Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Art Show!

Last Friday evening, Cabrini Connections had their art show, which was held at the Pallette and Chisel Art Gallery in the Gold Coast area. The space was absolutely beautiful because the building used to be a mansion. It was so wonderful seeing the kids walk in and their faces light up when they saw their artwork on the walls.
Overall, I think the art show was a great success. There were a lot of kids, both in the art club and those just in Cabrini Connections. There were also a lot of parents and siblings who looked so proud of their kids/brothers and sisters.
In addition to the Art Show, the video cub showed their documentary detailing the past, present and future of Cabrini Green. I remember seeing a preview for the documentary at the Year-End dinner last June and being blown away by what they had already put together. Finally getting to see the end-product was even more incredible and it was so great to hear the kids talk about their experiences creating the documentary in the question-and-answer session afterwards.
Mostly, though, I was really happy that all my friends came to see the art show. They've all heard my stories throughout these past 7 months about my experiences and Cabrini Connections, so it was so great for them to put names with faces and to actually see something the kids created. It also made me so happy that a lot of them went up to the kids and asked them about their paintings and see how proud the kids were to talk about the paintings. Some of my friends even bought some of the artwork and DVD's of the documentary, which meant a lot as well to me.
Hopefully, Cabrini Connections will be able to do more events like the Art Show because I think it's a great way to showcase what these kids can do and show what we have brought to their community.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Great Article Summarizing Sudhir Venkatesh's Research

In the Chicago Tribune today, there is a great article that summarizes Sudhir Venkatesh's research for "Gang Leader for a Day." A lot of it I already knew, but it's nice to know the backstory behind his research.

Shout out in the Chicago Sun-Times!

Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection was mentioned in an article today on making a difference in the Chicago Sun-Times. They list tutoring a child as a very tangible way of improving the world - something I've been promoting for a long time. Enjoy the article:


Monday, February 4, 2008

Dialogue between Sudhir Venkatesh and Alex Kotlowitz

In my daily perusings of online news sources, I have come across a thoughtful and very important discussion betweeen Sudhir Venkatesh, a blogger for the Freakonomics blog on the New York Times online, as well as the author of the recently published "Gang Leader for a Day," and Alex Kotlowitz, author of various works depicting issues in our public housing and education systems, to name a few (probably his best known work is "There Are No Children Here"). Both Kotlowitz and Venkatesh have strong ties to Chicago and are well-versed in the crises that have surrounded the breakdown of the public housing system. In this discussion they touch on many of the issues that Venkatesh raises in "Gang Leader for a Day." However, the discussion takes an interesting turn when Kotlowitz and Venkatesh debate over how academic researchers should compensate their subjects for the information that they have gleaned from them.

What makes the discussion especially interesting to me, though, is when the discuss the breakdown of the public housing system in Chicago and talk about the flight of the urban poor to the nearest surrounding suburbs. I have discussed this before in my blog, talking about how gentrification pushes the poorest people out of the city, and out of many people's consciousness. Kotlowitz and Venkatesh both compare this phenomenon to what has happened in many European and Latin American cities where the affluent center of the city is literally ringed by poverty.

This is something that I know very well, because I witnessed it first hand living in Paris for a year. I get a lot of quizzical looks from people who I meet through Cabrini Connections when I tell them that I was a French and International Studies major in college. However, I believe all paths eventually connect and this is an instance where I find myself seeing the same phenomenon of urban poor being pushed from the inner city to the outer suburbs. This is especially the case in Paris, where the poorest of the poor, mostly North and West African immigrants live in high-rise building blocks, that don't look much different from the Whites of Cabrini-Green. In my brief encounters with people who lived in these areas (a lot of them were cab drivers who were delighted to talk to an American who spoke fluent French about their lives), these people intimated a similar sense of hopelessness, frustration and anger with authority that I encounter at Cabrini Connections. Although, it almost seems to be worse there in certain ways because, as a cab driver who was of Algerian descent put it, "In America, they may hate you because you're black, but they never challenge that you're an American. In France, they not only hate you because you're black, but also because they tell you that you're not French, even if your family has lived in France for generations."

What I'm trying to get at, is in both France, America, and other places, the urban poor are being forgotten, and that's not a good thing. Fortunately, there are people like Sudhir Venkatesh and Alex Kotlowitz who are making sure that these people are not forgotten.