Request For Proposal Presentation Summary

“Eco- Tourism: Chicago as a Future Sustainable Green Global Metropolis of the World”

Team members

  • Olu Oluduro
  • Alejandro Rojas
  • Cody Fallico

Infrastructure and Transportation

Our group’s decision to select this option was based on careful critical research and a clear agenda to determine what would best increase Chicago’s standing as a Global city.  Our first set of investigations was to examine all the characteristics of a global city and establish a concise justification as to why we believed that investing in infrastructure + transportation would be the best avenue through which Chicago could achieve that goal.

In order to also clarify several of the points that I will make in this blog post, I have taken the liberty of uploading our RFP presentation online at ISSUU.com.   Please click on the following link to access the PDF version.

First, what constitutes a global city?   What are the elements that define a global city?  Most importantly, how can one increase the status of a municipality from being just a large city to become a global city that exhibits diversity, creativity, sustainability and technological advancement?

To respond effectively to these questions,  we examined Chicago’s history, Chicago’s available resources (including human capital resources, natural resources, and socio-economic resources);  and the projected effects of investing in these resources.   Following this, we coined our summary presentation as “Eco- Tourism: Chicago as a Future Sustainable Green Global Metropolis of the World

Global City Definition

Quote from What is a Global City? by Aaron M. Renn

“I sense that these rankings attempt to look at global cities in four basic ways:

  1. Advanced producer services production node. This is basically Sassen’s original definition. I think this one remains particularly important. Because the skills are specialized and subject to clustering economics, the cities that concentrate in these functions have a Buffett-like “wide moat” sustainable competitive advantage in particular very high value activities. For cities with large concentrations of these, those cities can generate significantly above average economic output and incomes per worker.
  2. Economic giants. Namely, this is a fairly simple but important view of that simply measures how big cities are on some metrics like GDP.
  3. International Gateway. Measures of the importance of a city in the international flows of people and goods. Examples would be the airport and cargo gateway figures.
  4. Political and Cultural Hub. An important distinction should perhaps be made here between hubs that may be large but of primarily national or regional importance, and those of truly international significance. For example, there are many media hubs around the world, but few of them are home to outlets like the BBC that drive the global conversation.”

 (Fromhttp://www.newgeography.com/content/003292-what-is-a-global-city)

Thus, using the information above, our comprehensive definition of what defined a global city was that we believed it to be an international hub of economy, diversity and sustainability.  We also consider a global city to be an international hub for the efficient flow of goods, services and creative people.   It must also be an international hub for the arts, entertainment, culture and politics.

Now that we understood what Chicago as a global city should be, our agenda was to then research and understand the order of priorities needed for Chicago to achieve that goal.   The proposal we drafted was to create a new global Chicago by building various innovative Eco-sustainable infrastructure that will create jobs, improve the economy of the region and re-affirm its place as a Global city for tourism.    Speaking of tourism in Chicago, we found out that the number of annual tourists has gradually been increasing over the past five years and we predict that there will be a rapid increase over the next five years.

Summary of our presentation:

  • Introduction
  • History of Chicago being innovative
  • Justifications – Why should the municipality of Chicago select our proposal?
  • The facts about Infrastructure we need to build
  •    —Trains- evolving to high speed electric trains and making us a hub again
  •    —Green spaces – Evolving our parks into centers of arts and culture
  •    —Biking – Chicago has always been a cyclist city
  •    —Roads – Improve our roads and bridges issue
  •    —Water and the fresh water content of the Great Lakes
  •    —Utilizing Wind and Solar sources as renewable energy
  •    —Vertical Hydroponics + Urban farming from harvesting rain water
  •    —Sewer systems

History of Chicago being innovative

The history of Chicago is filled with several innovations in infrastructure.  One primary example is the 96 mile Illinois – Michigan Canal which created the waterway connection to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.  When it was completed in 1848, it helped secure Chicago’s place on the map on the world as a new central hub for trade, commerce and social development.   Then of course, there was Ellis  Chestbrough who reversed the Chicago River and designed the innovative sewer system, the first of its kind in the United States of America.  The reversal of the Chicago River in 1900 was a global engineering feat; and was very integral in establishing a lasting solution to the sanitary issues facing the city’s fresh water supply.

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Yet another example is Chicago’s railway system, which again exhibited Chicago’s incredible resilience, ambition and spirit of innovation.   Robert Spinney’s book “City of Big Shoulders – a history of Chicago”  does a brilliant job at describing how the invention and innovation of its railway system helped develop Chicago into a global metropolis within a century.   Online research explains that by December 1921, Chicago had the greatest railway system in the world (according to an article in Chicagology titled “Chicago The Greatest Railway Center in the World” By Robert J. McKay, Vice-President for Fort Dearborn National Bank)

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As discussed in my first blog post, “History has repeatedly taught us that when a new city can find a way to feed and water itself, its citizenry become inspired to sustain their new home.   I tentatively think one of the earliest keys to the success of this new city was the drive for food in the form of grain; thus, McCormick’s invention of the reapers and Ogden’s railroads helped expand Chicago’s strive for securing its place as the grain and meat center of the continent.  The industrialization of its early factories then helped to keep its residents employed, thus preventing large-scale emigration from Chicago.”

These are but a few of the examples of all the innovations that have occured in Chicago’s history and it is only fitting that the city starts to prioritize investing in our infrastructure once again.  Afterall, if you build it, they will come.

The “Why” about investing in our transportation and Infrastructure

  • Construction of these infrastructures mean jobs which means economic progress; which in turn means an avenue of increasing the number of the creative class
  • For every $1 billion that the government invests in infrastructures, 47,000 jobs are created and generates $6.2billion in economic activity. (Source for this data is directly from the Economic Policy Institute and several other government websites)
  • The cost of investing in our train transportation system will be about $9.6 billion, which will create almost half a million jobs.

Quote from the 2011 Economic Study by Midwest High Speed Midrail Association 

“As the world’s fifth largest economy, (at $2.6 trillion and approximately equal to France, only the U.S., Chinese, Japanese and German economies are larger) the Midwest possesses a diverse manufacturing, agricultural and business services base anchored by nine major metropolitan areas. High speed rail (HSR) will have a transformative impact that will unify the Midwest and solidify its future position as one of the world’s most powerful economic mega-regions”.   The image below shows some of the primary benefits of investing in a high speed rail system.

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The economic impact would be staggering. New jobs and business opportunities will support and enhance the Midwest’s global competitiveness by linking the financial, educational, technology and medical research resources of the entire region to produce:

  • $13.8 billion per year increase in business sales for the Chicago Metro area alone,
  • 104,000 new jobs and an additional $5.5 billion in wages each year in the Chicago Metro area resulting from increased economic activity,
  • $314 million in new annual visitor spending in downtown Chicago.

