Friday, July 23, 2010

Neighborhood Mash Up!

by: Jillayne Samatas

I have found that for me, one of the neatest things about Common Threads’ Summer Camp is that kids come from neighborhoods all over the city. I know this may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me I recognize the power this simple fact has. Even though Chicago is so diverse, many children go to racially and culturally homogeneous schools with not much diversity. Our Summer Camp provides the kids an opportunity to work with other people that may look or act different from them. That’s why to both the program and me representation from many different neighborhoods has a direct effect on the immediate idea of diversity.

My obsession with Chicago neighborhoods and neighborhoods in general is one I have had for as long as I can remember. I remember being fascinated with how communities change. My work at Common Threads has only solidified my interest. Everyday on the news you hear about terrible things that happen in Englewood or Austin or other areas in the city. It starts to wear on you and you start to believe that the whole area is a place to stay far far away. However, as I drive in these neighborhoods there is a different feeling I get. People live there and are raising families, trying to put food on the table and trying to keep their families safe. The stigma attached to the names of some of these neighborhoods is one that hopefully the neighborhoods can grow beyond in the future, in the very near future.

I completely understand the rationale of this fear; no one wants to go to a place you hear bad things about almost everyday. As I drive down these streets, many with boarded up houses, the feeling of isolation is prevalent, yet I have to believe there is hope in these areas; a sense of hope that things may change in a way that doesn’t move people out and but brings more, different and other people in.
A couple months ago I attended a meeting at one of our partner schools in Englewood. The meeting consisted of organizations that partnered with the school and parents of students that attended the school. There were approximately 10 parents there and to hear their perspectives was a life changing moment for me. We guess a lot of the time what it feels like or what it may be like to live in some of these neighborhoods we hear about on the news, but we really don’t know the half of it. The more we understand the plight and the path of the people trying to do right in those communities, the more knowledge and diversity can make real a difference.

It isn’t something that will happen overnight, it isn’t something that will happen with Common Threads alone. It will take the kids, the parents of those kids, the teachers of those kids, and the community of all the ones fighting to enrich their lives. Then and only then, will the reports we hear about Englewood or Austin or Beverly or Humboldt Park be about the great things happening in those neighborhoods. Maybe, just maybe it starts with Common Threads and a Neighborhood Mash-Up!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this totally struck the right note with me! Such an awesome idea. Mash it up!