Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Welcome to Chicago and WBEZ, Jennifer White

New WBEZ staff member & Chicago resident Jennifer White
WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio station at 91.5 FM) has a new staff member, Jennifer White, who is joining The Morning Shift show (weekdays at 9am) and working with other aspects of the station.  She was introduced this morning on The Morning Shift. She mentioned that she recently moved from Michigan, and while she is currently in Oak Park, she is open to living elsewhere in the city. The Sixth Ward writer JP Paulus was inspired to write the following blog to ask her to consider moving to one of our neighborhoods.

You can follow Jennifer White on Twitter @JWhitePubRadio (she responds to your tweets!).

Here’s JP’s pitch. We welcome our readers to comment, or write your own response:

Welcome to Chicago and WBEZ, Jennifer White!
My name is JP Paulus, and I am an 8 year resident of Chatham on Chicago’s South Side, after living a decade in the multiethnic North Side neighborhood of Uptown. I grew up in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates and went to school at Northwestern University (living the city/suburb of Evanston during the summers). I am ½ white and ½ Asian, and my wife is African –American (with traceable Native American heritage), and 2 daughters who are a blend of us. I say all that so you get a sense of who I am, and the diversity of experiences in my life.

I heard your introduction on this morning’s edition of WBEZ’s The Morning Shift. Welcome to our city! I appreciate your openness to Chicago. While you’re currently enjoying the suburb of Oak Park, I appreciate your openness to get to know the city, and consider another place of residence.

I would like to make the pitch to live in my neighborhood of Chatham on the South Side of Chicago. It is one of several neighborhoods within the Sixth Ward (where this blog takes its name;  is not affiliated with any political organization. Also, since a recent ward re-map, we lost cover surrounding neighborhoods, such as where the blog’s founder lives)

The neighborhoods other people will tell you to live in Chicago are Downtown (which I would call Chicago’s 4th side) and the near north side. There are lots of positives, and some of the “popular” negatives include the lack of parking (or heavy cost of said parking), the high cost of everything (from food to day-to-day items), and the “whiteness” of those areas.
One of the problems I feel is that many people who hype these neighborhoods ignore other neighborhoods where "normal people" live. This includes frequent Morning Shift guest Dennis Rodkin, who is considered an expert in real estate. But he never makes the case that a neighborhood like Chatham should even be considered.  I think that’s a shame, and keeps good people away from my home and neighborhood.

I would also submit to you a negative of the "popular" most people have never even thought about – it doesn’t matter to anyone if you lived there, and more importantly, if wouldn’t matter if you left. The space you occupy in those neighborhoods would be filled so quickly people wouldn’t have known you left. The local economy wouldn’t suffer, and no one would feel “I lost a good friend.” 

In the neighborhood that I live (Chatham), your presence truly matters. Even you posterior matters. Sitting on a bench at a local park (such as at Ruggles school) would mean “scaring” away teenagers or adults drinking alcohol and sitting in the park, and encourage other families to spend some time in the park, as it was meant to be.

That may not sound so attractive, but it is little things that I have observed that make a difference in keeping a neighborhood safe and even thriving, versus letting things fall apart.

Chatham is a historic pre-dominantly African American middle class neighborhood. The culture of the neighborhood paralleled that of suburb Hoffman Estates at the same time I grew up there. As you get to know people, you will hear Chatham come up again and again as a place where many African Americans (both in the city and suburbs) have a connection to.

And even in the current culture, there is a lot of good in Chatham that white media misses. Where I live in Chatham, according to police statistics, is 4 times safer than where I lived on the North Side of Chicago in Uptown (where condominium apartments sell for nearly ½ million dollars)

We in Chatham may seem to be far away (if you look at the map, and consider geographic distances), but when you factor in real-time traffic (such as everyone who crosses the street downtown, barely allowing even one car to turn, with at least 5 or 6 waiting to turn), we are not that far away.

I would also like to remind you that Chatham is home to one of your colleagues, and the church home of another. More importantly, there is a WBEZ office (with studio) right in the neighborhood. So rather than fight the snow (as you might be seeing today), you can travel a short distance to work if need be.
Another resident, Jahmal Cole, leads a group called “My Block, My Hood, My City”, and you can join him and youth as they too explore the city, and its many neighborhoods.  

But even within our own community, there is so much to appreciate and experience. Our community is steeped in history. Our local library, the Whitney Young branch, was built by African-Americans, only after the community protested to make that happen. The school where my daughter attends, the level 1 Burnside Scholastic Academy, was at the forefront of desegregating Chicago Public Schools in the 1960’s (we have recently installed murals which show the historical struggle). Gospel legends Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson, who both had homes in the neighborhood, and historical markers, record that.

We have a restaurant that has been featured nationally (Brown Sugar Bakery) and a restaurant that provides services to senior citizens, but has a great café that is open to the public.

We even have our own “blue white house” (Google it with quotes), which has recently been purchased by a citizen who grew up here.
And once you get established, you can bring people (friends, family, colleagues and more) to Chatham and help them see the beauty and culture here, and by doing so, help residents past and present remember that as well, and revive this great neighborhood.

I know there are so many more issues to discuss, photos to display, stories to tell and many other factors to consider. But I hope I gave you an opportunity to really consider a neighborhood that most others wouldn’t even think about – even though they should.

Thank you for your time, and I hope to see you on our streets soon (well, at least after the snow melts)

P.S. One of the best ways to know Chicago is to visit locally owned restaurants. We have some local chains that represent our city (such as Lou Malnati’s for pizza, especially in Lawndale—a whole story there).  Plan it in your schedule to eat somewhere new about once a week. There are TV/media shows that can give you a flavor of the neighborhood. Chicago’s Best TV is one way to find those restaurants, and of course, it would make a great Morning Shift topic (especially for the “less popular” neighborhoods)!  

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