New jobs in the Chicago metropolitan area alone represent $118 billion in wages over 30 years, and the new business sales generated by economic activity associated with the HSR system are estimated to be almost $300 billion over 30 years.  The new terminals and train stations, for instance at Union Station, would generate a highly efficient transportation system for the movement of people, commerce, goods, services and tourism.

Crossrail images

According to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s 2011 study, “The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest,” a four-spoke, 220-mph bullet train network linking Chicago to Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis would serve 43 million annual riders and generate over $2 billion in ticket revenue alone.

The image below shows how Chicago will be one of the main central hubs for the high speed train network when it gets implemented and it will connect Chicago to all the other major cities in the MidWest and to the rst of the nation..

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Easing the CTA train bottleneck  at the Loop

Our research uncovered the fact that the current train routes of the CTA is wholly inefficient, especially when trying to get around the city between two extreme points.    This makes commuters waste time and adds to the overcrowding issues at all the main transfer stops.  Hence, an investment in expanding the routes will create more efficient routes that are direct links to the airports, suburbs and other places of interest.  The ideal scenario is that it will promote tourism, increase diversity of the populace and integrate the various neighbourhoods of the city.  Below, the image on the left shows the current train route system in place and on the right is the proposed system with the expanded routes that will also connect to the airports..

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What about a adding additional lightrail train systems?

Using lightrail trains to create a new “Stroll” in each neighborhood by utilizing Denver’s FreeMetro Mall system will also be a highly desirable attribute to have in each of the main neighboorhoods of Chicago (more on this is covered in the Conclusion section below).  During our visit to Bronzeville, we were able to learn about the histories of ‘The Stroll” and how it impacted its community during the ealr part of the century.    Using the free Denver system here in Chicago will be a great oppurtunity to increase its vibrancy and its diversity.

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Improving economic activity helps improve diversity

  • Improving diversity because it improves Creativity which in turn expands the human capital of our city (a key component in driving technological innovation)
  • Improving our infrastructure will enhance co-operation between all the cities around the Great Lakes
  • Tourists will come to explore the architecture of not just our buildings but also our infrastructures and a new efficient transportation will ensure seamless movement of people around the city.

Why Invest in our Great lakes?

By 2050 almost 40% of the world is expected to face water shortages and the Greak Lakes already possesses over 20% of the global fresh water supply

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Why invest in our roads?

  • Roads have always been a key factor in the efficient transporation of goods and services.  In addition, it sustains an efficient method of moving people from place to place.  The city could use more efficient electric buses which will lower emissions; and improve the comfort, ridability and aesthetics of the CTA fleet.

Bus Infrastructure

We propose a new bus system that services high traffic commercial and retail industries, recreational and festival locations.  This system essentially runs along a single street or simple route picking up passengers and dropping them off a couple blocks away.  The system is in constant motion during active hours and is free of charge.  This new bus system allows easy travel stopping every block and offers free access to anyone.

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  • It must be noted that Chicago currently has a very overcrowded public transportation system that creates stressful conditions especially during heavy rush hour periods.
  • From a psychological viewpoint, this is not mentally or socially healthy for Chicago residents and eventually begins to affect productivity at work.  One possible solution for this could be to adopt the Straddler bus system currently being developed in China

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  • Investing in our roads and improving their conditions to be Green and sustainable will help alleviate those problems.  This will also encourage more poeple to either ride their bikes or use electric cars

Green roads

Biking Infrastructure

Chicago’s history included the first women cyclists.  We propose an upgrade to the biking routes and boulevard system in Chicago.  This boulevard system will consist of only pedestrians and cyclists.  It will become a beautiful stroll for people to enjoy, relax, ride and recreate.  This system gives the streets back to the people rather than the car.  Ultimately, this system leads to healthy and sustainable lifestyles helping Chicago become the greenest high-density urban urban development in the world.

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  • In addition, our proposal shows that an investment in several of the abandoned parking lots in the city could be converted into solar parks to help generate solar energy for the electric cars

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  • Finally, investing in our roads will help bring back the essence of the Boulevards which were the first of its kind in the United States.

Solar Infrastructure

We propose that more of our buildings in the ciy should start using BIPVs (Building Integrated Photovoltaics) which can convert rooftops, windows and sidewalls of existing buildings into solar energy generation points.

BIPV images (2)

Green Infrastructure

Chicago is well known for its parks systems and its innovative Boulevard system.  We want the city to be able to continue maintaining them while using some of the suggestions in our proposal to utilize them more often.   Investing in the renovation of old abandoned buildings around the city into centers for vertical farming will also help increase agricultural production, employment, support local farmers, increase sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint.

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Green Water Infrastructure

We live in an area which surrounds a natural fresh water resevoir known as Lake Michigan. As Chicagoans we take this easily accessible water source for granted.  Due to the lack of soft scape within the high density urban hard scape, none of the rain water is permitted to infiltrate through to groundwater.  Groundwater is the main source of potable water for communities.

To deal with this we propose the introduction of permeable surfaces to permit water into the ground, rendering the black asphalt obsolete.  Another issue in chicago is that we have, a once glorified, combined sewer system.  This means that all run-off water and gray water is mixed with the black water on the way to being directly dumped back into the lake.  This is a problem.  We must rework the sewer systems so that the water can be naturally filtered through vegetation and soil before being put into our clean lake.

“Building on years of innovative environmental programmes, the City of Chicago is now developing community plans and cradle-to-cradle systems that will make it an international model for cities seeking designs that allow industry and ecology, human settlements and the natural world to flourish side by side.”  (William McDonough and Michael Braungart)

Conclusion

Our group listed several innovative infrastructures and transportation options that the city could invest in; however, great investments always come with a large price tag.   The question then became which ones should we invest in first?  How do we establish a priority of investment that will improve diversity, creativity and sustainability while also evolving Chicago into a Global city?

One of the first options that we thought would be a great starting point was to adopt the excellent FreeMetro Ride system that was implemented in Denver, Colorado.  The way it works is that the buses and lightrail trains run passengers for free along a long stretch of city attractions.   Bringing this system to Chicago and implementing it in each of the main neighboorhoods will help to develop a new modern day version of Bronzeville’s Stroll; a lovely long stretch of commerce, malls, smaller shops, bars, entertainment, arts and culture that will rapidly improve diversity.  Once these were in place, we could then expend our investments into  expending the CTA routes system and then into the speedrail system.

Secondly, we also thought that our proposal for tempoary street closures (using portable green turf-grass mats) would be a great method of bringing a vibrant feel to neighborhoods and the city in general.  This would promote diversity within the neighboorhoods and exhibit Chicago’s dedication to being a Green city.

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Finally, we thought that the further development and careful conservation of our fresh water supply was key in maintaining our current infrastructures.   This will also be very critical in helping us kickstart the renewable energy program that would promote Chicago as a Green global city.

