WBEZ | Austin http://www.wbez.org/tags/austin Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en There is 'home' there http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/there-home-there-108810 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4110857626_80c28d7bac_z.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/spylaw01)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">I tell people where I live and they say little to nothing. I tell people where I came from, where I started, and they show an understanding that I live where I currently do for a reason.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">For a large part of my childhood, I straddled the line between city girl and suburban girl. My grandparents, currently living in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, like to say that they raised me during the first years of my life. I have vague memories of my immediate family&rsquo;s time in this neighborhood, but I will always remember my grandparents&rsquo; home &ndash; truly, my second home &ndash; in a quiet enclave of the area.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">The blocks were long, very long, seemingly neverending. The houses were never small and usually fit somewhere between just right and too much. Later, while living in Oak Park, my friends would never believe that you could stand in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city and confuse it for the simplicity of the suburbs.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;The houses are just as big,&rdquo; I used to begin. Thinking about our cramped apartment off Lake street and later, our stucco bungalow, I would add, &ldquo;Even bigger.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">When you are young, it is difficult to understand one&rsquo;s hood as anything other than home. I had no concept of Austin&rsquo;s violence. I remember New Year&rsquo;s Eve and the wave of gunshots that would go off in celebration. It was a frightening, if not expected reminder that other people existed when the streets get quickly quiet and the sky gets quickly dark at night. In winter, we were kept indoors, kept away from any perceived dangers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;Do you remember how their used to be shops all up and down Madison?&rdquo; my mother asked my aunt. We were all gathered around the dining room table at my parents&rsquo; home in Oak Park for a final, gluttonous, post-birthday meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">I looked up. My mother turned toward me.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;It was like we had our own downtown,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But then the riots happened.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3597296136_45320e21c3_z.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Flickr/Laurie Chipps)" />When talking about the neighborhood her family finally settled in after moving around the city after their migration from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, my mother has a tendency to end her statements with, &ldquo;But then the riots happened.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Nothing else needs to be said. For her, for many people, there was the &ldquo;before&rdquo; and the &ldquo;after.&rdquo; The West Side of Chicago, like many black-dominated neighborhoods across the country, never truly recovered from the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.&rsquo;s assassination. An older generation is in mourning of what they once knew. A younger generation is in mourning of what could have been. An even younger generation knows no difference at all.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Why do some neighborhoods thrive while others find constant suffering? It is not for lack of effort. The blocks around my grandparents&rsquo; home are largely calm and friendly. Just like in my childhood, I still see women setting up snow cone stands in front of their homes. Kids still play with each other, running up and down the block until the weight of the sun and the weight of the day has worn them out. Neighbors still know and speak to each other.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">This is more than I can say about where I currently live. I am friends with the women in my three-flat apartment building, but I know no one else on my block. A couple that lives in a condo building next door only pause in my presence to stop their dog from mauling my arm as it has tried to do since I first moved into my building two years ago.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">There is community where I grew up, where my family is from, where my grandparents still live. But sometimes community is not enough. A cul-de-sac was built at the end of my grandparents&rsquo; block to deter loitering on the corner after a shooting.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">&ldquo;I was on the couch and had to jump to the floor,&rdquo; my grandmother once said to me about the incident. This was a comical image in my head at the time, but she gave me this look. This was not the first time it happened, she seemed to be saying. It was the first time she was telling me about it.