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The Rundown Podcast - PM Show Tile

Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news.

The Rundown Podcast - PM Show Tile

Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news.

To offset decades of racist housing policies, this Chicagoan is getting creative

Tonika Lewis Johnson calls her latest project – unBlocked Englewood – “a very unusual art project.” It involves beautifying the 6500 block of South Aberdeen Street in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood – though things like murals, gardens, gazebos and landscaping – that’s not the unusual part. “But,” she said, “if we were to just start doing art right away, it would be an insult to people on that block.” Johnson said the homeowners there, like so many other minority Chicagoans on the South Side, are still suffering from racist housing practices of the 20th century that devalued the land in those neighborhoods and prevented many from becoming homeowners in the first place. So Johnson did something a little different, by applying for grants from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events that would combine public art with home repairs. She got them. And the effects have been transformational, according to some of the residents of 65th and Aberdeen. In this episode, Johnson talked with Rundown podcast host Erin Allen about how she’s pulling it off, and why. “We can be as creative as we want when we’re trying to dismantle these systemic injustices,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.”

Stay in the loop with the Windy City’s biggest news.

   

Tonika Lewis Johnson calls her latest project – unBlocked Englewood – “a very unusual art project.”

It involves beautifying the 6500 block of South Aberdeen Street in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood – though things like murals, gardens, gazebos, and landscaping – that’s not the unusual part.

“But,” she said, “if we were to just start doing art right away, it would be an insult to people on that block.”

Johnson said the homeowners there, like so many other minority Chicagoans on the South Side, are still suffering from racist housing practices of the 20th century that devalued the land in those neighborhoods and prevented many from becoming homeowners in the first place. 

So Johnson did something a little different, by applying for grants from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events that would combine public art with home repairs. She got them. And the effects have been transformational, according to some of the residents of 65th and Aberdeen. 

In this episode, Johnson talked with Rundown podcast host Erin Allen about how she’s pulling it off, and why.

“We can be as creative as we want when we’re trying to dismantle these systemic injustices,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.”

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We can’t let National Transportation Week pass without revisiting our conversation with Lee Crooks. He’s basically a local celebrity, with a highly-recognizable voice. He’s been announcing stops on the CTA for 25 years. “It does become something of a legacy,” Crooks said. In this episode, he talks to host Erin Allen about trains, legacy and Midwest accents. And yes, we have him do the voice. This episode was originally published on Oct. 18, 2023.