My Treasure Was Once Your Trash

By: Darius Stevenson

The city of Chicago, according to many outsiders and tourists that I’ve spoken to, is probably the most racially segregated city in the United States. As a child, I often asked my elders why this was.

Little to my knowledge at the time, the city has been ravaged by a series of race riots due to the rising population of ethnic minorities in areas where the communities were people of Anglo-Saxon decent (Western European). These people were common on the Southeast side of the city. Businesses flourished, and neighborhoods were peaceful for the most part, mainly because this side of town was especially for these European descendants. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, African Americans began inhabiting this area. Seeing the number of blacks rise over these years, white families ended up moving outside of the neighborhood. Some moved to the Southwest part of the city. Suburbs were developed all across the state of Illinois for these families to avoid intermingling with blacks and other ethnic minority groups.

If you grew up on the Southeast side, you could witness first hand how corruption runs rapidly through the streets. Watching graduation rates plummet and prisons fill up really depresses and discourages even the most knowledgeable and focused person. From drug trafficking to questionable authority figures, this portion of the city has been earned a bad reputation and is looked down upon by the “socially superior.”

Despite the unfortunate circumstances in this neighborhood and many others, there is a lot here to offer. The local businesses represent the portion of this community that still care for and share with their fellow man. Older citizens in this area are generally warm and considerate. I was raised around former Southerners, and their words of wisdom still run with me everywhere I go. My elders are the source of my wisdom.

From museums, to parks, to block club parties, there are a lot of places to go and explore. My favorite place to be is 57th Street Beach. That is the one place I can go and clear my head—from death, to heartache, to prayer, or even just to sit and watch the waves of Lake Michigan sway back and forth, that is the one place where I can go that I know I can be at peace with myself.

Every side of Chicago is a jewel within itself; people should never look over anything without doing research because even the Southeast side, or the East side, can be a land of opportunities. Many prestigious people call the area home; even President Barack Obama and his family own a home in the area. The area is up and coming. I have faith that one day the people of the city will realize the potential of the neighborhood and help it rise to the occasion.

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