 

Reference material and online sources:

Water

Trains and Buses

Green Infrastructure for sustainability

The value of infrastructure investment

Bronzeville Excursion

On April 16th, 2015, we conducted a highly educational excursion into Bronzeville.  It was a unique experience that revealed a vast amount of artistic, social, cultural, ethnic and political  elements that all contributed to the rapid rise, decline and gradual resurgence of this incredible neighborhood.   Our group visited several places that had a lot of significances; however, before describing our journey, a brief history is necessary so that one can really emphasize with our experience.

Location and brief history

The Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago is located south of the main downtown area just beyond the environs of Chinatown.   From municipal documents, its northern boundary is East 26th street and its southern boundary is East 51st street (although some maps show a more conservative southern edge that ends at 47th street).

map

A brief research into the history of the area establishes that it is also called the Black Metropolis, and was the main region in the city of Chicago that attracted African Americans after they began to immigrate to Chicago following the abolition of the slave trade.  The place has a very rich culture and several famous jazz musicians, ethnic activists and artists emerged from here.

Bronzeville

One of the significances of the rapid growth of this neighborhood was that even though it was segregated, it was a place where African Americans could send their children to school, where they could hold poilitical office, and where they could eventually thrive very successfully.  This allowed the African Americans to have their own enterprises that florished.  This included their own banks, insurance companies, enterprises and even their own local newspaper.   With all these social dynamics in place, several promiment African Americans emerged:

  • Gwendolyn Brooks, who published poetry in the Chicago Defender
  • Andrew Rube Foster,  creator of the Negro League Baseball
  • Walter T. Bailey, the first licensed African-American architect in the state of Illinois
  • Louis Armstrong, who sang at the Sunset Cafe

Speaking of Armstrong, another very important element in the history of Bronzeville is that the culture of Jazz developed here.  It must be emphazised that this was also where Gospel choir music was born and properly organized (at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on 4501 South Vincennes Ave).   It is also interesting to note that another famous blues musician, Bo Diddley, learned how to play music here.

The African Americans in Bronzeville created their own kind of music that had some of its foundations in soul, jazz and the blues.  Research revealed that jazz was initially preferred by the upper class of African Americans who had already settled in Bronzeville while blues was preferred by the newer immigrants from the South who were initially considered the less privileged class of African Americans..

Nonetheless, this neighborhood became the Jazz capital of the world and there was also a famous area called “The Stroll”.    In the decade spanning 1910 to 1920, “The Stroll” was the name of a particular stretch of State Street that ran between East 26th Street and East 39th Street.   It boasted a wide variety of artistic, intellectual and commercial amusement for the neighborhood

the stroll

(Image Courtesy of Bronzeville Wiki)

Thus, Bronzeville indeed thrived very well until the late 1930s when the Great Depression affected much of the commerce in the area and bankrupted many of the African American owned businesses.   A few years later, the city of Chicago built the massive Ida B Wells housing projects that was bordered on the west by King Drive, 37th Street to the north, 39th Street to the south and Cottage grove to the East.   Unfortunately, the Ida B. Wells project residences ended up becoming overcrowded and crime-ridden.  This would eventually contribute to the blight that affected the area over the next few decades.

Fortunately, the community has began to see resurgence in commerce and tourism.  This was evident as we made our tour from East 26th street all the way to Pershing road (39th street).  We began our tour at the intersection of East 26th street and Martin Luther King Drive.  Additional research and documentaries explained that King Drive used to be called the Grand Boulevard in the past when the city of Chicago began its urban renewal program to develop its network of parks and green spaces.

Moving along however, at 27th and King Drive, we saw the Great Immigration statue which signified the many thousands of African Americans who migrated from the southern states to Chicago during the early part of the 20th century.  The statue faces north to emphasize the direction of the immigrants that made their way to Chicago; and it also represented their search for freedom and an oppurtunity to make a better life for themselves.   What is interesting is how the statue is clad in shoe soles.  The soles symbolize the very difficult journey that the African Americans had to make from the southern states of the United States to the city of Chicago in the north.

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The image on the right is the plaque on the ground below the statue.  Directly opposite the statue is a lovely crafted bench with “Bronzeville” etched into it.

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Just a few blocks away, we were able to notice several signs of a resustitating community.  This was due to the number of new residential developments that we saw as we headed south on King Drive towards 31st street

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Then we saw the Praire Shores complex of high rise residences which made their presence known starting from around 28th Street on King Drive.

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By the time we arrived at 30th Street, we decided to stop and visit Dunbar Park which was named after Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906).  He was a famous African American poet, novelist and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Next, we arrived at Christ the Mediator Lutheran chruch on 31st and Calumet.  This was one of the several churches that we found in the community and it was an example of how the religion of Christianity continues to be very prevailent in the neighbourhood

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The importance of churches in the area could be seen by how many were congregated within just blocks from one another.   Just across this church was the Olivet Baptist church at 3101 South King Drive, with its undoubtedly beautiful architecture.    Completed in 1850, the significance of this church was that it is the oldest African American Baptist church in Chicago and also played a major role during the period of the Great Immigration.  It is also important to note that several of the church’s elders, pastors and congregation have always been very influencial in local, municipal, state and even national politics.

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Proceeding along, we located Camp Douglas at 33rd and King Drive.    This site used to be one of the largest Union Army prisoner-of-war camps for the Confederate soldiers that were taken prisoner during the American Civil War.

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As we continued our tour, we were also very keen about the superb architecture of the old stone mansions that lined King Drive.  What was again interesting to note was how some of these homes had been replaced by newer, more modern contempoary residences that once more reflected the gradual resuscitation of the neighbourhood

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Not far from here, we found the location of the old Sunset Cafe at 315 East 35th Street, around 35th street and Calument (which is now a hardware store).  The Sunset Cafe used to be a highly popular jazz spot where even Louis Armstrong played and at the peak of its popularity, it was one of the most famous jazz clubs in the United States.  Another reasons why the place was so popular was because it had the “Black and Tan” club which was where all types of ethnicities could integrate and intermingle freely with one another.

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This helped to give us a visual of how the neighborhood had changed so much over the past several decades while also putting into context the effects of socio-economical degradation or decay on a community.  Another interesting example of this could be seen from the way the community seemed to turn more religious as a form of solace as the area got more blighted.  For instance, just a few blocks from the old Sunset cafe, we saw two churches together side by side next to several vacant lots

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After we returned towards 35th Street and Giles, we found the Eighth Regiment Armory building at 3533 South Giles.  The significance of this building being placed on the National Register of Historical Places is that it was the very first armoury in the United States that was purposely built for an African-American military regiment.  The regiment was known as the Fighting Eighth and today, it is a public high school military academy.

