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Richard Steele goes to Bridgeport

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Maria’s Package Goods and Community Bar. (Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)

Guest hosting for Tony Sarabia gives me an opportunity to share a familiar Chicago story with you. It’s a part of WBEZ’s summer-long series on race called Race: Out Loud. When we looked at what would generate the most interest and inspire the best conversation, I thought about Bridgeport and the warnings my parents gave me back in the 1950s. We lived at 32nd and Calumet, which was just east of Bridgeport. I was told that if I valued my life, I should never ride my bike anywhere even close to Comiskey Park (now Cellular Field). There was no Dan Ryan Expressway back then, but all black people knew where the dividing line was. 

When WBEZ decided to do the Race: Out Loud series, I thought this was an opportune time to ask the question “can a neighborhood change”? The station agreed and we found the perfect Bridgeport location. It was a place called Maria’s Package Goods and Community Bar. They helped us get the word out by inviting everybody in the neighborhood was interested in having an honest conversation about race. We had a great turn-out, and now you’ll hear some of those comments Tuesday on Eight Forty-Eight.            

Joining me to talk about it are two Chicagoans who are very familiar with Bridgeport. Maureen Sullivan grew up there and has co-written a book called Bridgeport (Images Of America). Also joining the conversation  is Dominic Pacyga, a professor at Columbia College who grew up on the south side (Back Of The Yards) and has written a number of books about Chicago.              

Our other Eight Forty-Eight interview is with jazz saxophonist/flutist John Goldman. He’ll be playing music thru-out the program. He moved to Chicago almost 25 years ago. Over that period he’s worked with a number of accomplished jazz veterans in the windy city. Musically, John’s talents have been an excellent fit for Chicago. His musical ensemble called Quadrangle spotlights the talents of young musicians. This city has always been a fertile ground for new ideas. Goldman has collaborated with visual artists as well as his current exploration of music that blends jazz with hip-hop. He also plays every Sunday at St. Sabina where Pastor Micheal Pfleger has been pastor for many years. John Goldman’s most recent recording by Quadrangle is called Outside The Box.            

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