Category Archives: Lack Versus Fat

An Evening at the Forum: Jive and Jitterbug on!

evening at the forum event flyer

I’ll be spinning a very special set on Wednesday, September 24th in Chicago’s Bronzeville Community. All 1920s through 1950s music (with a few copacetic newer tracks sprinkled in). All vinyl. Actually, I’m trying to figure out if I’m bringing my Victrola. Then it’d be vinyl and shellac.

Lil Green Chicago

The event is titled “An Evening at the Forum”, and I am very excited that this building, and all the culture it represents, will be celebrated. That’s especially true because, not long ago, The Forum building nearly perished.

The Forum was built around 1900, and was slated for demolition in 2011. That’s when Bernard Loyd’s final bid for the property was accepted. That’s also when the work to restore the building (that’s suffered from decades of neglect) really began. Chicagopatterns.com did a really though job documenting some of the history, imagery, and narratives surrounding the space. I highly recommend that you check out their work here.

from the organizers of the event:

“On September 24, The Forum will pay homage to the Golden Age of Bronzeville with An Evening at The Forum, a retro-themed block party. The evening will revive key elements of the era – notably music and dance – while drawing the attention of locals and visitors to major redevelopment projects slated for historic 43rd Street.

The event will feature sounds from the 20’s through the 50’s by DJ Ayana Contreras, dance lessons by Big City Blues, historical tours by Chicago Patterns, classic children’s tales by Jason Driver, old fashioned games for children & adults, prohibition-era “mocktails” and hors d’oeuvres, and a preview of CRib Productions‘ “Juke Joint” a short which was recently filmed at Forum Hall, the iconic centerpiece of The Forum.

forum-15-900x599

the particulars:

An Evening at the Forum

Wednesday, September 24th

6-9pm

The Forum

318-328 E 43rd St, Chicago, Illinois 60653

UPDATE! Here’s a couple of images from the event, courtesy of Urban Juncture.

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Sundown in K-Town: North Lawndale Documentary Festival

Sundown in K-Town Teaser from BetterBoys Foundation on Vimeo.

Better Boys Foundation (BBF) and Facets Multi-Media announce a film festival comprised of a series of social documentaries screened outside in the inner courtyard of the BBF Center at 1512 S. Pulaski Road . These groundbreaking documentaries such as The Murder of Fred Hampton (pictured at left), And This is Free, American Revolution 2, and others exemplify the role of independent, particularly documentary, filmmaking in reporting about and shaping Chicago. Discussion panels of film professionals, journalists and individuals relevant to the films will follow the screenings. Two of the films will be accompanied by shorts produced in house at BBF by FilmLAB@1512, BBF’s youth filmmaking apprenticeship. A local production company, Kartemquin Films, has generously donated two of the screenings.

I caught the first installment of this Film Festival, which is going on until July 27th. I really enjoyed the experience and the setup (a large projector screen and speakers set up outdoors inside the Better Boys Foundation’s Courtyard). Great for the community (the neighborhood that Martin Luther King, Jr. came to in 1966 to fight for open housing). Also notable is the Better Boys Foundation itself, which has been around for some 50 years and collaborated with the Black Panthers for Chicago’s edition of the Free Breakfast Program. The idea of the Program was later appropriated by the US Government for the Head Start program. Jive on.

More Info: facets.org/sundown


Black Picket Fences.

In Chicago, neat rows of distinctive bungalows line the streets in many neighborhoods (known collectively as the Bungalow Belt). Many of these homes were built in approximately the 1910s and 1920s.

On the Southside, a good number of these homes have been suffering a disturbing fate: as longtime owners age, their children have been selling/losing the family homes at an alarming rate. This trend began over a decade ago, (long before the current economic crisis) and continues, creating a perfect storm of community erosion. Once proud manicured blocks are now marred with boarded up windows and overgrown shrubbery. The homes that families worked for a generation to own are being lost in a period of a few years (in some cases, even less). Some are being lost due to the monetary strains that owning an aging home can create, others are being lost because the younger generation doesn’t value the home (particularly its location in the heart of the city). What is being erased is a seldom told story that author Mary Pattillo-McCoy attempted to document in her 1999 book, Black Picket Fences.

According to the author:

The goal of Black Picket Fences is to richly describe the neighborhood-based social life of a population that has received little scholarly or popular attention—the black middle class. The black middle class and their residential enclaves are nearly invisible to the nonblack public because of the intense (and mostly negative) attention given to poor urban ghettos. Substantial downward mobility signals that there are systematic obstacles to ensuring [a] transfer of class status.