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">The <em>New York Times</em> recently <a href="http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/can-you-tell-an-up-and-coming-neighborhood-by-its-emergent-energy/?src=recg" target="_blank">asked</a> if we can tell which neighborhoods are &ldquo;next&rdquo; based on their &ldquo;emergent energy.&rdquo; I would say yes, this is possible, but also coupled with more practical factors. How close is it to public transportation? What is its proximity to other &ldquo;good neighborhoods?&rdquo; Is it safe, or rather, can it be safe? Is its identity too strong to be overtaken by the forces of gentrification? (Because in the end, isn&rsquo;t a &ldquo;next&rdquo; neighborhood almost always about stripping bare its essence?)</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-160ccd6f-73ed-0905-468a-9ad6231bdab4">Even living in it, one can never know a place truly. There are more pockets of my neighborhood I do not know than ones I do. To write off any one neighborhood is to discredit and discount the people living in it, trying to make it something other than what most see. I can feel that energy in parts of Austin, that spark needed to turn a place around, but sometimes a spark is not enough. If a weak and battered foundation exists, one spark can destroy everything in its path. It is easier to destroy than to build.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/there-home-there-108810 Former inmate brings yoga to Chicago’s West Side http://www.wbez.org/news/former-inmate-brings-yoga-chicago%E2%80%99s-west-side-108571 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/130830_Austin Yoga 1_kk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A man who spent nearly half of his life in prison for murder is opening a yoga studio in one of Chicago&rsquo;s more violent West Side neighborhoods.</p><p>Marshawn Feltus hopes his new yoga studio will bring peace to the troubled streets of Austin.</p><p>On a summer day, Feltus walked past boarded-up buildings and groups of people clustered on front stoops and street corners.</p><p>He and two staff members wore matching t-shirts and carried yoga mats.</p><p>They regularly recruit people this way for their yoga studio -- the first in Austin.</p><p>The first group he approached just blankly stared at him from the front porch they were sitting on, but he pulled a teenage boy aside and started talking to him.</p><p>Feltus told his story to everyone he ran into along Chicago Avenue that day. Within a few minutes of recruiting, he had a six-foot-tall former inmate reaching high into the air and breathing deeply.</p><p>He says he knows what young people on the streets are going through because he was a gang member 20 years ago -- in the same neighborhood.</p><p>Feltus was in a gang, and what started out as an argument and fistfight over territory, ended with him seeking retaliation.</p><p>He shot a guy twice and killed him.</p><p>&ldquo;The crime I committed was some of the most senseless violence -- much of what you see today,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s one of the reasons he recruits on the streets of Austin.<br />&ldquo;I have a specific and a personal mission for the young black males -- to show them there&rsquo;s more to their lives than just hanging out on the street corner,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>But Feltus didn&rsquo;t make that connection right away. He spent the first half of his sentence the same way he lived on the street -- being angry and getting into fights, he said.</p><p>About halfway through his sentence, two things changed, said Feltus.</p><p>He found new meaning in a faith he grew up with, even though he can&rsquo;t point to a specific instance, he said.</p><p>&ldquo;It was an accumulation. It happened in bits and pieces,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>Around the same time, he said he and the other prisoners started watching another inmate stretching in the yard. They tried to guess what he was doing.</p><p>&ldquo;We called him Buddha. We actually thought he was really weird at first. He&rsquo;d be out in the yard doing these strange poses,&rdquo; said Feltus.</p><p>Buddha, whose real name is Bartosz Leszczynski, invited Feltus to his prison yoga classes, but Feltus wasn&rsquo;t exactly looking to change his ways.</p><p>But Buddha was persistent.</p><p>&ldquo;Finally, I went to my first yoga class in prison and I could have married yoga,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He said the soothing practice was different than anything he had ever done.</p><p>Soon after, Buddha was transferred to another prison and asked Feltus to take over his class.</p><p>Feltus would teach anywhere between 20 to 200 inmates at a time. They would use state-issued towels instead of yoga mats.</p><p>A noted psychiatry and violence prevention expert sees the value in the practice.