Thursday, January 22, 2015

School is Out and Good in Englewood is In!!

Hello Hello Hello....Hope you missed me on my little hiatus from my blog!!  I am proud to announce that I am back to blogging since the bell has rang and school is out! For the readers who were not aware, I have been on a 24-month learning journey earning my Masters in Inner City Studies at Northeastern University at the Jacob Carruthers Center....


Don't know what I was thinking when I decided to return to school.....But I did it and enjoyed every moment of the experience.  From the small classrooms, the intense debates rooted in black culture, to the incredible faculty, and most of all an eager cohort of dynamic people all working towards the same goal - Graduation - December 2014!! Peep the cap and gown below! I did that!!!





I know what you are thinking..."What is a Masters in Inner City Studies? And with a name like "Mrs. Englewood" hasn't she already "mastered" the inner city...." Well it's more to it then that and although, I have a reputation of doing FANTASTIC things in Englewood...There is no way I can master the ever changing "inner city"...The inner city - aka urban areas aka ghettos or whatever you want to label marginalized black communities - is far too complex to master in a lifetime. The culture, politics, people and challenges will always be learning lessons for anyone working in this capacity.....So if you are working for change, prep yourself to be a life long learner!

This learning journey explored in great detail how many black communities with the same challenges as Englewood are systematically structured to fail. I know, depressing right?? But if you know me I am optimistic being and will always see the light at the end of the tunnel. We also delved deeper in Ancient African Civilization, examined the history of Chicago Public Schools, Curriculum for black students and much more...I am grateful that I was able to deepen my understanding of my community, education, economics and even examine my own personal purpose and work in Englewood.

Now when I started this blog back in 2009 I wanted to use this as a tool to give you a glimpse to my life as I work as a change agent and highlight the Good in Englewood - you can view some of my previous posts from 2010 here.


I did this because most new stories only reflect the negative activities here...The Good in Englewood concept has since flourished and if I am not reporting the Good in Englewood, so many individuals, organizations, and even main stream media outlets are now contributing to this movement!! 

As you can see from my previous blog posts, I mainly shared what organizations and individuals were doing...But this time the #GoodinEnglewood is me..Yes, ME - Aysha Butler aka Mrs. Englewood! 

Living in a community, where most people consider residents like myself, poor & uneducated....I am here to tell to you we are not!! I am proud mother of an exceptional student at Lindblom, a loving wife, a real estate investor, a community strategist and a PROUD Co-Founder/President of one of the most recognized groups in Englewood...R.A.G.E.!! I am here to tell you LOUD & CLEAR that we are far from LOSERS in Englewood!! This is the place where many trail blazers like myself are born and raised!!

See people from Englewood have to fight a little harder than an average Chicagoans, because we are always working to prove to others that TRUE GREATNESS resides in the 60621 or 60636 zip codes! 

2014 was a year of greatness and not only did I shine bright, but my community was shining even brighter!  From being the first community to pioneer the Large Lot Program that has now expanded to other communities in Chicago, to hosting our very own film festival, a 5K and just basically being the most talked about neighborhood in Chicago....This is not even half of the Good in Englewood that happened last year....Just search twitter for #GoodinEnglewood or check out my storify for a few of the stories...



So I would close by saying, in case you think Englewood is just a magnet for horrible news....I am a LIVING example of a #GOODINENGLEWOOD story!! So s
tay tuned for more living examples of #GoodinEnglewood in 2015!!! 


Until next time...TAKE ACTION to CREATE the life you truly desire!!!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Block, My Porch and 15 Shots Heard Around the World!

Greetings fellow readers, 

I had to post something about the experience I had this week on my block....Typically, I highlight all the #goodinenglewood on this blog and believe me, I've been slacking lately because there is tons of #goodinenglewood stories to report!

From Alan Mather of Lindlom H.S. winning the Golden Apple Award, to a dynamic Teen Tennis Player from Englewood, to one of R.A.G.E. co-founders Rashanah Baldwin making the Front Page of the Tribune....See above.....It is exciting to see this narrative about Englewood slowly but surely making its way to the "mainstream" media! It's a start but of course the struggle continues.....



