Saturday, August 21, 2010
Uptown & Chinatown
I went out to photograph this morning with E, promising her a giant Starbucks latte if she would come and keep me company. We headed north to Uptown where 21-year-old Aaron Carter and 29-year-old Detrick Garrett were killed less than a mile apart. Our first location was the site where Carter was shot to death on the 4500 block of North Magnolia Ave. This area of Magnolia is a quiet street that runs north/south between Montrose and Wilson. Most of the buildings on the street are multi-unit apartment complexes with a few public housing buildings interspersed. Carter and a friend got into an argument with men in a vehicle who then shot at them. He was on the sidewalk at the time. The building he stood in front of when he was shot was a beautiful old graystone right across the street from a public housing unit. The house next door had three different realtors listed on the fence and many of the buildings on the street had large banners with bright colors almost begging people to rent. A lot of commuters dressed for a day in the office toting briefcases passed on their way to the el. The area felt like a contradiction with its illusion of safety.
An aside on Uptown:
Due to Alderman Helen Shiller’s support of “balanced development,” Uptown possesses a high level of economic diversity among its residents. While 20% of Uptown households earned less than $10,000 in 1999, almost 25% earned over $50,000. More than one-fourth of the families were living below the poverty line. Uptown’s income diversity in reflected in its housing, as Uptown has both affordable and subsidized housing for low-income families, as well as luxurious rental and homeownership units. Racial, ethnic, and economic diversity has been sustained in Uptown by efforts to promote commercial development and new housing, while at the same time fighting to preserve affordable housing, low-skill jobs, and small businesses.
We made a right onto Wilson, following it for a few blocks to the 4500 block of North Clarendon where Detrick Garrett was killed on July 7th. The address led us to a beautiful park just on the other side of Lake Shore Drive and a hair west of the lakefront. The west side of the street was lined with high-rise apartment complexes that must have a spectacular view of the lake. On the east side, the park was split into parts. There was a baseball field on the far side, a small tree-covered picnic area abutting the sidewalk, and a community garden. Two men, one white and one African-American, sat on the bench in the garden talking and relaxing. Garrett was shot just south of the garden on the sidewalk. The road was a main thoroughfare for buses so roaring engines constantly interrupted the peacefulness of the park and gardens. Even so, it was hard to imagine such violence occurring in such a beautiful and well-kept place.
After we left the site on Clarendon, we got on Lake Shore Drive and headed even further north to the 1000 block of West Ardmore where Olutosin Bajomo was shot and killed just two days before. Ardmore is a one-way street so we had to circle around. As we came up on the site, over the traffic I could see heart balloons tied to a tree and people flanking both sides of the street. As we passed, slowly due to traffic, I watched as four women in maroon colored hospital scrubs talked by the memorial and shook their heads. At the base of the tree were three lit candles and bunches of potted flowers. On the opposite side of the street a woman sat alone on the guardrail looking despondent. E asked if I was going to stop. I said no, the point was not to photograph the sadness and grieving surrounding the event, but to photograph what happens after all that and to memorialize each event so the land stays connected to the person who died on it. We kept driving and got back on Lake Shore Drive heading south.
Our last stop was in the 200 block of West 23rd Street, right off the main drag in Chinatown where two men approached Xiaohong Song after he got off the bus and then strangled him to death. The site of Song’s death was surprising to me. The street was tight, one way, full of cars, and the houses were butting up against each other. Lots of people were out walking. Some rice was left on the sidewalk for the birds just a few steps away from where he was killed. The address led me to a cute little brick house with clothes out on a laundry line near the front door. It felt like a tight knit community, the kind of place you might even leave your doors unlocked. People were definitely looking at me as they passed. It felt less threatening and more protective. What was I doing on their block? They didn’t know me. As we pulled out of our spot, another car pulled right in, a testament to the bustling of the street.
It was time to get E that Starbucks latte I promised her.