</p><p>Dr. Carl Bell thinks Feltus can reach young people on the West Side through mastering an art that teaches discipline and breath control.</p><p>&ldquo;You have a model that works to help you calm down and relax, you&rsquo;ve got a skill which gives you a sense of power over your own body. So, it doesn&rsquo;t matter where you&rsquo;re from,&rdquo; said Bell.</p><p>After being released from prison two years ago, Feltus worked at Bethel New Life on North Lamon Avenue, where he went from a volunteer janitor to store manger of one of the community center&rsquo;s retail stores.&nbsp;</p><p>But yoga was his passion and within two years of being released from prison, he completed an <a href="http://ttp://bethelnewlife.org/our-investments/community-economic-development/business-development/" target="_blank">entrepreneurship training program</a> at Bethel while taking classes to become a certified yoga instructor.</p><p>He graduated from the entrepreneurship training program a day after he was laid off at Bethel due to restructuring, he said.</p><p>But that only gave him more time to focus on starting his own yoga studio.</p><p>He held the first class earlier this month at Bethel, in a chapel with stained glass windows.</p><p>Feltus taught the group of six students from a stage overlooking them.</p><p>Two long-time Austin residents, Deloris Bingham and Sarah Evans, practiced yoga next to each other.</p><p>After class, the women talked about what having a yoga studio in their own community means to them.</p><p>Bingham said she hopes the studio succeeds because she hopes it will help return the neighborhood to what it was.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was raising my children when I first got the home, about 30 years ago, it was nothing like this, no shooting everyday, are you serious? Killing kids and stuff -- they don&rsquo;t care,&rdquo; said Bingham.</p><p>Evans said she thinks yoga can help stop the violence she sees in parts of her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;When you take time to focus on yourself, you don&rsquo;t have time for all this craziness out here, yoga promotes peace within. And when you got peace within, you got peace without,&rdquo; said Evans.&nbsp;</p><p>Feltus said he hopes ACT Yoga -- which stands for awareness, change and triumph -- will provide a safe place for the neighborhood and a different way to deal with aggression, just like it did for the prisoners he taught.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When we made the call to breathe in, you exhale and let it all go. When you come to yoga, that&rsquo;s what you are,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>When doing yoga with the prisoners, all their differences dissolved -- there was no race and no gangs, said Feltus.</p><p>And he said he&rsquo;s excited to bring that to people in the Austin community, especially young black men, because he said he&rsquo;s been where they are now.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t feel like I&rsquo;ll be able to go out and save the world, but if I could just grab me a few guys every day or every week and get them to see it -- that&rsquo;s my contribution,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Katie Kather is an arts and culture reporting intern at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/ktkather" target="_blank">@ktkather</a>.</p></p> Fri, 30 Aug 2013 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-inmate-brings-yoga-chicago%E2%80%99s-west-side-108571 Chicago church offers theater as therapy http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-church-offers-theater-therapy-104119 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Karma%20035_2.JPG" style="height: 398px; width: 600px;" title="The newlywed couple in happier times before violence tears them apart.(Photo courtesy of Derrick Dawson)" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F69368225&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The stage at St. Martin&#39;s Episcopal Church is split into two halves.</p><p>On stage right, a newlywed couple crosses the threshold. On stage left, the same couple grows old and spiteful in their daughter&rsquo;s home, 30 years later.</p><p>The play, <em>Karma</em>, tells the tale of a couple&#39;s struggle with violence and alcoholism, and its ugly aftermath. It centers around double characters and a storyline that alternates between two time periods.</p><p>Playwright Senyah Haynes, said these dualities woven into her play are intentional. They are meant to remind the audience that people aren&#39;t all good or all bad. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Lovely people do some really evil things. People who are really horrible can be really kind to a stranger,&rdquo; Haynes said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just box people in.&rdquo;</p><p>Director Raina Long said the story is also meant to be a bitter dose of medicine for the surrounding Austin neighborhood.The area has seen ongoing gang violence and nearly 1,000 violent crimes so far this year, according to Chicago police statistics.