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We then made our way to the  Stephen A. Douglas tomb at 636 East 35th Street.  Stephen Arnold Douglas (April 23, 1813 – June 3, 1861) was a Democratic party Senator and politician.  He ran against Abraham Lincoln during the Presidential election and lost.  Camp Douglas which we visited earlier was named in his honor.

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After this, we visited the Ida B. Wells – Barnett House located at 3624 South King Drive.  It was the residence of the famous civil rights advocate, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931).  She was a famous African American female activist, editor, suffragist and sociologist.   She was also a very skilled rhetorician who spoke fiercely on behalf of women.   Furthermore, she made several efforts to properly document lynching in the United States which exhibited evidence that it was a practice that was a method of punishing African Americans who dared to compete with Caucasians in society.  

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Next stop was the Victory monument at 35th Street and King Drive.  The monument was built in 1927 to honor the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard.  This particular regiment was an African-American unit that bravely served in Europe (France to be exact) during the First World War.    It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

IMG_20150416_110313Pearl’s Place Restaurant on 3901 South Michigan was where we eventually ended up to eat after a very exhasuting day.   All three of us in my group unanimously declared to have the all you can eat buffet for $13.00 which turned out to be extremely delicious.

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In conclusion, the excursion was a fanstastic insight into the rich history, culture and traditions of Bronzeville, the “Black Metropolis”.  Our experiences while walking the streets afforded us the oppurtunity to talk to people about their recollections on how they visualize the area over the next five to ten years.

As for the feel of the neighborhood, we were able to notice how vibrant the community was (especially on King Drive).  The demographics still continues to be predominantly African American; however there were a lot of Asian and Caucasian students around the Prairie Shores complex.  The religious centers will also continue to be a staple of the community (I still find it unfortunate that we were not able to go inside one of the churches to view the interior)

I also tentatively predict that the presence of the thriving commerce on 35th street will likely continue to be one factor that will help regenerate economic flow to the community over the next few years.  Having the Comiskey Park nearby will also act as another element to help maintain an active source of sports entertainment.

In addition, several residential redevelopment projects in the area including the presence of institutions like the De La Selle High school, the military academy, Illinois Tech and the College of Optometry will likely continue to contribute to the educational sustenance of the area.

 

Reference material

Group Neighborhood Visit Summary

Bucktown and Hyde Park Group

Team members

  • Olu Oluduro
  • Alejandro Rojas
  • Cody Fallico

Brief Description

Hyde Park: Boundaries

  • North: 51st Hyde Park Blvd (people argue 47th)
  • South: 60th Midway Plaisance
  • East: Cottage Grove Ave Washington Park
  • West: Lake Michigan

Bucktown: Boundaries

  • North: Chicago River up to W Diversey Pkwy
  • South: W Division Street
  • East: Chicago River/ Kennedy Expressway
  • West: N Western Avenue

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Brief History

Hyde Park History:

The official website for the Hyde Park Historical Society explains that the area was initially purchased by Paul Cornell after he arrived in Chicago in 1847.  He was the cousin of Ezra Cornell who founded Cornell University and was likewise a successful individual with skills as a lawyer and entrepreneur.  Within a few years of his arrival in Chicago, he made several powerful friends in government and through the advice of one of his new influential friends, Senator Stephen Douglas; he decided to invest in land in the southern part of the city.

By 1853, he had purchased 300 acres of land near the lakefront area towards Lake Michigan and decided to christen the area as “Hyde Park Village”, after the park of the same name in London, England.  The clever method by which he populated the community was by convincing several wealthy Chicago families to build second residences in his new village and by also constructing a new hotel.  In time, the area flourished and was finally annexed to the City of Chicago by 1889.

Cornell also saw the potential of using the area as an important landmark for Chicago during the World Columbian Exposition.

Bucktown History

Bucktown has been established since the early 1800’s.  The name comes from Polish settlers.  As industry came to Bucktown in the 1850’s, the residence began to change.   “Bucktown and Wicker Park features a mix of elaborate residences built by affluent residents and more modest homes typical of the period, this community of German, Eastern European, and Scandinavian immigrants was home to merchants and labor activists alike in the late 19th century.”  Originally the boundary of Bucktown and Wicker Park was Armitage.  But, the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 caused a large growth of both residential and commercial infrastructure.

Wicker Park encompasses a larger area than it did a few decades ago.  Wicker Park includes the old Polish neighborhood which then changed to a more Latino neighborhood and now it is turning into a very Yuppie neighborhood.  Many different ethnicities have lived in the area of Bucktown and Wicker Park but as of now, it is primarily affluent white families.

Boundaries

Hyde Park’s boundaries are much more apparent.  The easternmost edge of Hyde Park is Lake Michigan which has a very definitive line.  The southern part of Hyde Park is the University of Chicago filled with educational and athletic facilities.  The western edge is clearly defined by numbers of vacant lots and run down buildings and the diversity of people becomes non-existent.  To the north is Kenwood, arguably part  of Hyde Park especially since the growth of Hyde Park has developed housing units in Kenwood.

Bucktown’s boundaries are slightly blurred.  Bucktown’s southern boundary is technically North Avenue but it seems to encompass Wicker Park.  Wicker Park and Bucktown share the commercial districts and nightlife along the main roads.  This helps blur the two communities into one.

Demographics

Hyde Park has a high amount of diversity from several different types of ethnic groups.  The presence of several types of businesses and the close proximity of the University of Chicago also helps to draw in a very diverse demographic. It includes both younger and older professionals, students, educational professionals, artists and a lot of medical personnel

In Bucktown we saw a lot of younger couples and families. Similar to Hyde Park, there is also some measure of diversity but not as much.  Both neighborhoods however have areas that are very affluent.

Shops and Services

Hyde Park

In terms of shops and services for Hyde Park, it is extremely diverse.  On one block in the commercial area, a chinese restaurant can be found next to a hispanic one next to Jamaican, etc.  Even within the housing areas, within a single block one can see an Asian, an African, an Indian and a white Anglo-Saxon. The University definitely contributes to the diversity within Hyde Park.  It is a university town and affluent neighborhood.

Bucktown

Bucktown is a town which places importance in beauty, comfortability and recreation.  Along the commercial corridors run restaurants, bars, clothing and furniture stores.  Yoga, tanning beds and medical care centers can be found in multiple places within Bucktown.  Bucktown is a much more gentrified area in comparison to Hyde Park because one would only find white Anglo-Saxons and perhaps a few Hispanics.

Art and Architecture

People in Hyde park are more diverse and live together in the Chicago Courtyard Apartments. In Bucktown it is the complete opposite. Every house in Bucktown is different. There are new houses with modern designs sitting next to old greystone houses. We saw that the people living in these homes were mostly young white affluent families. The courtyard apartments in Hyde Park do have some variation but they all have the same concept. The u-shape of these apartments give the residents a common space where you frequently see your neighbors.