Due to the proximity of these Black Urban Middle Class neighborhoods to other neighborhoods, their survival is directly linked to the survival of Urban residents in more impoverished areas. To be clear, the Black Urban Middle Class is most cases are by no means rich. Many are teachers or plumbers, or other hard working folks. But due to proximity, their dollars positively impact all the communities around them: some are small business owners, and many have the expendable income to support various charitable endeavors and local initiatives.

But the younger generation of more mobile Blacks is leaving the cities in droves, and in many cases, is more reliant on credit than ever before.  This is partly what attributed to the recent dip in the average median net worth for Black Households (the typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009)

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I have said repeatedly that I think “escaping” the problems of the city by moving outside of its limits is doing a disservice to so many people (including ourselves).  The strong, vibrant, creative communities we dream about require a commitment to build it. There’s nothing but opportunity in empty storefronts and two-flats. What do you want to see?


See Potential: helping us all envision the rebirth of abandoned buildings on the South Side.

See Potential in what’s around us. That’s the goal of photographer Emily Schiffer’s See Potential initiative: affixing huge weatherproof photographic works to undervalued community assets. It’s a great idea that can help harness the public imagination for the greater good. It’s the sort of greater good that Schiffer always hoped her art would serve. She related to Benevolent Media:

“It’s very clear that publishing an image in a magazine or having a gallery show or having a book isn’t actually going to change anything… I’m always jealous of people who do pottery, for example, because their art has some sort of practical use.

For instance, Gladys’ Luncheonette (a Soul Restaurant that served Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood for decades, but recently closed) is re-imagined through imagery as a healthy corner store offering cooking classes. For members of the neighborhood, this is definitely a soft sell; but Schiffer, alongside Orrin Williams and Judith Helfand, is also trying to sell the viability of community development to outside investors (as well as the City of Chicago itself).

The works will illustrate the Center for Urban Transformation’s revitalization plans for shared community spaces such as:

– Locally owned corner stores that will sell nutritious food and provide on-site, healthy cooking classes.

– Year-round, indoor growing sites using aquaponics technology will train and employ community members and supply food to local healthy corner stores.

– Cooking schools or community centers refashioned from blighted homes that will provide holistic living practices through diverse forms of community outreach and education.

– Community gardens created in empty lots.

According to their Kickstarter proposal:

“Each photographic installation will include a text panel encouraging onlookers to send a text message in support of that specific site transformation.  Using a custom-designed SMS text messaging infrastructure and GPS technology, [they] will collect all messages and record the location from which each text was sent.  By pinpointing the different locations and by tracking the amount of public support at each site, we will be able to present a series of interactive, web-based maps to potential funders, policy makers, and city officials.”

This is just the sort of paradigm shift that Darkjive is all about, something I term as Lack versus Fat (outlined fully here). Using the analogy of the coffee can full of grease that my grandmother kept on her stovetop, the grease (and the can itself) could, at first, be considered waste material. But upon reevaluation, it can also be considered a resource that can contribute to the kind of meal that sustains life. The same can be said for abandoned buildings, or so many things in our communities that can be seen as deficits.

for more on the project (which was recently successfully funded via Kickstarter) click here.


Growing Home: reclaiming the earth beneath the concrete.

rooftop garden atop the Gary Comer Youth Center, 71st and South Chicago

I’m itching for spring. Here in Chicago, the weather has been mercifully mild… Visions of a vegetable and herb garden in my backyard dance in my head. I am swooning over Kale and Basil!

But dreams of building up my South Side neighborhood (through green jobs, better food, and economic empowerment) dance, too. I’m a big supporter of localism and building up every community in Chicago with all the resources needed to support a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, though, I think that living a so-called green life shouldn’t be reserved for the rich. I also think we should all be able to access fresh spinach as readily as a flaming hot cheese puff. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Growing Home Wood St. Farm, Aug. 2010. Photo by Andrew Collings

Check out this video featuring local Green Activist Orrin Williams of Growing Home and the Center for Urban Transformation; just two of many Urban Agriculture initiatives here in Chicago. Their goals are varied and yet unified: providing green jobs and supplying wholesome food for the community.  Orrin is a friend of Darkjive (and a friend of the South Side). Jive on!