Louder Than a Bomb: Remembering Cabrini Green

April 8, 2011

April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate poetry here in Chicago, WBEZ brings you four short videos featuring Louder Than a Bomb youth poets performing their work on location.

The series starts with 16-year-old Aliyah Oyemade, whose poem When a City Loves honors recently “deceased” public housing complex Cabrini Green. Over its sixty-some years Cabrini Green became synonymous with the problems of public housing: drugs, gangs, violence, and crushing poverty. Still, it was a bittersweet moment for some former residents when demolition began on the complex’s sole remaining building last week.

Oyemade’s boyfriend, Paris Marlow, 20, is one such resident. He grew up in Cabrini Green and is “kind of sad it’s going down,” Oyemade says, explaining that for all its problems, Cabrini was Marlow’s childhood home. Still, she says he feels “that it has to happen.”

Oyemade never lived in Cabrini Green herself but attends nearby Walter Payton High School and based her poem on conversations with Marlow and several other former residents. Her poem is constructed around the metaphor of the housing complex as a mother who shelters her children despite their sins and mistreatment from the outside world. An early draft of the poem was featured in artist Jan Tichy’s Cabrini Green Project, which was installed days before demolition. Oyemade’s was one of several recordings synced to flickering LED lights visible throughout the building’s empty apartments after dusk.

You can check out Oyemade’s impassioned performance in the video above.

WBEZ is a presenting partner of Young Chicago Authors' Louder Than a Bomb Teen Poetry Slam Competition and Festival. Click here for more information. Special thanks to Kuumba Lynx for connecting us with Oyemade.