Week 9 of the "12 Parks in 12 Weeks" tour took me to Lindblom Park located at 6054 S. Damen Ave in Chicago’s Englewood community. Usually the name Englewood precedes itself, but as described by Mrs. Net, a longtime resident who has been living across from the park for 40 years, her block was a good island. She said, "In reality, you can't run away because there’s violence in every community. In Chicago, there are both good islands and bad islands—good blocks surrounded by bad." Damen Avenue in front of the park is a good island. I like the island terminology because Mrs. Net broke down the violence issue as block by block, meaning that very few entire community areas can be free from crime, unless each block and each household take ownership and a sense of pride in their block. I think bad islands do exist in Chicago because there is an inadequacy of compassion and a lack of sensibility amongst people. Even the good neighborhoods (so to speak good islands) are mirages in the desert of Chicago, and people just have an illusion of security. Anyhow, Mrs. Net waved me across the street and made me a pineapple snow cone.
I'm always reluctant to speak on violence in Englewood because the work my friend, Ay-Sha Butler, is doing in Englewood. Ay-Sha is the President of RAGE (Resident Association of Greater Englewood), and today she was hosting an event called So Fresh Saturdays at Lindblom Park. I'll let her tell you what it's about. Ay-Sha isn't reactive; she's super consistent and there’s a lot to learn about organizing from one of her community group meetings. You could pay to learn community organizing from the Midwest Academy Organization, or you can attend a RAGE meeting. I appreciate how she incorporates simple things, such as passing around notepads for attendees to take notes and jot down ideas. Just because it's simple, though, doesn't make it easy. Find out more about RAGE and how you can support at www.ragenglewood.org
Playing ball at the court was interesting. Definitely, Lindblom Park had the best young talent I've seen so far. I also got to break in the new Lebron James 11's 4th of July kicks. Aesthetically speaking, there was an open trash can laying on the side of the court. Nobody obviously felt the need to pick it up. In fact, one guy just placed his shirt on top of it. While I was there, I passed out MBMHMC T-Shirtsto 5 guys, but the 6th declined. Out of the hundreds of people I’ve given a shirt to, he was the first person to decline. Wanting feedback, I asked him what about the shirt could be improved from a fashion standpoint. He pointed to a six-pointed star on my shirt. My assumption is he didn't want it because there are too many points on my star. I didn't ask him to elaborate, but to be clear, the stars on my trademarked logo have no gang affiliation or references. They are exact replicas of the Municipal Chicago Flag Stars designed by Wallace Rice. The 4 stars symbolize historical Chicago events, and the points of the stars represent important virtues or concepts. The same Chicago Flag stars are worn on CPD badges and hang from the banners outside of City Hall. But I don't blame him for not taking a shirt. I've actually received email requests for five-point star shirts before. I didn't change it then, and I won't now. The perception in one community of a Chicago flag that bears city pride can be misconstrued as a gang affiliation in another community. There's a lot of work to be done in my city.
I won't succumb to that ideology. My Block, My Hood, My City is a series of initiatives geared toward ending segregation of ideas while promoting diversity of thought. I picked up the trash can before I left. See you next week.
written by Jahmal Cole