Let me paint you a picture of my afternoon on May 28th....I had an interview scheduled at 3:30pm with a reporter from NPR to talk about the newly created Large Lot Program....This is a program where homeowners like myself have the opportunity to purchased a city owned vacant lot anywhere on the block in which they reside...I am elated about this program and can't wait to see the different ideas residents will implement after they trick out these open spaces.... 
Interview with WTTW on my block in early in May

I personally want a communal space that everyone on the block can enjoy....And now that I have a puppy, I've been thinking about adding some dog park components to the space....Anyway, that was the REAL reason the reporter was here....


Courtesy of Chicago Tribune - On my block


In the last few weeks, I've conducted interviews with reporters from the Chicago Tribune, WTTW, and others on my block, my porch or at the open space I am looking to acquire....Well this day was no different....

About 10 mins. in the interview another member of RAGE who lives on the next block stopped by....We continued the interview and in a matter of 7 secs, 15 gun shots rang out.....My initial reaction was a mix of being stunned, nervous, embarrassed, and even fearful....I was literally in a daze....I have been on my block for over 10 years and unfortunately I have heard shots before, but have never witnessed a shooter in action....What I've noticed is that there are inexperienced shooters running around with faulty guns and these cowards run or drive quickly with no real aim to their intended target....These are typically the incidents where the wrong person is hit....Case in point the recent teacher who was shot and killed in the Chatham area while in a real estate office....This was such a sad story.....




However, this incident was different....This shooter or should I say the assassinator, calmly shot directly at his target walking slowly with the largest gun I ever seen....."Oh My Jesus" (the twitter quote around the world for this story) was the first words that slipped my lips....And other comments that were expressions of utterly shock...All while the recorder of this NPR reporter continues to roll...Demond, another RAGE co-founder and a frequent visitor of my porch, is equally stunned because this is his walking pathway to work, this is where we both ride our bikes, and the porch is where we frequently conduct strategic meetings....And now this is unfortunate incident is captured on national news....As hard as we work to change the narrative of Englewood, in a matter of seconds that negative, deadly, war zone perception was feeding into a recorder for the world to confirm this horrific story.....


I couldn't believe the space, where I consider my unofficial office was under attack....A community that I love; a block I cherish; in the midst of talking about the work I adore; was abruptly violated...


I was highly offended....This is not the norm for me or for whomever I invite to this sacred space, I call home...We work tirelessly at R.A.G.E. to shift the perception of our community and will continue to do so regardless of how many shootings are reported on the news....This is my block, my porch, my community and I know what happened here is a bigger problem that everyone is ignoring...I witnessed a killer in action....A "rare breed" who is dealing with issues beyond my capacity....However, the majority of the residents on my block know that this is NOT acceptable and if my voice in that interview, is what was needed for my city and country to recognized that this is bigger than gun control policies....Then so be it....I personally don't think this is just a gun control issue, this is a poverty control issue...


We know if the REAL issues are not addressed; we will continue to produce this "rare breed" of individuals, who will walk slowly towards their target, in broad daylight, on a safe passage route, with families and children out and about, for everyone to see and even record....These situations will become the NORM all over Chicago not just in Englewood.....This paints a deeper picture, a picture that is bigger than my block....This is structural violence, that is an element of our society; a society that takes pride in war and mayhem.  There has been a structure in place, where an entire race has been marginalized for years, stripped from core human values, taught to hate oneself and reacts with vicious attacks. This structure has produce a society that looks at a person life as worthless than a pair of gym shoes....

One day of ACTION in Chicago is not enough, a hashtag #putthegunsdown or #savechicago is not enough, 5000 men on a block is not enough, the anti-violent marches are not enough, a PSA on the same radio stations that promote violent songs is not enough...We need to deploy deeper strategies to keep our community safe as well as find a way to handle these "rare breeds"....

Please know this is NOT the NORM and nothing will make me believe that it is....This was my block, my porch, and 15 shots heard around the world....My question to you is how can you as a citizen of Chicago help to keep your block and your community safe? Because if you are like me, I am not equip to handle the "rare breeds"....But I am equip, ready and committed to create PEACE for the majority of us who just want to LIVE, LOVE, and LAUGH!! 

If you are ready to join forces you can either join RAGE or other groups who are working to have safe and livable communities....


My work won't stop and I hope if you are sitting on the sidelines hearing these stories on the news, you too will be inspired to do something to ensure this behavior does not become the NORM....Until next time....Don't just complain or feel sorry for residents like myself who live in Englewood...Find a way to TAKE ACTION to CREATE the block, community and CITY you truly desire....

Aysha Butler~ 


You can read my official statement here.




Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Day I Married Englewood....

