My map shows us squarely in the Morgan Park neighborhood, but Ja’Sharee Martin knows the truth.
“This is Ada Park,” Martin says, during a break on the basketball court. “Ada Park is a okay neighborhood. You know, we still have violence around here. But it’s some place where you come and…your kids can grow up at."
In several parts in the city, I’ve heard similar statements, a combination of neighborhood disappointment and neighborhood pride. Martin says she doesn’t go outside much, because she’s scared of the shootings.
“It’s not like we a bad neighborhood or something like that. We a good neighborhood.”
“You still have, you know, your older people…the senior citizens around here that you grew up around, “ she says. “My grandmama and my granddaddy, they went to [nearby] Shoop Academy. They went to Morgan Park High School. So, they been living around here for a very long time.”
Martin says she is 19, in massage therapy school downtown and lives at her grandparents' house just down the street from the park.
“Neighborhood wasn’t bad back in the day. You know, when I was growing up it wasn’t bad until all this gang-banging started happening.”
Martin blames that violence on newer residents to the neighborhood who arrived after most of Chicago’s high-rise housing projects were demolished.
“The gunshots around here is – you know, I’m used to it,” Martin says. “I just got used to it more recently. You can’t tell…a gunshot from a firework around here. You know, around [July] 4th, you…got to listen and see if it’s a gunshot or a firework.”
She says fireworks pop off and then make a splatter sound.
“Gunshots don’t,” she says.
The latest violence was last Saturday, Martin says. She’d heard that a 16-year-old boy got shot in the park.
“I ain’t go outside, but I just heard the gunshots and the ambulance came,” she says, adding that she heard the kid was shot in the leg, but was okay. “He wasn’t out there when the ambulance came.”
When we talk politics, Martin says she doesn’t know much, doesn’t really watch the news. She says she thinks Mayor Rahm Emanuel is doing a good job. She likes his push for a project near and dear to the Far South Side: the extension of the CTA’s Red Line, which now ends at 95th.
“If he extend[s] the Red Line, everybody don’t have to take the bus. They can, you know, get on [the train] where they live at.”
That project has stalled and stalled through the years. If it actually happens, it’ll be well after Martin finishes massage school. But she's good. Her grandma drives her to the train.