One of our group members has actually lived in one of these apartments. He said that he felt very safe and knew a lot of his neighbors. The apartment that he lived in had thick wall that did not allow great cell phone reception. This meant that people had to move outside to the courtyard in order to make their calls. After they were done with their calls, they had a chance to mingle with other neighbors and talk about how bad their cellphone provider was. A lot of opportunities like these gave the residents a chance to know each other and become closer as a community.

Bucktown and Hyde Park both have large mansions that were built by wealthy Chicago families of the past. Hyde Park still has a lot of important people living in these Mansions, like President Barack Obama. The Large houses were also built to have apartments on each floor. It was customary to have the children move into the upper floors to when they married and started their own families. One of our group members says that these houses now have been easily split up to different apartments with separate tenants.


Religious and Cultural Institutions

Hyde Park (Religious)

Hyde park has a mix of several religious and cultural institutions which helps to exhibit its vast diversity.  For instance, the oldest Jewish congregation in Chicago is located at 1100 E Hyde Park Blvd, Chicago, IL 60615 (which also happens to be almost directly opposite President Obama’s House).  There is also a large Mosque on 47th Street as well as several churches around the neighbourhood.

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Bucktown (Religious)

Bucktown on the other hand has a much smaller Jewish religious place of worship and the only one we found was at 1630 N Milwaukee Ave (called the Chabad synagogue of Bucktown/Wicker Park)

Hyde Park (Cultural)

The DuSable Museum of African American History is the first and oldest museum dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art.  It is located at 740 E. 56th Place at the corner of Cottage Grove Avenue.  Although it is technically on the western edge of Hyde Park, it still remains a popular cultural institution serving the neighbourhood.

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Bucktown (Cultural)

The nearest cultural institution that we found was the Polish Museum of America which is actually located on 984 North Milwaukee Avenue Chicago.  Although it is nearer to West Town than Bucktown, its location on Milwaukee Avenue allows it to serve the Bucktown and Wicker park neighbourhood.  It is one of the oldest Polish ethnic museums in the United States

Polish-Roman-Catholic-Union-now

Summary and reflection:  How do we see Hyde Park and Bucktown evolving over the next five to ten years?

One of the tentative conclusions that we consolidated from our visit is that the neighborhood of Hyde Park will continue to remain very diverse due to the current demographics and the ever increasing appeal that it gives to new working professionals.  Unlike Bucktown that is mainly made up of affluent young families of Caucasian descent, Hyde Park has several different types of ethnicities and a wider range of age groups.  In other words, Hyde park is diverse in every sense of the word: age groups, ethnicity, socio-economic status, professional backgrounds, and social outlook.

Bucktown is becoming more and more expensive.  Hipsters used to live in Bucktown but due to the increasing expenses the hipsters have moved and are moving to Logan Square.  Bucktown will be a much more assimilated and gentrified area in Chicago filled with affluent families, beautiful houses and fun recreational activities and nightlife.

We also tentatively predict that Bucktown will continue to be one of the central areas for the hipster movement and the neighborhood will likely still continue to thrive with a robust night life.   In addition, as the young families currently residing there gradually grow older, they will likely migrate to the suburbs.

For Hyde park, the presence of the University of Chicago will also continue to give the area a lot of educational, financial and political clout because the institution has always been a main juggernaut when it came to making major decisions that affected the progress of the neighborhood.  Having a lot of nobel prize winners, students and faculty that live in the area will continue to maintain the neighborhood as a congregation of intellectuals.  The fact that there is a large number of very wealthy and politically connected individuals that reside in the area will ensure that favourable policies that favour the neighborhood will continue to be established.  Most importantly, the unique diversity of the neighborhood will ensure that it will continue to expand as a residential area for the Creative class.

We also predict that the main businesses on 53rd and 55th streets will continue to thrive and expand only along those streets. This is because these streets have always acted as the main arteries that have traditionally been the mercantile districts of the area.   However, it must be noted that It is unlikely that several of the other main streets will become commercialized, for instance, like Lincoln Park.  The reasoning behind this is that Hyde Park has always been historically designed to have only certain main streets as its commercial centers while the remainder of the area was gentrified from the onset.

On the other hand, areas like Bucktown and Lincoln Park have several more major streets that splice through their urban fabric and this attracts more businesses to be placed on those routes.  One could argue that this is one of the secondary reasons why the new office buildings built on the corner of 53rd and Lake park were intentionally designed to be multi story structures.  This way, more floor space for businesses could be utilized within just those areas rather than allowing them to sprawl into the much more quiet areas of the neighborhood.

What will be interesting to see will be how the arts and cultural industry in Hyde park will continue to florish and offer the area the type of elegant nightlife that can be found in downtown Chicago, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park.

Finally, the feeling that we sensed while we toured the neighborhood was one that felt as if most people on the street were relaxed and were comfortable being residents of the area.  This sense of tranquility is however more apparent within the boundaries of Hyde Park than in the other neighborhoods around it.   Even though Hyde Park is surrounded by a few less affluent neighborhoods which are gradually decaying, the area has continued to maintain its symbol as an oasis of safe diversity.

Field excursion into Pilsen

On Thursday, March 26h, 2015, our class conducted a field trip to Pilsen and the excursion was a brilliant adventure into a vibrant community with a lot of history.   As usual, our group consisted of Alejandro Rojas, Cody Fallico and myself.

One of the elements that make Pilsen unique is the mixture of Czech and Latino culture with its history that initially consisted of Eastern European immigrants.   A brief research into the history of the neighbourhood indicates that it was initially settled by a few Irish and Germans until Czech immigrants from the Czech Republic arrived in the late 19th century.  First, allow us to pause so that we can orient ourselves with its location in Chicago’s urban fabric:

Pilsen_map

 (Image courtesy of Professor Friedman and Wikitravel.org)

They named the area Pilsen (after Plzeň which was one of the largest cities in the Czech Republic).  Most of them were Bohemians and almost 98% of them were very literate by the time they arrived Chicago.  However, by the 1ate 1950s when the University of Illinois Chicago campus began to be constructed, the project displaced many of the new Latino immigrants who had settled in that area.

Thus, they moved westwards into Pilsen while the remainder of the eastern European Czech demographic gradually moved to the suburbs.  The fact that the Bohemians and their descendants were affluent, highly educated and were already into city politics afforded them the opputunity to swiftly disperse into several of the newer suburbs around Chicago.