</p><p>Long and parishioner Derrick Dawson started the theater at St. Martin&rsquo;s two years ago to offer artistic healing for the neighborhood and a safe place for its youth.</p><p>&ldquo;Arts funding on the West Side is very hard to come by,&rdquo; Long said. &ldquo;There aren&rsquo;t a lot of extra-curricular activities for young people on this side of town in general.&rdquo;</p><p>Austin&rsquo;s YMCA, a popular hangout for local teens, closed in October. Neighbors are worried that the lack of options could lead teens to other activities, like selling drugs on the corner.</p><p>&ldquo;Being able to see this story and then hopefully relate to it in some way, I hope will give the audience an opportunity to perhaps heal some of the hurts they may have going on,&rdquo; Long said.</p><p>In <em>Karma</em>, the characters Queen and Ezekiel have a painful memory that haunts them in old age: The young Ezekiel beats Queen, his pregnant wife, in a drunken rage. He mistakenly thinks the baby she&#39;s carrying isn&#39;t his, but the audience knows that Ezekiel is killing his own son. The lights dim on a bloodied Queen, lying on the ground.</p><p>Backstage, 19-year-old Jasmine Derosier is working the sound and lighting.&nbsp;When she watches the beat-down scene, she remembers experiences involving her own family. She saw her cousin&#39;s pregnant 16-year-old friend get beaten by her boyfriend.</p><p>&ldquo;He hit the girl with a bottle to her stomach, and the next thing you know, we saw this girl with blood going down her legs,&rdquo; Derosies said.</p><p>She said seeing the play and interacting with the cast has taught her to think before acting.</p><p>&ldquo;I can calm myself down by remembering some stuff from the play,&rdquo; Derosies said. Before, she said, &quot;I know I treat(ed) my little brothers like they&#39;re little rugrats, kick(ed) them around a little bit.&quot;</p><p>Now, she said, she tries to &quot;think about what you&#39;re doing before you do it.&quot;&nbsp;She thinks other people from the neighborhood could relate to the play and learn from it, too, like her mom.</p><p>&quot;The way she treats me and my little brothers, it&#39;s all this anger towards us. But here and there she&#39;ll be playing with us, then the next thing you know, she&#39;s back angry,&quot; Derosiers said. &quot;If you ask me, watching this play, she&#39;d just sit down and think about it.&quot;</p><p>St. Martin&#39;s parishioner Anita Haskell said she hasn&#39;t experienced the kind of physical abuse the play shows, but seeing it took her back to difficult relationships from the past.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s very close to the bone, really,&quot; Haskell said. &quot;We had one congregation member walk out because he couldn&#39;t take it.&quot;</p><p>In <em>Karma</em>, Queen leaves Ezekiel and flees to Chicago to protect her daughters from their abusive father. Thirty years later, Queen and her old husband are stuck back together in their daughter&#39;s house because they can&#39;t afford a nursing home.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/karma cropped_0.JPG" style="float: right;" title="(Photo courtesy of Derrick Dawson)" /></div></div><p>Warren Feagins plays the older Ezekiel. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s a character who&rsquo;s like most of us,&rdquo; Feagins said. &ldquo;We appear to be mostly one thing on the surface, but underneath there&rsquo;s a lot going on.&quot;</p><p>Feagins said his character could help people understand the violent tendencies in everyone.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I look out into the audience, and I really wish that there were more people here from the community,&rdquo; Feagins said. He grew up in public housing in Chicago at the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green.</p><p>&ldquo;(There are) some people here that need to get the message but unfortunately don&rsquo;t know about it, or there are things going on in their lives that prevent them from coming,&rdquo; Feagins said.</p><p>The play manages to end on a positive note: It implies Queen and Ezekiel are able to end the cycle of domestic violence. After three decades of separation, Queen eventually forgives Ezekiel for his actions.</p><p><em>Karma</em> closes with a young bride&#39;s joyful laughter, and the two sides of the severed stage, the past and the present, coming together.</p></p> Fri, 30 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-church-offers-theater-therapy-104119 Alderman accuses bank of ‘redlining’ http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-alderman-accuses-us-bank-owner-%E2%80%98redlining%E2%80%99-103151 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5396_Mitts1-scr.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 279px; width: 250px; " title="Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th Ward, is angry about a plan by Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp to close a branch in her neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />An alderman on Chicago&rsquo;s struggling West Side is steamed about a plan by Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp to close a full-service branch in her neighborhood.