This holiday season, my first book (which deals with many of the ideas and themes in this blog), will be published through University of Illinois Press. I’m over the moon to get this collection of uplifting narratives about the city I adore out into the world. Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago outlines the undefeatable culture of Black Chicago, past and present.
ABOUT THE BOOK
From Afro Sheen to Theaster Gates and from Soul Train to Chance the Rapper, Black Chicago draws sustenance from a culture rooted in self-determination, aspiration, and hustle. Ayana Contreras embarks on a journey to share the implausible success stories and breathtaking achievements of Black Chicago’s artists and entrepreneurs. Past and present generations speak with one another, maintaining a vital connection to a beautiful narrative of Black triumph and empowerment that still inspires creativity and pride. Contreras weaves a hidden history from these true stories and the magic released by undervalued cultural artifacts. As she does, the idea that the improbable is always possible emerges as an indestructible Afro-Optimism that binds a people together.
Passionate and enlightening, Energy Never Dies uses the power of storytelling to show how optimism and courage fuel the dreams of Black Chicago.
“Contreras puts virtually every aspect of Black Chicago culture, music, business breakthroughs, and more on the table, then shows exactly how they are all interconnected. She writes the book as the Black experience is actually lived–this guy knows that guy, but the other guy used to work for the two of them. And none of it would’ve happened were it not for a certain audacious manner of hope and optimism found in Black Chicago.”–Lee Bey, author of Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side
“In Energy Never Dies, Ayana Contreras crafts an intensely intimate and loving portrait of Black Chicago that that will illuminate, even to lifelong South and West Siders, the distinctiveness of our cultural history and worldview. This book offers urgently needed blueprints for extending the work and actualizing the dreams of the Great Migrants.”–Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema
You can preorder the book here: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/?id=84kcq6nx9780252044069
1968: In Wake of King’s Slaying, Black Chicago was Cloaked In Grief, In Song
In April of 1968, an uprising lit up the West Side of Chicago in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Black Chicago had a special connection to the civil rights leader: Dr. King lived on the West Side in 1966, fighting along with the Chicago Freedom Movement for open housing.
Reclaimed Soul host Ayana Contreras takes us back to April of 1968, when a few Black Chicagoans turned on tape recorders, laying their grief down in song.
Catch fresh installments of Reclaimed Soul Thursdays at 8pm (CST) on vocalo.org/player or over the air on 91.1fm (CHI)
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