The Latino community swiftly established the district with their heritage and much of their culture quickly integrated itself into the schools, the churches and the cuisine.   In time, a lot of mural and mosaic artworks began to emerge on the architecture; and this became one of the main signature theme elements of the neighbourhood.   (The following murals were taken from various locations as were made our trip)

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Now when I think about it, the feeling of the neighboorhood that I perceived was that the Latino had found their final place to call home in Chicago and decided to “redecorate” it to make it feel like home.  The truly fantastic murals and artworks around the neighbourhood had the similar feeling of when one moves into a new home and puts up their treasured potraits or statutes around the house.    One can now begin to understand why Pilsen is a place worth preserving.  According to Kathryn Saclarides’ article Selling Chicago as a Global City: Redevelopment and Ethnic Neighborhoods she explains that “In recognition of the rich cultural history of the neighborhood, Pilsen was named a National Register Historic District on February 1, 2006”.

I think that statement speaks volumes about how much of an integral part Pilsen has in the cultural history of Chicago.  As for the trip itself, we started our walk from the Pink line stop of 18th and Paulina street and then made our way down south on Ashland Avenue.  One of the first things we noticed right from the train station were the many shops on 18th Street which almost made itself very clear to passersby that this was one of the main merchantile districts of the neighbourhood.  The signs were mostly in Spanish and one could tell almost immediately that this was a Latino neighbood.

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The next thing I noticed was how they was no static in the movement of people, cars and on going business.  There was something “thriving” about the street and perhaps I felt that way because of the few merchants that were selling directly on the sidewalk (like the image above left).

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As we proceeded with the tour, I noticed how the older architecture of the neighnourhood still retained some elements of Eastern European design.  This seemed to underline the initial presence of the Czechs in the area and their Bohemian tastes.   Also, this was a contrast to the heavily merchantile Latino feel of 18th Street.

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Moving along, we also saw the large Post office and then some of the industrial buildings that hint at how the Pilsen Industrial corridor was once an established business sector of the city.   My additional research from the City of Chicago website indicates that the City of Chicago is currently seeking ways of revitalizing this corridor so that it can untilize its proximity to the railways, highways and water routes

Pilsen(Image courtesy of City of Chicago Redevelopment plan)

 We then toured more of the residential homes in the area and noticed that some of the homes still had the old fire escape stairwells still attached to their exteriors.

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I noticed that the art is everywhere in Pilsen, even on benches.   We then headed East for a short while along West Cullerton street and we were reminded of the housing styles in Bridgeport whereby some of the houses were either elevated or descended into the street (and their narrow alleys inbetween).  Also, some of the houses were strangely set further backwards than usual and these extra spaces seemed to be utilized as outdoor seating areas (as indicated in the images below)

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We also admired some of the metalwork designs on some windows and then stopped for some food at El Milagro at 1927 S Blue Island Avenue where we ran into some of our classmates.

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Afterwards, we visited the park near the Benito Juarez High School at  2150 South Laflin Street and examined its numerous statues which consisted of many past famous Latino leaders

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We finally ended our tour by visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art, located at the intersection of West 19th Street and Wolcott street.  It is officially designated as the largest Latino arts institution in the United States and the only accredited Latino museum (according to the American Association of Museums)

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In conclusion, the experience from the trip gave me an amazing insight into the cultural heritage of both the Latin-American immigration and the historical legacy left behind by the first Czech immigrants.   One could also say that the Latino community (who had initially been displaced from the UIC campus area in the 1950s) had found a place to call home; a place that would truly help to express their culture through mural art for generations to come.

 

Weekly “Did you Know…?”

The Chicago history trivia that I found for this week is the extensive article by Kathryn Saclarides titled “Selling Chicago as a Global City: Redevelopment and Ethnic Neighborhoods”.  It was a link to the University of Chicago School of Social Administration website given to us by Professor Friedman; and it contained a wealth of information regarding the social pathology of Pilsen

Reference material:

Assimilation, Pluralism, and Multiculturalism: A comparison of the ethnic groups

This journal entry is focused around the Assimilation, Pluralism, and Multiculturalism of all the main ethnic groups that immigrated to Chicago between the early-mid 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the immigration of an ethnic group into a new society is the method by which they assimilate and undergo the process of acculturation.

This fundamental becomes one of the foundations of multiculturism and from a sociological standpoint, one can begin to understand how an immigrant ethnic group begins to learn the culture, political views, and the economy of a dominant group.   Thus, this is one of the elements of how “surface culture” and “deep culture” develop within a multicultural society.  The image below helps to exhibit a better understanding of how these work within a multicultural society

culture-iceberg

 (Image courtesy of IndoIndians.com cultural website)

Now that we have established one of the means by which the accultration of different cultures function within a society, we can now start to examine how the immigration of the various ethnic groups shaped their cultural lives into the history of Chicago.   According to the book “City of Big Shoulders – A history of Chicago” by Robert Spinney, there were two main types of immigrations that occured in Chicago during the century that spanned between the early 1800s to the early 1900s.  They are referred to as the Old Immigration and the New Immigration.

First of all, one must understand that the Old immigration consisted of immigrants who migrated to America mostly from the Northern regions of Europe which mainly included England, Germany, Netherlands and lastly, the Irish.  The New Immigrants consisted of immigrants who came from Eastern Europe countries like Poland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Russia and even some Catholic Irish.

Old and New Immigration

(Image courtesy of National Geographic online)

The next step of this journal exercise is to compare and contrast how all these various ethnic groups assimilated into Chicago.  I shall also briefly examine and describe the social and cultural factors that either helped them assimilate quicker or presented challenges which hindered their assimilation.

The Old Immigrants:

  • They were easier to assimilate because they already knew the English language or knew how to learn it quickly
  • Most were of the Anglo-Saxon ethnicity
  • They possessed a culture of productive work ethics (which was the belief that if you worked hard, you will become successful)
  • They were versatile and did not stay static within their own cultural haven.
  • They swiftly moved out of their slums and assimilated within the Chicago society because of their understanding of the English language which assisted their drive to succeed.
  • Thus, they were eventually able to secure a solid foothold in Chicago politics very early on.

New Immigrants (Catholic Irish):

  • They had a more rigourous religious belief that was entrenched in Catholism rather than being of the Protestant faith
  • Some research suggests that they had slightly darker features compared to some of the Old Immigrants
  • They were reputed to be heavy drinkers and as such, they were deeply distrusted by the other Old Immigrants in Chicago

The New Immigrants (The Polish):

  • They were the next to arrive Chicago but compared to the older ethnic groups, they really didn’t integrate as swiftly.
  • They had initial difficulty learning English and thus developed their own socio-cultural associations which were the building and loan associations
  • The Poles also developed a burial society to assist their ethnic group with funeral costs.
  • They made the Polish Catholic church the focal point of their society, which must not be confused with the Irish Catholic churches.
  • They focused a lot into their own communities which is one of the reasons why they did not initially break into Chicago politics

The New Immigrants (The Italians):

  • Compared to the Poles and Irish, the first Italian immigrants actually planned to stay tempoarily, make money and then return to their native Italy.
  • This is why many sociology researchers considered them as “sojourners”
  • It was because of this that they really did not assimilate immediately because, as discussed in class, they initially did not invest in their communities.
  • Many of the first Italian immigrants were mainly farmers with an excellent skill for agriculture and this is one of the reasons they had initial difficulties adjusting to the city life of Chicago.
  • They had been used to the outdoors while in their native Italy but by the time they arrived Chicago, they had to obtain hard labour jobs in clustered environments.
  • Compared to the Greeks (who also began to immigrate to Chicago shortly afterwards), one aspect of the Italian immigration was that they were eventually able to excel at growing agricultural produce.
  • Although this eventually developed into a competition with the Greeks within the agricultural industry,  it also assisted in the swift development of a very rich cuisine industry within the city of Chicago.