</p><p>Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) said the company&rsquo;s decision to shut down its U.S. Bank outlet at 4909 W. Division St. blindsided her. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re leaving high-and-dry with no warning,&rdquo; she said, calling the process &ldquo;disrespectful.&rdquo;</p><p>The branch is an anchor of Austin, a mostly African-American neighborhood hit hard over the years by factory closings and, more recently, home foreclosures.</p><p>But Mitts said there is still plenty of banking business for company officials to keep the branch open. &ldquo;The money is good but they don&rsquo;t want to be in the neighborhood,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s redlining.&rdquo;</p><p>U.S. Bancorp spokesman Tom Joyce bristled at the alderman&rsquo;s accusation. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s off base and unfortunate,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2011, we put more than $152 million into affordable housing and economic development in metropolitan Chicago,&rdquo; Joyce said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re a proud citizen of the Chicago area and the Austin neighborhood and we&rsquo;ll continue to serve the neighborhood.&rdquo;</p><p>When the branch closes November 16, Joyce added, the company will leave an ATM and start shuttling seniors from that part of Austin to nearby U.S. Bank locations two or three times a month.</p><p>The branch on the chopping block was once part of Park National Bank, a&nbsp;commercial chain owned by Oak Park-based FBOP Corp. The chain was known for charity and investment in low-income areas. U.S. Bancorp acquired FBOP holdings as part of a 2009 federal rescue.</p><p>Austin community groups fought the U.S. Bancorp takeover. In 2011, bowing to pressure from the groups, the company agreed to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into affordable-housing efforts in Austin and Maywood, a nearby suburb.</p><p>U.S. Bancorp says it has 88 branches and 1,600 workers in the Chicago area.</p></p> Tue, 16 Oct 2012 05:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-alderman-accuses-us-bank-owner-%E2%80%98redlining%E2%80%99-103151 The Island, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/island-past-and-present-101472 <p><p>The Chicago neighborhood known as The Island is only about eight miles from the Loop.&nbsp;But it&rsquo;s the kind of place you won&rsquo;t find unless you are looking for it.&nbsp;And even then, you might miss it.</p><p>Go straight west out Madison Street.&nbsp;Just before you hit the suburbs, you arrive in Austin.&nbsp;This is Community Area #25, one of the city&rsquo;s largest in both area and population.&nbsp;The Island is the far southwest corner of Austin.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--The%20Island%2001.jpg" title="Roosevelt and Austin--you've found The Island!" /></div><p>Why call&nbsp;this neighborhood&nbsp;The Island?&nbsp;The name is explained by geography.</p><p>First of all, The Island is cut off from the rest of Chicago.&nbsp;To the north is Columbus Park and the Eisenhower Expressway &ndash; and even before the expressway was built, there were three rail lines at grade level here. Directly to the east is a major factory area.</p><p>So much for the connection to Chicago.&nbsp;What about the other two sides?&nbsp;To the south is a suburb, Cicero.&nbsp;To the west is another suburb, Oak Park.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--The%20Island%20map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>The result is an isolated neighborhood totally surrounded by alien territory&ndash;an island.</p><p>The precise boundaries of The Island are vague.&nbsp;Some locals claim that only the five residential streets count.&nbsp;Others want to include all of Census Tract 8314.&nbsp;To make things simpler, I&rsquo;m&nbsp;declaring that The Island is the area bounded by Austin, the Eisenhower, Central and Roosevelt.&nbsp;</p><p>When the Town of Austin was annexed by Chicago in 1899, The (future) Island came with it.&nbsp;Then the area was mostly vacant.&nbsp;The &quot;L&quot; came through shortly afterward, and the Chicago, Aurora &amp; Elgin interurban line.&nbsp;The 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) streetcar line was also extended to Austin Boulevard.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--California-style%20bungalows%20%28900-block%20S%20Mayfield%20Ave%29.jpg" title="California-style bungalows on Mayfield Avenue" /></div><p>The 1920s were the years for building.&nbsp;The blocks east of Austin Boulevard were filled&nbsp;in with bungalows and two-flats. The other side of Menard Avenue was zoned for factories.&nbsp;A ribbon commercial strip developed along Roosevelt Road. Around this time people began referring to the neighborhood as The Island.</p><p>A monumental event in local history took place on April 27, 1926.