Washington Park is one of many historic neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side.
The parish is nestled between Hyde Park, Woodlawn and Englewood. It houses the DuSable Museum of African American History and the former Schultz Baking Company. The building is now closed, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is about to be converted into a data center.
And the community park – after its namesake – was one of the proposed locations for the Obama Center.
Interactive map: More from our community report series
It is also an area that has seen many changes – many of which church leaders say have been for the better.
39 years ago this month Pastor TL Barrett Jr. opened the Life Center Church of God in Christ, which he calls a prayer palace. At the time, Barrett says, Washington Park was facing a major crime problem.
“It has been rated by the Chicago Police Department as the worst crime area in the entire city of Chicago. It was called ‘the hole’. Not with ‘w’, with ‘h’. And all fled from this community. Now everyone wants to return to this community. ‘
Barrett says Washington Park’s greatest asset is its people. He says they came together to respond to the pandemic.
One of them is Evelyn Shelton, cook and owner of Evelyn’s Food Love. It opened as a restaurant in 2017 and serves home cooking – shrimp and grits, hush puppies, short ribs. When the pandemic broke out, Evelyn began preparing meals for those with food insecurity – and for the overwhelmed emergency room staff at nearby Provident Hospital.
“It is very gratifying to help people in general, but food is such a fundamental necessity that it is even more gratifying that we were able to provide nutritious meals and help people when there wasn’t much help,” said Shelton.
Evelyn’s is only doing catering for now, but hopes they can reopen as a restaurant next year.
A local place that has reopened – the Currency Exchange café, developed by the artist Theaster Gates’ foundation. The Retreat project got off to a one-month false start last year before the COVID-19 cases rose, and has been up and running since July.
Retreat provides a place for artists and entrepreneurs to showcase their work, collaborate, perform and develop ideas. Manager Barédu Ahmed, herself a musician, says it is a space from creative people for creative people.
“Monday Coffee Company in Residence here, they are also creatives, photographers, they make merchandise, they experiment with denim. Pour souls, they are creative too. They are culinary artists … I think it has a different meaning when you know that the people in charge of the room care about what happens in the room because they are also connected to it, ”said Ahmed.
Next door, the L-1 Creative Business Accelerator also helps entrepreneurs. The University of Chicago’s arts and outreach operations are retailed in Washington Park and include three black-owned companies based on the South Side.
Andrea Polk is behind the care products of Solo Noir for Men. She and her daughter Ava developed the Zen Soul Apothecary wellness line after Andrea was confronted with major health problems.
“I started researching what my ancestors did. I started creating teas and tea blends. I started mixing crystals. I started meditating and doing yoga and I started transforming a lot through visualization and then I brought my daughter because she was very helpful in my spiritual journey. She always motivated me and said, ‘Mom, you have the power, you can do it,’ ”said Polk.
“It was really fun and exciting because I can work with my mom,” said Ava.
With places where artists worked or startups were selling their products closed or scaled back, L-1 and Retreat have picked up during the pandemic.
Another group responding to the pandemic – the KLEO Community Family Life Center. They offer a wide range of programs for children and families – and they have added contact tracing, COVID testing, a call center, and vaccine education. The executive director of KLEO says personal connections are key to helping people overcome fears of the COVID vaccination – it even helped calm their fears before they got the vaccination.
“Once you get people to a place where you can have an open conversation, I think that helps people instead of just watching the news and worrying about what you see on the news… a conversation Definitely important at this time because it’s the unknown, ”said Ereatha McCullough.
Video: Check out our full interview with Ereatha McCullough
One of the region’s representatives said that when it comes to increasing vaccination rates, the conversation about general health needs to begin.
“Let’s talk about health. It’s like everything else that has happened to us: flu, chickenpox, other things. So we have to teach people to take care of themselves, ”Ald said. Jeanette Taylor (20th district). “You speak of a community that has been divested and that doesn’t trust the government. So we have to work hard. “
While the pandemic and vaccinations are still an issue, community members look forward to the future. While there are some concerns that the Obama Center – next door in Woodlawn – could bring evictions, some residents say they look forward to the jobs it will bring to the community.
Video: Check out our full interview with Ald. Jeanette Taylor
Community report series
“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We take to the streets to speak to your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and executives about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned using the map below. Or select a community from the drop-down menu. Points in Red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.
