The other day I read a magnificent article by writer, reporter and well-reputed “St. Louis commenter” Sarah Kendzior on the dangers of using art as a tool to cover over so-called urban blight. Her recent work has included a lot of incisive commentary on the cultural fallout of economic inequality. About a North Philadelphia art installation which proports to tackle the dilapidated area’s aesthetic by essentially covering it over she writes:
“People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by. Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised.
She offers a lot to think about in terms of how modernizes often fail to build inclusiveness into the mix as they conceptualize urban spaces and design a city’s future. In this case, art is being used – probably unwittingly, but used nonetheless – to assist the nefarious project of gentrification. It’s being used to cover over the process of pushing out people who have resided there for generations to make room for a new, but strangely familiar brand of hipster appropriators and colonizers.
In other words, it’s a pretty bad rap for art.
Taking up Sarah’s challenge to abandon this kind of superficiality and think about how art can, and should be used to bring people together instead of rip neighborhoods apart, I can’t help but think about the work of the Chicago Loop Alliance and their ACTIVATE series of downtown events. Tonight they will transform a downtown alley into a space for artists from around Chicago. Some of the artists are established, some lesser-known. Some are artists of color and those representing various minority communities around town. Not enough, but some. And that representation is growing as the event series becomes more popular.
The last ACTIVATE party (that’s really all it is, just a party y’all) took an alley section on Monroe between State and Wabash that Chicagoan have passed by perhaps thousands of times in our daily ramblings and made it into a space inviting all Chicagoans to enjoy some interesting (and sometimes a bit oddball) diverse multimedia sculptures, a few drinks, a DJ who could go from playing one track of ambient beats facilitating conversations between people who rarely get the chance to stop and talk to one another to spreading the gospel of Phantogram the next. It was a good show. It was art, and music, and business-people chatting with baristas, Occupy protesters having a cold one with non-profit pros. It wasn’t quite the North side hugging it out with the South side or the Gold Coast discovering the city west of Ashland. Not yet. But it’s getting there.
And now I still pass by that alley a couple times a week as I have for years. But instead of looking past it, it’s that place where they had that party that time and I met some very interesting people. Because why should cultural memory necessarily be connected places built for the purpose like Millennium Park or Wrigley? They can happen anywhere really.
Tonight they’ll be doing it again on State St between Lake and Randolph, 5 pm til 10. 21 and over can RSVP for a complimentary drink ticket, or bottled water for those of us inclined to temperance in our off hours. Why not stop by? Everyone’s invited, yes even hipsters. That’s the point.
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression welcomes renowned civil rights and prison reform activist Prof. Angela Davis to Chicago this weekend for a National Forum on Police Crime. The two days of events on Friday May 16th and Saturday the 17th will include: A forum on the fight against unaccountable police (Fri 9am) at University of Chicago International House (1414 E. 59th Street), the 2014 National Alliance Human Rights banquet (Sat 5pm)hosted by Trinity United Church of Christ (400 W. 95th St), and a rally following the banquet (Sat 7pm) with keynote address by Angela Davis.
Just before 6pm during a marathon legislative session SJR42 – a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the US Constitution and restore free and fair elections – passed the IL State Senate by a vote of 37 – 15. The resolution is now set to be introduced in the IL House soon after their spring recess.
The Illinois General Assembly took an important first step in standing against the widely unpopular fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Citzen’s United v. F.E.C. SJR42 passed a committee vote riding the energy of leadership in the assembly, and the backing of a new citizen group. This hearing was the Assembly’s introduction to Wolf-PAC Illinois.
Last Thursday the forecast for Chicago was snow once again. It’s late March and people who live in the city know the drill. The sparkling white dusting we get in December soon turns to piles and puddles of frozen slush. We spend January and February shoveling walkways, salting the walk, day after day a pure contest of wills between the unwarranted fury of old man winter and a city determined to get where it’s going and do what needs to get done. It’s tireless work, and by late February we’re looking at travel brochures. A glimmer of hope appears in March. Briefly things warm up, the slush thaws, we feel spring is on the way. And then, more snow.
It’s about the same with Illinois politics. The stories of the endless corruption beat voters down day after day. Springfield doesn’t share Chicago’s dilemma with weather, but when it comes to the murky piles of money and influence peddling, we’re in the same boat. And even when finally, we make some progress against it all – somehow we wind up right back where we started. Continue reading
Disagreement on who’s who in the Syrian war is a persistent obstacle to building consensus on what should be done. Some is born of ignorance, some is politically motivated. The tangle cannot be undone in a single article. But a better conversation is already taking place toward the larger goal of formulating real answers.
From the beginning of the Syrian war until now local organizers have worked tirelessly to bring awareness of the crisis. Amnesty International gathered at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration on January 26th for their Shine-A-Light on Syria event. Activists, advocates and musicians from across the country, some from around the world were on hand to demonstrate why now is the time to make peace the priority.
Yesterday I wrote a post here on Third Coast|Third World stating the agreement forged to rid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of its chemical weapons capability was a good start to what could become a more dynamic Syrian peace process. The gist of that piece was that Americans should get behind it even if they loathe many of the personalities involved. There wasn’t much response, but that’s to be expected when you pretty much keep your blog a secret.
Anyway, today, more reactions from smart observers, officials, and policy experts only increase my belief that there are some real benefits and some extraordinary possibilities within this process.
The debates over America’s response to the Assad regime’s chemical attacks on Syrian civilians were rife with vanity and cynicism. Now that the prospect of a military strike has been pushed back and real opportunities for international cooperation to end the killing in Syria present themselves are we too jaded to recognize them?
At about 6:45 pm Chicago Fire Department responded to a fire at an abandoned house on 96th and Genoa Ave. Though the house had no occupant, neighbors believed a homeless person may have been staying there as they reported seeing lights on at night recently. No one was in the building at the time of the fire. No word yet on exactly how it started.
Earlier today CFD rescued a 75 year old Chicagoan at another south side fire at 105th & Cottage Grove Ave. That rescue wascaught on camera.
Just a little something to remember the next time your local battalion comes around asking for donations.
It was a pretty bangin’ weekend for the first amendment in Chi-town. There were actions by IVAW for peace with Iran, an energetic March against TPP in Lakeview, and a demonstration supporting besieged Syrians in the West Loop, among others.
If you didn’t see any of this on the evening news, Congratulations! Now you know why I write this blog thing.
ThinkProgress reports that this flowchat – supposedly meant to help people figure out if someone is a racist – was posted on the Iowa GOP Facebook page recently. Pretty boneheaded, but that’s not why I’m posting about it.
Look at the response by facebook user, Alex Patch in the comments. If you’re having trouble reading it in the screenshot he writes:
“Who manages this page? This is an incredibly stupid and counterproductive post — how does this advance the conservative cause or the gop platform? It doesn’t. Instead it makes people of color feel unwelcome in our party and…”
Good on Alex for standing up to this nonsense. But how much longer will Republican voters who aren’t racists put up with this before they just up and leave already? If you’re a Republican and you’re not a racist, congratulations. But recognize your leaders are. Isn’t it time to support (or better yet, to form) a political organization that doesn’t make you ashamed to be associated with them?