&nbsp;William McSwiggin, an assistant state&rsquo;s attorney, was gunned down as he left a speakeasy at 5615 West Roosevelt Road.&nbsp;The crime made national news and&nbsp;was never solved.&nbsp;Technically, McSwiggin died on the Cicero side of Roosevelt&ndash;but the killers did drive by on the Chicago side!</p><p>As a matter of record, two of The Island&#39;s most famous residents were gangsters. Ralph Capone and Sam Giancana both lived in the little enclave before moving to the suburbs. My onetime pastor, Father Bob McLaughlin, grew up in The Island some years later, so perhaps that evens things out.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--Two-flats%20%281100-block%20S%20Mason%20Ave%29.jpg" title="Two-flats on Mason Avenue" /></div><p>The Island was historically a white area. In 1984 the neighborhood made ugly headlines when an African-American family who&#39;d moved in was harassed and driven out. Today the population is integrated.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2012 The Island is home to about 1,700 people. The residential streets look much the same as always &ndash; quiet, clean and well-tended.&nbsp;The most notable changes have taken place in the industrial zone.&nbsp;Though some factories remain, many have been replaced by other types of business.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--Chicago%20Studio%20City.jpg" title="Chicago Studio City" /></div><p>A small shopping plaza has opened at Roosevelt and Central.&nbsp;The old Victor Products factory has been replaced by Hartgrove Hospital. Along Taylor Street, Chicago Studio City operates a 100,000-square-foot facility with three soundstages, the biggest film-making plant between the coasts.</p><p>The Island is also home to&nbsp;Olson Rug Company.&nbsp;Older Chicagoans fondly remember the park at the company&#39;s former headquarters on Pulaski Road.&nbsp;Now that&nbsp;the industrial land&nbsp;is being revitalized, is there a waterfall in the future for The Island?</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-10--Olson%20Rug%20Company.jpg" title="Olson Rug Company" /></div></p> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/island-past-and-present-101472 A unique street sign? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/unique-street-sign-100960 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Tree%20Street%20Sign.jpg" title="Central and Harrison, 1974" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I started taking pictures around Chicago in the 1950s, when I was still in grade school. Things only got worse when I went to work and could afford a good camera.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Going through some old slides recently, I ran across this picture. It is not a photo-shopped joke. Once upon a time, the City of Chicago really did nail a couple of street signs into a tree.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The location was a few feet into Columbus Park, where the busses from the Central and Harrison lines have their turn-around. I remember seeing the sign there for many years. When the city switched over to green street signs, they finally decided to invest in a pole. I don&#39;t know long the tree lasted.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This was the only tree street-sign that I ever saw in Chicago. But if anybody has memories of others, let me know.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/unique-street-sign-100960 Loretto Hospital registered nurses vote to unionize http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LorettoHospital2.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 248px; height: 328px;" title="The balloting enables the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to negotiate for 144 RNs at the hospital’s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave. (Flickr/Zol87)" /></div><p><em>Updated June 6, 2012, to include hospital management comments.</em></p><p>A union that has been trying for a decade to gain a foothold among hospital nurses in Chicago has won an election to represent 144 of them in the Austin neighborhood.<br /><br />Registered nurses at Loretto Hospital voted 80-37 to bring in Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The two-day vote, which ended Saturday, allows AFSCME to negotiate the pay, benefits and work conditions of RNs at the hospital&rsquo;s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave.<br /><br />&ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t have happy nurses, you don&rsquo;t have happy patients,&rdquo; said Kora Fields, an RN in the hospital&rsquo;s behavioral health unit who says she voted for the union.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live in the Austin area,&rdquo; Fields said. &ldquo;I grew up in the Austin area. My family comes to this hospital. My friends are treated here. I do love Loretto Hospital. But there needs to be increases in wages and we need to be respected as the professionals that we are.&rdquo;<br /><br />An AFSCME statement says pro-union nurses defied an &ldquo;aggressive anti-union campaign&rdquo; by Loretto management. The statement praises the nurses for their &ldquo;unwavering determination to improve patient care and ensure fair treatment on the job.