The New Immigrants (The Czechs):

  • They were the next to arrive but compared to the other new immigrants, they decided to settle in the Pilson area.
  • They were Bohemians and almost 98% of them were very literate by the time they arrived Chicago
  • Compared to the first Italians, they came with a very clear intent to stay.
  • The Czechs were industrious with their money because they saved, borrowed, invested in land which they built, and then expanded into various types of businesses.
  • They also collaborated and conducted business with all the other ethnic groups which is how they swiftly developed economic and political clout
  • Research shows that they elected well over eighty public officials within just a span of forty years.

The New Immigrants (The Russian Jews):

  • They were the next to arrive and they came around the 1870s.
  • Most of them were escaping heavy discrimination and persecution in Europe and thus fled to America which was one of the very few countries where they could be safe.
  • Compared to many of the other immigrant ethnic groups, the Russian Jews had a culture of being taught to question everything.
  • According to additional research, education was always their number one priority which is why they swiftly developed a keen ability to excel at becoming very educated.
  • This is why even though the first immigrants were mainly seamstresses and bakers, their children and subsequent generations were able to take swift advantage of the free education offered in Chicago (and in America in general).

The New Immigrants (The Chinese):

  • They arrived Chicago in the late 1860s and early 1870s
  • Initially settled around the area along Clark Street, Van Buren and Harrison Streets near Chicago’s Loop.
  • The “associations” (also referred to in Chinese as “tongs”), were an integral part of the early Chinese immigrants.
  • There were mainly two types of associations, business and family associations; and one of their functions was to help other Chinese immigrants financially, socially and culturally.
  • The new Chinese immigrants were always faced with the language barrier and financial challenges; and these were greatly alleviated by the associations who controlled a vast majority of the socio-economic life in their community
  • It was mainly due to overcrowding and some discrimination that the Chinese moved to the present day Chinatown at Cermak and Wentworth.
  • The On Leong Merchants Association were instrumental in builing a lot of merchantile stores and residences in Chinatown which helped the area to develop very quickly into what it is today.

In conclusion, one must not forget the Spanish immigration that also came to Chicago and settled towards the Western regions of the city.    The first wave came around the late 1910s and many of them came for the economic opputunities.  One important thing to note is that like the Russian Jews, they had a strong affinity for becoming very educated.

The other immigrant ethnic group that must not also be forgotten are the refugees who have also had it difficult adjusting to the multicultural behemoth that is Chicago.  It must be remembered that many of them came from an initial social sense of community to new, unfamiliar society that focused on individualism.   They nonetheless possessed a fierce drive to succeed and a very strong work ethic which helped to give the perception that they have an urge to invest socially, culturally and economically in Chicago.

 

Weekly “Did you Know…?”

The Chicago history trivia that I found for this week is the “How well do you know Lincoln Park” quiz on the dnainfo website.  Click on the link to take the quiz.

Reference material:

  • Hanley, J. (1999). Beyond the tip of the iceberg: Five stages toward cultural competence. Reaching Today’s Youth, National Education Service, 9 – 12. (PDF version)
  • Book – “City of Big Shoulders – A history of Chicago” by Robert Spinney
  • National Geographic
  • American Historama website online (link included)

 

Fieldtrip to Chinatown… and the Lunar New Year

On Thursday, March 5th, 2015, our class conducted a field trip to Chinatown and the visit evolved into an adventure of Chinese histories, culture and social dynamics.   Although the initial visit was intended to be during the Chinese New Year celebrations, it was eventually postponed until the past week due to extremely cold weather conditions.   Here’s a quick summary video of the 2015 Chinese New Year parade that I found on You Tube

As for the fieldtrip itself, once again, our group consisted of Alejandro Rojas, Cody Fallico and myself.   We started our journey on the steps of the Cermak-Chinatown Redline stop on the corner of Cermak and Wentworth Avenues; which, is also the historical starting boundries of Chinatown.

china map

map 2

We then made our way first towards Archer Avenue which is where the main Chinatown Square is located.   On our way towards the Square, we saw the “Nine Dragon wall” of Chinatown Chicago which had a very artistic and stylized murals of dragons (including an area map for the neighbourhood)

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Further down the street was the Chinatown Square which consisted of several restaurants, merchantile shops, banks and businesses.   I found it interesting to note that the Square reminded me of a modern version of the ancient Greek agora and Roman forums with their marketplaces.   Around the parameter of the square are the bronze statues of the Chinese Zodiac, all of which were placed in pairs

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A few of the shopkeepers in the businesses around the Square explained to us that the complex of nearby buildings was also home to the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Chinatown Square Association.  This was important information because as the rest of our tour unfolded, we would later get to understand and appreciate the significance of Associations within Chinese-American culture.

We then took a moment to sample some Chinese cuisine at the Ming Hin Cuisine restaurant located at 2168 South Archer Ave.  They are well known for their their famous Dim Sum menu that is a popular staple of Chinse food.  The waitress for our table explained how Dim Sum was actually traditional to the Southern parts of China and could be served as early as six in the morning for breakfast.   Tea is usually served with it which is how dim sum evolved from the name “Yum Cha” which means “tea tasting”.     The Dim Sum we ordered was very good and we ordered several types.   I was also deeply impressed by the furniture style and traditional Chinese ornamentation of the interior

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After being thoroughly warmed up by the food and tea, we continued our tour and explored the remainder of the shops around the square.  One of the elements that I noticed about the buildings were the bold Chinese cultural aesthetics that were present on several of the architecture

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Our next stop was to visit the residential area so that we could better understand the social dynamics of the neighbourhood.  The demographics were definitely mostly 90%+ Chinese and that was evident the more we looked around.  However, one of the ineteresting facts that I noticed was how all the newer residential homes and apartment buildings that were built on the northern part of South Wentworth and Wells streets were in modern contempoary styles.  They were so modern that one would not even be able to disguish whether they were in Chinatown or not.

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There was however one house which was unique in its design because it incorporated certain elements of Chinese mosaic and murals onto its exterior (the picture at bottom right, above).  Even though it still maintained the basic form of the buildings around it, the extrior finish and gold-leaf finishings were very distinct and gave the impression that perhaps it was the residence of a wealthy Chinese community elder.  We also took the time to visit the Park just up ahead and we were intrigued by the unusual cluster of railroads, the river and transportation roads in that particular location.  Why was it designed that way?  For trade?  For ease of transport?  Or did population expansion simply allowed it to unfold as such?

