Back of the Yards – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What about the neighborhoods? Wed, 16 May 2012 20:38:10 +0000 The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.

Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m.  Information is at

Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.

(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million.  Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)

Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.

Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.

On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”

Party fund

Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust.  In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.

“Spending $14 million on food and wine and music just seems evil and sinful when you have kids in this neighborhood who have no place to play, when you have parents keeping their children inside after school because they’re afraid of gun violence,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Church in Little Village, a leader in Enlace Chicago.

To visiting journalists he says, “I would ask them to ask somebody if it’s fair to spend $14 million on parties when organizations are looking for $600 to buy new equipment so that 120 kids can stay off the streets for a year.”

Emanuel has “cut the head tax for the corporations and then the corporations turn back around in a deal and donate to support NATO coming here,” says Charles Brown, a 43-year resident of Englewood and a leader with Action Now.  “Well the people that are going to profit from NATO coming here…it’s going to be the corporations.

“Will you treat us the way that you’re treating NATO, spend $14 million on us and put forth a program to help the people that are struggling and suffering?  So that we won’t tear down any more homes, so that we’ll start preserving them, so that the banks will start paying their fair share and giving back to the 99 percent that made all of this possible?”

“Our elected officials time and time again take the podium and pound their fists and say it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids,” said Rodriguez.  “I think that about 10 percent of that $14 million would do so much good here in our community.”


Pastor Victor Rodriguez, Enlace Chicago, Little Village:

Charles Brown, Action Now, Englewood:

Sonovia Petty, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Austin:

Back of the Yards wants one ward Fri, 11 Nov 2011 22:12:34 +0000 While Latino aldermen are calling for more Latino wards, residents of one of Chicago largest Latino communities have a more particular concern – they want a single alderman.

Back of the Yards is now divided into pieces included in five wards, and the Committee for a Unified Back of the Yards says that has complicated communications and hindered progress for the community.

The group will hold a press conference Saturday morning (November 12, 10 a.m.) at 45th and Paulina, in the heart of the community – a corner where the boundaries of three wards intersect.

The neighborhood is seeing increased community improvement efforts – Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council recently launched a new Great Neighborhoods community planning initiative with LISC Chicago –but  lack of a single alderman makes it hard to address questions like the recent closing of the Back of the Yards branch library at 47th and Damen, said Cindy Agustin of CUBY.

“It’s been closed since September,” she said.  “The sign on the door says it’s closed due to flooding,” but it’s been difficult to get any attention to the problem.

The branch library serves students in five elementary schools, Agustin said.

While a survey by Latinos Organized for Justice and the Illinois Hunger Coalition recently found that over half of Back of the Yards families report they “sometimes, rarely, or never” have enough money to feed their families, the state recently closed a human services office that offered food assistance and other help.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget would also close Back of the Yards’ mental health clinic.

Groups participating Saturday include BYNC, The Resurrection Project, United Southwest Chamber of Commerce, U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center, and several parishes and schools.

Youth in motion – from Hip Hop to soccer Fri, 12 Aug 2011 19:48:18 +0000 Young people get a lot of bad press, but with the support of community groups, many are seeking out positive paths in an increasingly difficult world.  Tomorrow two events – a hip hop festival and a soccer league gathering – highlight some of the alternatives.

The Pros Arts Studio’s Sixth Annual We R Hip Hop Festival showcases local musicians, artists, breakdancers and poets in Pilsen and Little Village, emphasizing the noncommercial, positive aspects of hip-hop culture.

It takes place at Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 13.  It’s been organized by two teams of summer interns at Pros Arts Studio, one working on scheduling, logistics, and securing sponsorships, the other focused on promotion.

The goal is to promote peace, said teacher-artist Lizette Garza.  In addition to local performers with music stressing social messages — including the challenges faced by female hip-hop artists — there will be an auction of artwork by Pros Arts youth and breakdance and grafitti contests.

Pros Arts Studio offers year-round programming in artistic disciplines ranging from photography to fiber arts, from breakdancing to circus arts; a weekly open studio offers opportunities to do drawing and aerosol art.

Kids from the studio’s circuit-bending workshop, who make new electoric instruments by reworking old components, will  participate in the Festival de Musica Electronica Latina, August 26 at the National Museum of Mexican Art.  A mural by studio youth promoting peace in the community was completed yesterday at 19th and Paulina.

Meanwhile, in McKinley Park, hundreds of children and teens will celebrate soccer league finals with medals and trophies.  The league is organized by the UNION Impact Center of Back of the Yards, founded two years ago in his spare time by Rafael Yanez, a police officer who coordinates youth mentoring programs on the South Side for the department.

The volunteer-operated league offers a healthy alternative for young people who are at risk for gang violence and recruitment.  It’s part of a range of anti-violence activities offered by the center, with after-school programming including Quebradita dance classes, guitar lessons, and art and computer classes.

“Community involvement is the key to fighting crime,” Yanez told Alejandro Escalona in the Sun Times recently – and the city has to do more to bring resources to help community groups do the work, he said.

The soccer league celebration takes place from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, August 13, at McKinley Park, 2200 W. Pershing.

Trees still down from last month’s storms Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:07:35 +0000 Lots of trees were blown down in recent summer storms – but that was weeks ago.

“Streets and Sanitation’s Bureau of Forestry has cleared the fallen trees on Chicago’s North Side but neglected cleanup on the South Side,” according to Action Now.

The group is holding a rally on Thursday, July 22,  at 10 a.m. in Back of the Yards (on 50th Street between Marshfield and Paulina) to highlight huge tree branches still blocking sidewalks.  Residents have called 311 repeatedly, according to the group.

The group says greater attention given to higher-income neighborhoods “illustrates the inequalities of city services in Chicago,” said Action Now.

Ballet Folklorico from Back of the Yards Fri, 22 May 2009 14:31:31 +0000 The Ballet Folklorico of the Back of the Yards Council celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend with performances at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Morton East High School, 2423 S. Austin in Cicero.

With over 200 participants in groups “ranging from teenie tots to grandparents,” it’s one of the Council’s most successful programs, said Patty Flores.  Three advanced groups give public performances throughout the year and have won national championships four times. 

All the groups will be featured this weekend, presenting folkloric dance styles and music from regions across Mexico, from the mountains to the coastal areas.  Tickets cost $18 and are still available; call (773) 523-4416.