&rdquo;<br /><br />Loretto spokesman Jim Waller called the hospital&rsquo;s nurse wages &ldquo;competitive for the marketplace&rdquo; and denied that management campaigned against AFSCME. &ldquo;We were just being clear what being in a union is and that what&rsquo;s paramount to us is patient safety,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Loretto, a 187-bed nonprofit facility, has helped lead an effort this year to exempt Illinois safety-net hospitals from proposed state Medicaid payment cuts.<br /><br />The vote, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, makes Loretto the second Chicago hospital whose registered nurses have unionized this year. In January, National Nurses United won an election to represent 150 at the South Side&rsquo;s Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.<br /><br />Until the Jackson Park election, unions had made little progress in Chicago-area hospitals except those owned by university and government entities.</p><p>The Loretto vote marks a rebound for AFSCME, which lost a bruising election battle last summer at the Northwest Side&rsquo;s Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center. RNs at that hospital voted against AFSCME after more than eight years of campaigning by the union.</p></p> Wed, 30 May 2012 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 'Safe Highways'--a 1925 traffic safety film http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-20/safe-highways-1925-traffic-safety-film-95568 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-19/safe highways image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today's film was produced in 1925 by the CTA's predecessor, Chicago Surface Lines. CSL wanted to educate the public on traffic safety, and was willing to smash a lot of cars to do so. As a result, much of the film is unintentionally hilarious.</p><p>What's interesting to the historian is the street scenes from nearly 90 years ago. The downtown sites are easy to identify.&nbsp; But the film also goes out into the neighborhoods. I've been able to place a few of these outlying locations (see below). If anyone recognizes other sites, let me know in the comments section.</p><p>1:50--Archer Ave at RR just east of Cicero. Conductor is flagging the streetcar across the tracks.</p><p>2:10--Cicero Ave at 22nd St (Cermak Rd). The old Western Electric complex is clearly visible. Notice that CSL ran two-car trains on some of the busier routes.</p><p>3:15--Cicero Ave at Erie. The Lucille Theater was at 653 N. Cicero Ave.</p><p>7:00--Possibly North Avenue. The center-of-the-street trolley poles are a clue.</p><p>8:14--Traffic signals were new in 1925, and the public was still getting used to them</p><p>9:20--Either Broadway or Clark Street. The streetcar is signed for Route 1.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/35332321?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601" frameborder="0" height="451"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-20/safe-highways-1925-traffic-safety-film-95568 With grocery bus, West Siders jump on health bandwagon http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-06-15/grocery-bus-west-siders-jump-health-bandwagon-87887 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-June/2011-06-15/P1010913.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit1.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>There’s a novel solution bringing relief to food deserts on Chicago’s West Side.</p><p>Sparing the expense of building a bricks and mortar grocery, a group has transformed a decommissioned CTA bus into a mobile, one-aisle produce mart. <a href="http://freshmoves.org/">Fresh Moves Mobile Market</a> carries a mix of conventional and organic fruits and vegetables to parts of Chicago that lack grocery stores and other viable options for healthy eating.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/Edit2.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>We caught up with the bus at the first of its Wednesday stops, in front of the Lawndale Christian Health Center on West Ogden Avenue.</p><p>Right now, Fresh Moves is in service two days a week, rotating between locations in North Lawndale and Austin. The climate-controlled bus will allow them to operate year-round, and Sheelah Muhammad, Fresh Move’s board secretary, says they hope to expand to six days a week. “We want to be like the ice cream truck,” Muhammad says. “You hear the bell and everyone comes running.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit3.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>The project’s senior manager, Dara Cooper, 33, says Fresh Moves uses <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/">standards set by the Environmental Work Group</a> to determine which fruits and vegetables they should carry as organic. “All of the fruits and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with pesticides - kale, collards, cherries, nectarines - we try to buy organic,” Cooper says. “Oranges, bananas, those kinds of things we can buy conventional.