Choose a community: Albany Park (04/15/20) Albany Park (03/25/21) Archer Heights (01/21/20) Arlington Heights (09/30/21) Armor Square (Chinatown) (03/23) 20) Armor Square (Chinatown) (06/25/20) 20) Armament Square (Chinatown) (2/11/21) Ashburn (10/22/20) Auburn Gresham (4/28/20) Auburn Gresham (7/2/20) Aurora (4/16/20) Aurora (6 / 1/20) Austin (4/14/20) Austin (7/30/20) Austin (8/19/21) Avondale (8/12/21) Belmont Cragin (5/11/20) Belmont Cragin (1 / 7/20) Beverly (3/30/20) Beverly (3/11/21) Blue Island (4/20/20) Bridgeport (and Armor Square) (4/8/21) Brighton Park (4/23/20) Chatham ( 4/6/20) Chatham (12/3/20) Chicago Lawn (Marquette Park) 5/27/20) Chicago Police Headquarters (8/4/20) Chicago River / ”Downtown” (6/10/2021) Cicero (4/27/20) Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities) (5/21/20) Des Plaines (9/2/21) Douglas (Bronzeville) (15/6/20) Douglas (Bronzeville) (7/22/21) East Garfield Park (4/1/20) Edison Park (5/26/20) Edgewater (Andersonville ) (6/22/20) Elgin (6/24/20) Englewood (5/20/20) Englewood (8/13/20) Englewood(4/22/21) Evanston (6/11/20) Eva nston (5/6/2021) Forest Glen (Sauganash) (12/17/20) Gage Park 7/23/20 Gage Park 2/4/2021 Garfield Ridge (8/26/21) Gary, IN (30.04.20.)) Geneva (11/5/20) Greater Grand Crossing (10/8/20) Hegewisch (4/22/20) Hermosa (7/16/20) Highwood (4/2/20) Humboldt Park (05/27) 2021) Hyde Park (05/06/20) Jefferson Park (01/28/21) Joliet (10/21/11) Kankakee (05/14/20) Kenosha, WI (04/07/20) Kenosha, WI (08/27/20) Kenosha (10/29/20) Lake View (Boystown) (04/09/20) Lake View (Wrigleyville) (1/21) Lake View (Northalsted) (06/03/2021) Lincoln Square (07/09/20) Lisle (06/17/2021) Logan Square (05/19/2021) 20) Logan Square / West Town (Bucktown / Wicker Park) (18.06.20) Logan Square (5/20.) / 2021) Lower West Side (Pilsen) (12.10.20) Lower West Side (Pilsen) (28.10.11 ) Maywood (10/9/20) Milwaukee, WI (8/20/20) McKinley Park (5/13/20) Montclare (4/21/20) Mount Greenwood (9/17/20) near South Side (Mercy Hospital) (9/3/20) Near West Side (Greektown) (02/25/2021) Near West Side (West Loop) (9/23/21) New City (Behind the Yards) (6/10/20) North Chicago (Naval Station Great Lakes) (11/11/21) North Lawndale (14/1/20) North Lawndale (7.1 / 21) North Lawndale (10/14/21) Oak Lawn (9/9/21) Oak Park (24/06/20.)) O’Hare (and Rosemont) (4/29/20) Portage Park (6/16/20) Pullman / Roseland ( 5/12/20) Ravenswood (7/15/21) River North (6/3/20.)) Riverdale (5/13/2021) Rogers Park (5/5/20) Rogers Park (25/11/20) Rogers Park (8/5/21) Skokie (5/18/20) South Chicago (6/9.) / 20) South Deering (2/18/21) South Lawndale (small village) (3/26/20) South Lawndale (small village, power station Crawford) (4/13/20) South Lawndale (Small Village) (9th) / 24/20) South Lawndale (Small Village) (4/15/2021) South Lawndale (Small Village) (9/16/21) South Shore (3/25/2021) .20) Streeterville (Navy Pier) (06/09) 20) Streeterville (Navy Pier) (04/29/2021) St. Joseph, MI (5/28/20) The Loop (6/1/20) The Loop / near South Side (South Loop) (7/8/21) Uptown (3/31/20) Uptown (10/7/21) Washington Heights ( 11/4/21) Waukegan (5/4/20) West Chicago (3/4/2021) West Garfield Park (10/1/20) West Ridge (Little India) (3/24/20.)) West Ridge (8/6/20) West Lawn (11/12/20) Wheaton (10/15/20) WTTW Studios (wrap-up) (6/29/20) Woodlawn (6/17/20) Woodridge (24.06. 2021)