn't need an introduction, but just in case, it was a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing project located on Chicago's Near North Side. If you're in Chicago, you're familiar with Cabrini Green.
On my way to play ball at Seward Park, I witnessed redevelopment firsthand. But this wasn't your typical redevelopment, but, instead, it was redevelopment of the mind. I ran into Maegan, a Caucasian female who was sunbathing in a bikini in the grass at Cabrini Green. I had to say something, after all, it was ironic that she was out by herself, sunbathing in what used to be the most notorious projects in the country. I wondered if this is what Mayor Daley envisioned when he phrased the term "redevelopment." Magaen said that all of her friends give her crap about laying out here, but she still does it. I commended her for her courage and told her that Chicago needs more people like her—people who are willing to take ownership of the city, despite all the bad presses. Maegen represents progress. Because she embodied the M3 movement, Maegen deserved a M3 T-Shirt.
I continued to dribble through the remains of the Cabrini Green projects and saw an area that's not fully recovered from the plague of hopelessness, although it has improved. Actually, improved might be an understatement. This area has been upgraded, or as city planners say, gentrified. My feeling, though, are gentrification doesn't heal all when deep wounds of oppression still exist, so like most Chicago hoods, it's block to block, with good islands and bad islands. I walked past a small school and decided to walk in and donate a few copies of my motivational book, Athletes & Emcees, a tool for young adults that aspire to rise above their circumstances. I really didn't know what to expect, but I figured, who couldn't use some motivation? I had four copies in my backpack and said, "I'm going in!"
I'm glad I did. It turns out that the school was being occupied by a non-profit organization called "By the Hand." Dominick Brown, the Site Director, graciously excused himself from a meeting and explained to me that By the Hand is a Christ-centered after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them through college, helping them have abundant life—mind, body, and soul. From the time they enroll in the program until they’re walking independently as well-adjusted, responsible adults, their mission is to literally and figuratively take kids by the hand and walk alongside them. They tutor them to academic excellence. They mentor them to make wise, life-defining decisions, and they care for them as their own, meeting their basic nutritional and medical needs. One of the great things I saw in the By the Hand Center was the Dwayne Wade Reading Center. This stood out because it's so necessary. D. Wade, I commend you for giving back. Man, I felt proud to be in that room. More than just the facilities, though, I was happy to see the teenagers in Cabrini Green had Access to Concern.
I tweeted out that I'd be at Seward Park in an hour, and a couple of people met me there to hoop. Thanks for the support. I played in the Jordan "Son of Mars" Low - Cement Grey / Black / Red shoes this week. They were comfortable, and I had no complaints. I also rocked a snazzy Rafeal Nadal head tie, which I actually thought was a headband when I bought it.
While hooping, I met Jim, an entrepreneur who co-founded Fooda, the easiest way to get great food while at work, and Rocky, a photographer who grew up in the area. Rocky said that back in the day you needed to know somebody to hoop in Seward Park. Well, today's a new day. Today, Chicagoans are no longer going to isolate themselves to a specific region of the city. One Chicago! To be honest, Seward Park in Cabrini Green was the nicest court I've visited so far. There are Nike checks on the backboards and clean playgrounds. There is a fountain in front, as well. I thought that was a nice touch that added to the amenities of the park and made it appear welcoming.
Wonderful times lay ahead on the 12Parks in 12Weeks Tour. I'll see you next week at Wicker Park.
written by Jahmal Cole