A block party. A normal life. A story not told


By Steve Franklin 

The story begins:

“It was a perfect Saturday for a block party. Not too hot, but just enough sunshine making its way through the burgeoning ash trees along South Wolcott Avenue in West Englewood.

“The men on the block had gotten up early to mow the grass and pick up litter. By midafternoon, the barbecue grills were in full force, filling the air with the smoky aroma of jerk chicken, hamburgers and pork sausages.”

Nice writing by Chicago Tribune reporter Dahleen Glanton: sensitive, artful writing.

But where, I wondered, is it taking us?

She goes on.

“Large trash cans formed a barrier at 64th Street. Cars and SUVs reinforced the landscaped blockade at 65th. A DJ blasted music from loudspeakers as adults stepped to oldies or sat around card tables playing spades. Still, they kept a watchful eye on their children lined up for banana and lime frozen ice drinks from a rented dispenser.

“A few feet away, teenage boys played pickup basketball, using a brand-new goal bought that morning by a group of young men from the neighborhood. The men had chipped in $260 to purchase it at Target.

“Morise Ross and his wife, Lula, both 78, sat on the front porch of their wood-frame home and wondered, “Why can’t it be this peaceful all the time?”

“It’s rare that either one of them sits on the porch. It’s not safe — too much going on out there, they explained. But even staying inside doesn’t shield them from the almost daily explosions of gunfire in the neighborhood.”

And as I read on, something clicked for me.

It was a conversation a few days earlier with someone, who has seen far too many youngsters from Chicago’s South Side get snared in trouble, sometimes in violence and sometimes on the way to prison.

She said, the problem with the news media is that it broadly paints everyone in poor black neighborhoods as living in a different world, where violence dominates, where there’s little hope for life’s good things. And that makes it seem as though life matters little. And that message sometimes gets digested by confused and troubled youngsters, who hear that neither their lives matter, nor do the lives of those they encounter. That’s when bad things happen.

It was a plea like many I’ve heard lately for the news media to talk about the good and normal things people do amid the mayhem, and to narrow the lens to better explain that the mayhem comes from only a few.

Here’s how Darleen deals with this in her story.

“He, too, remembers a very different Englewood. The block party, he said, is a way to show children who’ve never known life without violence what it could be like without it.

“I want them to know what it was like here, not when my son was growing up, but when I was growing up here,” said Taylor, a musician who once played drums in Junior Wells’ blues band. “I believe if you create something positive for them, they wouldn’t be out there doing what they do.”

“Maybe Taylor and Moore are onto something. A little time and energy invested in communities could go a long way in curbing the city’s violence.

“But at least for a few hours on one Saturday this year, the kids on this block of West Englewood got a chance to taste what it’s like to run and play outside in a peaceful environment.

“Unfortunately, that’s more than many kids in Chicago’s tough neighborhoods will experience in a lifetime.”

Here’s the link to the full story:


Are you doing this kind of reporting?

Is this what you are reading and hearing?

Talk to me – digame. Let’s think about this.







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