50 wards in 50 Weekdays: 2nd Ward's Omope McCray compares Chicago to her native Brooklyn

June 1, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Omope McCray (left) takes a walk with her family on the Near West Side.

Omope McCray moved here only a couple months ago, but she considers herself a Chicagoan.

 

“Once you live someplace, you have to at least take on some of the responsibility,” McCray says. “That’s the first one. Become a Chicagoan.”

McCray and Darnell Session walk on the Near West Side, with their son in the stroller. They moved here from New York City because of Session’s work, as a professional lighting designer for big events like weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Chicago, McCray says, is very similar to NYC.

“The downtown of the city is just like Manhattan. The actual neighborhoods are like, you know, the five boroughs – within [each] there’s different neighborhoods.”

One difference, McCray says, is diversity. She lived her whole life in Brooklyn, and has noticed Chicago’s racial segregation.

“I don’t know what that’s about,” she says with a laugh. “But I’ve been told it’s getting better.”

McCray saw that improvement in just her two months in the neighborhood.

“When we first got here, you know, there was a lot of empty apartments and condos and things of that nature,” she says. “So now it’s, like, filling up and you’re seeing more diverse people from other neighborhoods.”

McCray says the area is “pleasant, convenient” but it lacks some kid-friendly amenities that're in other neighborhoods.

 

“Because I have a 17-month son and I’m home with him during the day, convenience is everything for me,” she says. “Parks with a little bit more play activities for children his age -- you know, like they have the little horsey-dolphins in some of the parks -- they don’t have them in this area over here.”

When I turn the conversation to local politics, McCray pleads ignorance. Give her some time to get acclimated, she says, before concentrate on the governor and mayor.

Speaking of the mayor, McCray says it's not always clear who leads her new city. 

 

“You get a little confused sometimes because Daley signs are all over the place,” McCray says, chuckling. “Daley seems like he, you know, had the run of the whole area.”

There you have it. She’s already talking like a Chicagoan.