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We were also fortunate enough to see the huge steel bridgegates actually move while we were at the park (see image directly below right)

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We then decided to visit the Chinese-American museum located at 238 West 23rd Street (also called the Raymond B. & Jean T. Lee Center).   On our way there, we passed through the popular Chinatown gates and the Pui Tak Center which literally means “the cultivating virtue center”.

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IMG_20150305_121624 pui-tak-center

Note that the Pui Tak Center was initially named the “On Leong Merchants Association Building and it was designed by Chicago architects Christian Michaelsen and Sigurd Rognstad in 1928.    I was also able to do a compare and contrast exercise between the “new” Chinatown and the “old” Chinatown.    The difference in the architecural and building styles was a stark contrast to the modern buildings we saw just previously when we were at the north of Wentworth.   Below is an example of the difference in alleyway systems (old on the left, new on the right)

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The neighbourhood also had several types of terracotta tilings, exquisite designs and murals that reflected the traditional Chinese culture.   There were lots of shops and stores that sold diorama style artwork, engravings and statues.  Even the sidewalk had engravings of dragons and other Chinese symbols

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We were also able to see what religion was like in the neighbourhood and I was particularly fascinated to see the modern style of churches.  I began to wonder if perhaps this was also a reflection of the fact that Christianity was still a much newer religion to their culture

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We finally arrived at the Chinese-American Museum and I was able to watch the excellent video (on the second floor) which explained the history of the Chinese immigration into Chicago.  The video was very detailed, brilliantly presented, and also expanded on how they eventually settled at their present location.    I found it important to note that they had initially settled around the Chicago downtown Loop area of Clark Street, Harrison Avenues and Van Buren.     The documentary explained that due to over population, increased rent prices, racial discrimations and business-related disgreements between the associations, a majority of them moved to the present Chinatown (at historical “Wentworth and Cermak junction)

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Speaking of associations, these organizations (also referred to in Chinese as “tongs”), were an integral part of the early Chinese immigrants.  There were mainly two types of associations, business and family associations; and one of their functions was to help other Chinese immigrants financially, socially and culturally.   The newer immigrants were always faced with the language barrier and financial challenges; and these were greatly alleviated by the associations who controlled a vast majority of the socio-economic life in Chinatown Chicago; and they are still present till this day.

In conclusion, the fieldtrip afforded me the oppirtunity to greatly appreciate the significance of the Chinese demographic in the city and their contribution to the global rise of Chicago.  Their vibrant culture, their patriacial social order and how modernization over the past century has affected their rise as Chinese immigrants into Chinese-Americans were all very illuminating.   Education also played a huge part in this and we were also able to investigate where most Chinese-American attended high school within the city.

The manager-receptionist at the museum explained that most Chinese-American children attended school near downtown Chicago, the North side, and also towards the south of Chicago like the Kenwood Academy and the University of Chicago Laboratory school at Hyde Park.  However, she also mentioned that one of the community elders (who was also the Secretary-General of the Pui Tak building) named David Wu, was seriously advocating to municipal channels to have a new high school constructed in Chinatown.

 

Weekly “Did you Know…?”

The Chicago history trivia that I found for this week is the “Information on Chinatown Chicago” from the dnainfo website.

Reference material:

  • Video  – ”2015 Chicago Chinatown New Year Parade” on YouTube

Reflections on Dr. Jeanine Ntihirageza’s lecture

It is always an honor to sit in a room with learned people and exchange ideals, cultures, experiences and social thought.  And that is what I felt during the last class lecture in which Dr. Ntihirageza gave an excellent presentation regarding the serious challenges facing African refuges.

However, before moving along, she deserves a brief introduction.  She is the Department Chair, Coordinator, and Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago; and holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago (with a specialization in Bantu languages). She arrived the United States of America on a Fulbright Scholarship to complete her graduate level education and has recently  spearheaded a Genocide Research Group that organized a symposium on Silencing Genocide in Africa and African Diaspora.

We had the pleasure of listening to her explain to us about the amazing stories of survival in war-torn African nations like Burundi and Rwanda.  The issue of refusges, displacement and the language barrier that comes with trying to settle in a new environment can be very overwhelming.  What was also important to note were the financial and economical issues facing the various agencies that assist African refugees.  Issues with healthcare, housing, food, clothing, rent were consistent in one form or the other but the real challenge was the lack of education for the refuges.

Education continues to be the one element that is missing from the assistance programs for refuges that just arrived in the United States; and this is a huge setback for them because of how integral it is needed for establishing a stable social foundation.    I personally felt that the lack of education is what continues to  prevent them from disintegrating the language barrier and being trained in the skills necessary to become socio-economically independent.

There is also the prevailing issue of cultural shock, the adjustment to a new environment that is embedded in advanced technology; and most importantly, the adjustment from the communal sense of community to one of Individualistic thinking.  It is also very thought-provoking to learn how the children swiftly become the connection to the world for their parents.   One cannot help but think that this is not entrirely the fault of the parents; afterall, they have become confused socially, financially and linquistically.

However, I found it important to note from the presentation that it was the children that tended to assimilate much faster.   Nonetheless, one of the other problems that does occur from time to time is that of isolation and the psychological issues of trying to adjust within the educational system (loneliness and inability to connect with the faculty, staff or other students at the high schools).     I have to completely agree with Dr. Ntihirageza that a few ways to overcome these issues are:  eating lunch with them, getting teachers to become more involved, educating others about immigration issues, and becoming more sensitive to the person’s issues of cultural shock.

In the end, we as a society have to learn that the issue of African refugees is a global problem that has continued to occur; for instance, the three images below show the huge number of IDP (internally displaced persons) that has been happening in the Central African Republic over the past eighteen months.

169631-Humanitarian Snapshot as of 14 Dec. 2013

(Image taken from Relief Web)

180506-wfp263736

(Image courtesy of Relief Web)

HUM-map

(Image courtesy of ICD International.org)

In conclusion, the question that must be addressed is how we can help ease the issue of refugees’ transition into the Western culture?   One is to volunteer and donate to the various resettlement organizations.   Government agencies both on a national and global level can also start funnelling more funds into the agencies and sponsor seminars to help enlighten the public.  We can also help them with reading and English learning programs and also invest more in getting them educated.   We should also help to integrate them more into productivity programs so that Western people can begin to appreciate how much hard-working energy and ethics of honesty that they can bring to the society.

Weekly “Did you Know…?”

The Chicago history trivia that I found for this week is the “How well do you know Englewood” quiz on the dnainfo website.  Click on the link to take the quiz.

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