I know what you are thinking....What does she mean she married Englewood??? Is this woman just utterly obsessed with this neighborhood to the point she feels like she is married to it...And who in the hell would want to marry Englewood? Well, my nickname is "Mrs. Englewood", so some sort of nuptials had to take place....Right?  

Well, there are a few instances in my life, that I honestly feel like I entered in a marriage with Englewood, but for the purposes of this post, I will start with me buying my first piece of property on 66th & Union...Yep a Marriage on Union Street? How fitting right? 




Well, because buying a home is sometimes a 30-year commitment, with many ups and downs like most marriages this was definitely a time that nuptials were in order....And to make sure that I celebrated my union in style, my husband and a few friends from the block (67th & May) decided to host the "Welcome to Englewood BBQ" which took place for 6 years right here on Union. This became one of the largest BBQs to happen in Englewood....Each year of this marriage, we celebrated our anniversary in the summer, with over 300 guests from all over Chicago and a few out-of-towners who graced our backyard....We had the performers, DJs, dancing, food, drinks and more! Oh how I miss these events....


Welcome to Englewood BBQ

Welcome to Englewood BBQ - That's my Pops too!

Now fast forward to today....I've been able to use my marketing, hosting, organizing and event planning skills from our BBQs to host Docs & Dialogue (a youth film series) that started in 2010, which is a part of our "So Fresh Saturdays" series RAGE hosted in the parks last year! 


So Fresh Saturdays at Ogden Park



Charles "Cheap Charlie" Hoffman
These events served as a great tool to organize and engage residents, promote peace and encourage creativity from our young people!  We are looking forward to kicking this off again this summer....Ok back to the marriage....As you can see it is important that I take the time to not only express and share the positive things in Englewood, but to also give my readers an idea as to why Englewood is so dear to me, so much so that I use the name Mrs. Englewood...I once heard in the "community" rumor mill that I was not connected to Englewood, that I was basically a "plant" sent here by some outsiders and started RAGE....This is hilarious to me and so far from the truth! First off, my grandfather was one of the first blacks on his block on 67th & Aberdeen and was also a known business owner of a store call Cheap Charlies on 69th & Hermitage....
Cheap Charlies - My Grandfather store in the 80s....
I attended over 3 Catholic elementary schools in Englewood before they were shut down by the archdioceses and walked these Englewood streets from school to my grandparents house during the week....



St. Brendan's School - 67th & Elizabeth

My mom and dad actually met on 63rd & Halsted and my dad's side of the family grew up on 60th & Peoria....Are you seeing the dots connecting now....



So having the name "Mrs. Englewood" is fitting....But let me go further....When I was 17, I moved from my mom's house in New City (Some call this area North Englewood) and came back to 67th & Aberdeen. I met my husband on this same block in 96' and stayed there until our daughter was 2....Then in 2002 we purchase our first home on 66th & Union....I even used the name "Mrs. Englewood" on my Myspace page which everyone knows is over a decade old....
6750 S. Aberdeen - My Grandparents House and my spot!
The Butlers' - 1996 Circa
So there has been numerous times in my life where I felt I married or remarried my neighborhood! As a child going to school; as a young adult living on my own; when I met my husband; when I purchased properties; when I got married; and the moment when I decided to get involved with my community....And just like all marriages, there are times when you want to pull out, give up, and get a divorce when things get hectic....But folks like myself who truly believe in these vows navigate through challenges, overcome barriers, and always find a work around that will strengthen the relationship....That is where I am now....


As a community leader and strategists I am hated by few and loved by so many and that is what keeps me moving with this incredible SUPER energy to see my neighborhood the way I used to see it when I was a child...A place where I knew I couldn't act up in front of my neighbors or they will grab a switch...


My Grandma - Rebecca "Mudear" Lias and me!

I knew the local business owners and employees because they were from the blocks! Everyone was aware of the activists on the ground and they was known and loved by the residents not challenged like we are today! 

This is my destiny, I love being married to Englewood and will continue to share my journey with whomever will listen! Even my naysayers will always be WELCOMED to the table as I need the critiques to help me improve and grow!

Now you know a little of the history of my nickname and why I will be married to Englewood until the day I die!



Until next time, TAKE ACTION to CREATE the life you truly desire!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Englewood - The Proud Wife of the Englewood Community!




Saturday, January 4, 2014

Yep - R.A.G.E. is Still Here!! Check out the Year in Review!

