Wednesday, May 6, 2015

We are Stars - Let the Rest of the Chicagoans be the Extras in ChiRaq!

As I sit on my porch here in Englewood, I cannot help but to reflect on the challenges my community faces day in and day out....I am not watching a movie & waiting for a hero to come save us or sitting here fearful of some big bad villain....This is my life, my block, my porch, my neighborhood....As much as I love my "mini" estate here on Union, I can't help but notice that the rest of the block could be coined a mini Detroit, Baltimore or another urban area in America....

Vacant lots, trash, abandoned buildings & semi burnt up homes that are barely standing is in my sneak preview. It's the perfect backdrop for a "Boyz-N-The Hood" type of movie or even a "gangsta" rap video. However, what's not in the backdrop is the reflection of the numerous failed policies of the City of Chicago and America….

Yes, I choose to be "cast" in this film, I mean my life & live alongside peacefully with the forgotten misfits; the bloody soldiers of "Chiraq"; the outcast of society; or whatever label you want to call the people who live in areas of concentrated poverty...But at the end of the day it's still home for me and so many other citizens like myself who work diligently to change this current reality.....
As I watch the trash fly through the block, the young people playing with sticks and dirt as a means to childhood fun, I continue my work with pride in order to sprinkle doses of hope wherever I go! I don't do this to brag or to be some extra in a movie...I do this work because I know Englewood is on the rise and I choose to be a part of the POSITIVE change happening here that so many others wish to ignore. 

Even after hearing that one of my favorite filmmakers, Spike Lee, is making a movie about my community and the title of the film would be...You Guessed It...."ChiRaq" - a name that is supposed to be a combination of Chicago & Iraq - due to the high number of shooting victims in Chicago, makes sense right? All, I can ask myself is - really Spike Lee?  Is this the best you can do? It's funny to me because this blog used to be titled -  Englewood the "Brooklyn of Chicago", because of my admiration of the culture & resilience of the residents in the BK....However, after further reflection a few years ago, I decided to change it because Englewood doesn't need to be the new Brooklyn, Harlem or anything else but - ANEW Englewood....

ANew Englewood that has experienced challenges and still rising from this current slump of systematic depression.....As I looked at the national news focused on Baltimore, I couldn't help but to think about Englewood....We have similar characteristics - 
  • Crime
  • Large population of people living below the poverty level
  • A mass of foreclosures or "vacants" as they say in BMore
  • Double-digit unemployment rates
  • Failing Schools - etc., etc.

But in my opinion, instead of glorifying these stats or just using these communities as a backdrop for a film….Let's make a film about real solutions to the problems in urban areas....Let's make a film about the young people who thrives against the odds....Let's make a film about the working parents who are putting in overtime in order to send their children to college, or how about a film that focuses on the single dads who are raising their children alone....What are their stories?  Who will hear their voices? 

Now I would be interested in that type of film, because the story line of the young black male who decided to live a life of crime and mayhem is getting a bit tired, don't you think? There are countless reality shows, TV series, YouTube clips, documentaries, who tells this story....Honestly, how many times will these people get a starring role?

Anyway, let me step down off my soapbox and end this blog on a lighter note….I am forever grateful that the ones who get a starring role in my film aka life are Englewood residents -(i.e.) people who actually LIVE in this community and are progressively navigating through a failed system that was designed to keep us in a slump....Contrary to the outsiders who have chimed in stating that we are all walking around like zombies in a hopeless cloud and that Chiraq is a GREAT name for a film about Englewood.....There are many of us who are the complete opposite of this stereotype & are working around the clock towards long term strategies to improve Englewood! I guess a movie about these residents would be too boring to watch or wouldn't be a box office hit...I digress...

So let the casting calls begin!! You can sit back & watch the gory details of a small number of people in Englewood, but I refuse to own it, condone it or embrace it!! I have no desire to be an "EXTRA" in anyone's film because I know REAL Englewood Residents are TRUE STARS - shining bright through the clouds of crime, poverty & failed policies and there is no film that will capture that TRUTH!! Since the majority of Chicago and folks who do not sleep in Englewood think we live in a war zone, allow me to put my guns aside, unfasten my bullet proof vest and take my laptop off this porch because according to them, residents like myself are lined up to be the next casualty….Give me a break!

I said it before & will say it again....Englewood is on the RISE, but if the same people are being “typecast” you will only see this one-sided story again & again....

Just wait until the extras clear the set and once the lights and cameras are gone....Then and only then will the TRUE STARS OF ENGLEWOOD be revealed...Until next time...Stay Peaceful! 

Aysha Butler aka Mrs. Englewood