The meeting for Sol Talks was very stimulating; we live in a neighborhood with people from all walks of life with very different views. A lot of newcomers came to the cafe to see what was up and introduce themselves. The old guard was there consisting of Michael Luckenbach, Helen, and a few others. Michael Land from the alderman's office took notes, Chris Patterson represented Rogers Park Peace Angels, Indira Johnson of 10,000 Ripples fame shared her views ( update, in each neighborhood 5 Buddha heads will stay and 5 will be auctioned off),. Another woman (sorry didn't catch her name) was there from Gale School, the proprietor from the Recyclery, a barista from Sol Cafe served as the host and emcee for the event (who did a smashing job btw). Also Nancy J. Sell executive director for Here Comes The Sun which "celebrates cancer survivorship while creating cancer awareness" was in attendance. Mango and banana slices were passed around for everyone to munch on.
The biggest news to come from the meeting came from the marketing director from Sol Cafe, Britni. June 22nd will kick off the first Art & Soul Fair on Howard Street. It will take place on the sidewalks from Ashland to Greenview and on any vacant land that they can get permission to occupy. The tents will consist of vendors selling art, clothing and various sundries, hopefully attracting vendors selling food. The hours will be from 10 am until 4 pm and will run every fourth Saturday of the month throughout the summer.
Please continue reading for more words and pictures
|(Btw Amazing Heeby Jeebies are playing tomorrow at Mayne Stage)|
Mainly Chevanston came to listen and hear other people's perspectives. The grand majority of people there who shared their views thought that Howard Street unfairly got a bad rap. And that the violence was only tied to a small handful of people living in the neighborhood. Helen and another older lady spoke about how they walked past kids that many people would find very scary walking past (kids with pants hanging down etc, etc) would give them respect and say sorry about swearing. There are many others who would disagree with this viewpoint and have had negative outcomes from such situations, like getting mugged or shot at when walking in between rival sets of gangs (Phoebe K).
Like it or not, when kids hang out on a corner, it often leads to a shooting, either from mistaken identity or due to perceived gang affiliations. Its true that only a small percentage of the kids are doing the shooting, but the right atmosphere has to exist for that shooting to occur. Some people at the meeting thought that the police were unfairly profiling the local neighborhood kids, but the loitering on Howard shouldn't be tolerated because it does lead to violence. Keeping the kids busy doing something positive will keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Neighborhood groups like RP Peace Angels and after school programs are the carrot and the cops are the stick. The last thing to change about a neighborhood is its reputation and NOH (North Of Howard) is not likely to lose its negative image in the near future. But it is slowly changing among those who are more adventurous and open minded.
The general vibe was, we want to help the community improve for everyone by helping those in need and mentoring those without guidance. The fact that the neighborhood is currently undergoing demographic shifts both racially and economically was completely avoided. There is that horrible expression, the elephant in the room, "gentrification" or revitalization or whatever was that elephant tonight. (One person innocently voiced their opinion that they thought it (gentrification) was just fine, and then the subject was quickly changed.) It is occurring in Rogers Park and South Evanston due to market forces and a movement that is far larger than anyone's opinion, neighborhood blog, important discussion on the hidden Next Door site or coffee-shop. If it wasn't Sol Cafe, it would've been another coffee shop where this same conversation would've been held either a few years ago or a few years in the future.
Just as a scientist affects whatever he or she sees just by mere observation, so is Sol Cafe just by occupying space on Howard. It is the first step in turning Howard around, because you need something worth walking to check out and where you can safely talk to people. It is great that they are holding these talks and staying neutral. Because the changing neighborhood is beyond whatever public or private views they may share anyways. It was hinted that perhaps it was heavy handed of Evanston to reinvest in itself with Ward 8 and the new brewpub in the works The Peckish Pig but no one said so openly.
There was a recent article about Sol Cafe that was very safe, even handed and wishy washy when it came to describing the neighborhood, which is the easy way out. "See, Rogers Park is sort of an up-and-coming neighborhood. At least it thinks it is." ( And that was how the discussion went tonight, no one wants to offend each other face to face or on the internet (unless they are anonymous) with controversial topics). "Gentrification" is based on money and class, which unfortunately for this country has huge racial disparities. What people would like is the uplifting of all people by the changing fortunes of a neighborhood, which would be the best case scenario. But that is not why or how neighborhoods improve or worsen over time. Humans are a fickle bunch and some are racist. Post World War II there was white flight across the United States, due to the rise of the automobile, the suburbs, redlining of neighborhoods, and racism. Nowadays more people are moving back to the cities due to disillusionment with suburbia, rising gas prices and for an opportunity to invest in distressed properties.
Postscript - At the end NOH Helen touted the new hidden Next Door site when the topic of neighborhood blog came up. Next Door may be a great site used by many different neighborhoods across the country, but Rogers Park is too special and interesting a neighborhood just as Uptown and Edgewater are to be completely satisfied with just that. And as we have already seen with Everyblock, sites can shut down at any time.