Friday, October 1, 2010
Back of the Yards & Englewood Bound
Police woman C got in contact with me Monday night to let me know that she had some free time this week to take me out to photograph. We settled on meeting on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. in the usual place. On Wednesday morning C met me and told me that another guy, let’s call him Y, was coming around with the car and was going to join us. When he arrived, C climbed into the backseat. She would be navigation for the day. I hopped in the front. We were Back of the Yards and Englewood bound.
Our first site was in the 1500 block of West 51st Street where David Johnson was found dead in a vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head just after 7 p.m. on August 29th. The address fell in the street directly in front of a squat, little, one-story concrete block building that serves as the Life Changing Ministries International Church. The building was painted white and lavender with big block lettering announcing the name of the church and the pastor both on the façade and on the east side of the building that abutted a vacant lot. On the opposite side was an empty storefront that had security bars over the windows and door on which a few “NO LOITERING, NO TRESSPASSING, NO SOLICITING” signs were posted. On the corner, just two doors away was a liquor store. I have no real statistics for this statement, but I would have to say that it seems like there were a good number of homicides this summer that happened in or near liquor stores. I’ll have to look into that.
The next location was just around the corner in the 5100 block of South Laflin where 19-year-old Darius Murphy was shot and killed over Memorial Day weekend. He was the second casualty of the summer. We pulled up in front of a van that was parked on the side of the street blaring its music. It got turned down very quickly as soon as we stepped out of the car. I visited this site earlier in the summer but was unhappy with my images, so there I was standing across from the same 4-story brick walk-up where the same apartment was still for rent on the third floor. What in June was a memorial of Grey Goose vodka bottles was now a grassy patch strewn with bits of garbage. There was a covered motorcycle parked just inside the front gate of the building. C stayed with the car and Y stayed by my side.
We went from there to the 1400 block of West 54th Street where Tyrone Clark was shot and killed near his home. The address fell around the mouth of an alley next to a huge vacant lot. Just beyond the empty lot there was a large boarded up apartment building. There were about 15 boys in bright safety vests cleaning out brush and overgrowth around the sidewalk about half way down the block. When we pulled up and parked, they all looked up. Four of the boys were standing in a row staring at us as we got out of the car. They seemed intrigued by our presence. They appeared to be working their way towards the alley, so Y went to talk to them and ask them to steer clear of my camera for a little bit. They kindly agreed. A few weeks ago, X and I went to what we thought was the site of Tyrone Clark’s murder, but after more research we found that we were in the wrong place. I was sadly disappointed because I was so happy with the images I made. Here is the non-site of the first photographic venture to memorialize Tyrone.
The site of Laird Marble’s death in the 6100 block of South Bishop was also a site I visited earlier in the summer. Marble was shot and killed over Memorial Day weekend after a disagreement over a dice game. Just this past week, Curtis Marble was found hiding out in an abandoned building where he was arrested on charges that he killed Laird, his older brother. I thought that the site might be difficult to photograph given all the activity surrounding the incident in the past few days. I expected a negative response from the community, but what I found was completely opposite. Across the street from the site, there was a boarded up house. Two young men were in the front yard cleaning up brush and tree branches. C asked them how long the house has been abandoned. They began a conversation that continued the length of my photographing. A few houses down there were several young men on a porch. I could hear them talking. One of them thought I was with the FBI. One of the teenage boys came down onto the sidewalk and called to me. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was photographing the site of a homicide. He looked at me blankly and said, “Homicide?” I continued by explaining that it was the site where Laird Marble was killed. He looked down and retreated to the porch. I wondered if he knew Laird or how he felt about someone being killed across the street from where he lives. His response made me think that it was something that upset him. When we left, C told us about the conversation she had with the two men she was talking to. They explained to her that the block was like a family until Laird was killed and even worse that his brother was in jail for the murder. They said that they were all still trying to make sense of it and pull themselves and their community together. They were working hard to clean up the block in an effort to make it nicer for everyone.
From there we headed to the 800 block of West Marquette Road where Quanda Crider was found dead in an abandoned building. An autopsy determined that she died of strangulation and blunt force trauma from an assault. As we turned the corner onto Marquette, we looked for the address and couldn’t find it. There was a house that appeared to be sort of abandoned. There were orange crates stacked on the front porch that looked like makeshift seats. The front door was open and many of the windows were busted out, but the address didn’t match up. It had to be next door to it. We realized that the lot next to the house was a fresh demolition. Between July 16th, when her body was discovered, and now, the building must have been torn down leaving a dusty empty lot. Oddly, the garbage cans were lined up perfectly where the back of the building would be. Beyond the lot and across the alley, there was a family out of the back porch of their apartment building. The kids kept jumping ff the stairs into the frame of my photograph. Children were being dismissed from an elementary school about half a block away, so there was a constant stream of foot traffic both on the sidewalk in front of the lot and through the alley behind it.
Just a few blocks south and west of there in the 6800 block of South Morgan Street, DuJuan Johnson was found dead in a gangway with a gunshot wound to the head and a handgun in his hand. The gangway was on the property of an abandoned house that’s windows were boarded up. The house next door was for sale. There was a chain link fence with a gate that had chain and a pad lock to keep people out. The yard and gangway were all overgrown. There were beautiful pink flowers growing on the gate. Other than this abando and the vacant lot that it sat next to, the block was very nice. The opposite side of the street had carbon copy brick two-flats with front yards and manicured gardens. A small group of teenagers passed as I photographed. They must have been on their way home from school. It must have been a half-day. From this time on, there were kids outside everywhere. It was a beautiful day.
The next site was in the 500 block of West 70th Street where Andre Williams was shot and killed when a car rolled up and someone inside opened fire while he was hanging out with some friends under a viaduct taking refuge from the heat. Neighbors reported hearing up to 19 shots fired. Williams was the only one in the group that was hit. The viaduct was under the Metra train tracks. It was not dark and scary like many viaducts can be. The underside was all rusted and the concrete walls that had been painted white were lined with orange and brown watermarks. On one side of the tracks was a large apartment complex with a parking lot and on the other was a row of nice single-family homes. It was a quiet and peaceful place. The only person around was a man who rode by on his bike and wished me a good morning.
From there we headed due west to the quiet residential 7000 block of South Justine Street. It was here that Krystal Rodney and a man were fighting in what was described as a domestic-related argument at Rodney’s grandmother’s house when the man went to his vehicle, got a handgun, and shot her in the neck. It was a tree-lined street with well-kept single-family homes. It was so nice that the few boarded up houses seemed to even have a fresh coat of paint. They blended in with the other houses. I had to really look to pick them out. The sleepy block must have been home to an older population since there were no kids around on this gorgeous half a school day.
We drove to and passed up the site of Shaudee Nance’s murder close by in the 7000 block of South Hermitage. A group of elementary school aged kids were coming home from school and a woman at the residence was on the porch getting her mail. We also drove to and passed up the site of 2-year-old Aniya Crockett’s death from abuse. There was a group of teenage kids hanging out by a car right in front of the house.
The last place site was in front of a liquor store in the 6600 block of South Halsted. It was just around the corner from where Quanda Crider was found. We passed it earlier in the day, but there were lots of cars and people around. This time around things had settled down and I could get a clear shot of the site. The Norman’s Food & Liquor was right next to a busy corner gas station. This was yet another homicide in front of a liquor store. As I was finishing up photographing, a car pulled up with some spectacular rims. A man got out and walked in to the store. Y said he would hate to hit a pothole with those rims. As we pulled off a man in the gas station began to come towards the car yelling something I couldn’t make out. We quickly pulled out and away.
After today I have 41 more sites to visit.