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit4.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit5.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Fresh Moves hopes to address a critical problem facing neighborhoods across Chicago.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.marigallagher.com/site_media/dynamic/project_files/Chicago_Food_Desert_Report.pdf">2006 study</a> found that African-Americans in Chicago had the fewest options when it came to grocery shopping, and that black neighborhoods like North Lawndale were among the most cut off from fresh produce. Mari Gallagher, the study’s author, found that in a typical African-American block, “the nearest grocery store is roughly twice as distant as the nearest fast food restaurant.” The impact, Gallagher writes, is severe: “Communities that have no or distant grocery stores…will likely have increased premature death and chronic health conditions.”</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit6.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Fresh Moves must keep prices competitive if they want to be a viable option for people in the low-income neighborhoods that most need their help. Theodore Thompson, 36, had just finished his morning run when he stepped onto the bus looking for something “nice and juicy” to help him rehydrate. Thompson lives in Lawndale and runs an afterschool program at nearby Lawndale Community Church. He says he found the prices on the bus to be very reasonable, “They actually beat the prices in some of the stores that I shop in,” he says, citing Sam’s Club, Food For Less and Jewel as places where he would normally go. “I’m looking at the mangoes. In the store you might have to pay $1.50 [per mango]. Here, it’s one dollar for one mango!</p><p><img alt="Thompson left with mangoes, plums, and avocados. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit7.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p><img alt="A Fresh Moves customer weighs her options, and her selection. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit8.jpg" title="" height="667" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit9.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Sales associate Jessica White weighs oranges at the register. In addition to cash and debit cards, Fresh Moves was recently approved to accept the Illinois LINK card, which allows food stamp recipients to pay for purchases electronically.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit10.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Sales associate Feguier Epps, 33, helps customer Caritina Almanza, 24, with her purchase. Almanza, who lives on the South Side in Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood, is one of several health center employees who shop on the bus. She is also a social worker who works with mothers and infants who has been recommending the bus to her clients. “I actually told one of my clients about it yesterday; She got excited,” Almanza says. “Having little ones, she’s trying to teach her baby to eat well.”</p><p><img alt="Almanza left with pineapple, broccoli, sweet potatoes and other goodies. " src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edi11.jpg" title="" height="667" width="500"></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit12.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>Marcella Fermoso, 48, lives in Oak Park, IL and works at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in the case management department. She prefers to buy organic, but finds stores like Whole Foods too expensive. “I’m coming back for sure,” she says.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-15/edit13.jpg" title="" height="375" width="500"></p><p>You can catch the bus Wednesdays and Thursdays for now. Click <a href="http://freshmoves.org/schedule/">here</a> for the full schedule.</p></p> Wed, 15 Jun 2011 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-06-15/grocery-bus-west-siders-jump-health-bandwagon-87887 The sounds and scene at South by Southwest http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-21/sounds-and-scene-south-southwest-84014 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-March/2011-03-21/Duran Duran Flickr Hans Watson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://sxsw.com/" target="_blank">South by Southwest</a> came to a close on Sunday. The annual festival in Austin, Texas, is both a group hug for the industry and a giant spectacle for fans. There were old and new bands. And old bands anew &ndash; this year saw comebacks from bands like The Strokes, Kid Rock and even Duran Duran.<br /><br />To sort it all out, <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><em>Sound Opinions</em></a> co-host and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis">WBEZ music blogger</a> Jim DeRogatis spoke to <em>Eight Forty-Eight.<br /></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Mar 2011 12:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-21/sounds-and-scene-south-southwest-84014