As the President and Co-Founder of R.A.G.E., it is only right to repost our 2013 Year in Review! Check it out and stay tuned for bigger and better things in 2014!  Happy New Year!!



R.A.G.E Accomplishments for 2013
Civic Engagement
  • We hosted 6 successful village meetings throughout the Englewood community. We also brought in representatives from Whole Foods to address any concerns or questions from Englewood residents regarding the new development.
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  • R.A.G.E. successfully hosted 4 Nights Out in the Park events at Lindblom, Ogden, Hamilton and Sherwood Park.  This edu-tainment series highlighted the talent in Englewood and also informed residents about issues that impact our neighborhood.  We are proud to say we were able to keep the spirit of the Back to School Parade alive with our finale at Ogden Park and distributed over 1000 fully packed book bags to students and families of Englewood!
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  • R.A.G.E mobilized community members to survey neighbors in order to collect information from 60 interested parties  who are interest in the Green Healthy Neighborhood Large Lot Program. A program that will allow residents to purchase city-owned lots for $1 on their blocks. This program is set to roll out in 2014. 
  • We organized several residents from the community to participate in the Mycelia Project a photovoice project documenting and speaking about the spaces in Englewood.
  • R.A.G.E. coordinated and led the 2nd Annual Englewood Unity community clean-up day where organizations, residents and youth participated in cleaning the 69th street corridors. Over 100 volunteers spent the day cleaning streets and vacant lots.
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  • In collaboration with CivicLab, RAGE  hosted a comprehensive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) workshop examining the Englewood Neighborhood TIF and educating residents on the important of understanding how TIF districts operate in Englewood.
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  • R.A.G.E. continue to serve as technical support for the residents of the Englewood Railway Coalition who are residents being displaced and in opposition to the aggressive land grabbing and abuse of eminent domain policy by Norfolk Southern and worked closely with Sustainable Englewood around environmental issues related to the expansion.
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  • R.A.G.E. took our newsletter - Englewood Call to the airwaves! We launched our first call-in weekly CANTV show and delivered relevant and positive news that impact residents in Englewood.
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  • R.A.G.E. partnered with the Institute of Design of IIT and created several ways to engage community and capture their stories and perspectives, by way of chalk boards on sidewalks, books in barbershops, laundry mats, etc. We also hosted a Design to Engage Workshop with community residents and leaders.
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Education and Youth Development
  • Partnered with the Acts of Love Tour again and distributed over 1000 books to youth in Englewood as well as identified an Englewood resident to have a full stocked library built!!
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  • Assisted the Englewood CAC in the organizing the 2nd Annual Englewood Education Empower Summit held at Team Englewood H.S. With our partnership with IIT Institute of Design we were able to capture  authentic responses from students, educators and parents from Englewood!
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  • Worked closely with the Lupe Fiasco Foundation and facilitated several organizing session for the youth of Project Orange Tree and incorporated this movement in Englewood.
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  • We consistently employed 3 youth interns to inform and engage residents about RAGE and Englewood news.1471916_739466779400370_721608100_n
  • R.A.G.E. was able to get up to 5 youth summer jobs this year in the field of coding, social media and community work.
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  • R.A.G.E. President served as a the keynote speaker and members hosted several youth workshops at Northern Illinois University, students were bused in from Chicago and DeKalb, IL. 
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  • R.A.G.E. hosted several youth workshops in the City of Chicago that discussed youth identity, hip hop, violence and more.
  • R.A.G.E. recently partnered with Urban Prep to help the freshman class work on a community driven project that included the re-usage of vacant lots.
  • R.A.G.E. presented several times at Lindblom H.S. about the importance of Englewood history and culture.
Economic Development
  • R.A.G.E. members continue to serve in leadership roles of the Kusanya CafĂ© and the cafe finally opened for business in November 2013.
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  • R.A.G.E. continue to highlight and support small businesses like Powell's Barbershop, Culture Connection, Deli King and hosted meetings at these spaces.
  • R.A.G.E. members are leading a newly formed steering committee that will serve as an oversight council for the Whole Foods Development and other development on 63rd & Halsted and beyond.
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  • R.A.G.E. has been at the forefront of the school closings and was the first group to recommend how these schools can be repurpose to village hubs that will spark economic vitality.  This project is still moving forward into 2014.
This is just a snapshot of our accomplishments, we hope to do more in 2014 with your help....Please consider joining our association or simply donating today: http://ragenglewood.org/donate/
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