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Reflection: My Love/Hate Relationship With Chicago

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By: Youth Radio

Youth Radio has been following the teacher strike in Chicago that ended on Tuesday, with an overwhelming vote by teachers to return to the classroom. Earlier this summer, Chicago was in the spotlight, grappling with another issue impacting young people: gun violence. There's a lot more to Chicago than these stories that make national headlines, and a lot more complexity behind each issue that can't be reduced to soundbites. Joshua Adams, who grew up on the south side of Chicago, wrote a piece about his complicated relationship with his home city on his blog W.O.H.. Check out an excerpt below.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my city for a long time now.

While I was in undergrad at the University of Virginia, people would often tell me “Joshua, you rep Chicago pretty hard!”. For me it was hard not to.

A young black male coming from where I come from to a relatively small college city in central VA was tough, and I felt extremely isolated and out of place. I ain’t the most hood dude out, but I def was one of the hoodest there. I didn’t dress like them, the slur in my speech wasn’t like how they talked, and I felt disconnected. I was from the south side of the Chi; they were from the suburbs or country towns and counties of Virginia. I even brought bad habits from my environment (a lot of my friends were from a particular gang, so they wore red and cocked their hat left. I was never part of a gang, but being around them, I picked up the habit of only cockin my hat to the left, and had to remind myself that people weren’t in gangs in college lol #FAIL.)

...

I’m proud to be from Chicago. I grew up on the south and west sides of the city, and I appreciate all the things I went through growing up, good and bad. Chicago will always be closest to my heart.

But as I started to pack up my apartment in C-Ville after graduation, the loathing side of my love-hate relationship with Chicago started to rear its ugly head.... I had to go back to the most segregated city on the face of the planet (a fact that we hide in the open), back to being around some of the same people with the same mentalities and values as when I first left for college. It meant I had to go back to the south side.

If you ask anyone from Chicago how the city is doing, you probably are gonna get one of two answers. If you ask someone who was born and raised on the north side, their answer is likely to sound like “It’s amazing! I love it here. I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else! ” If you ask someone from the south side, their reply probably will sound a little something like “Man……..I just wanna get the f*** outta here!”. Northsiders are what you see when you Google “Chicago”. Southsiders are the ones who struggle with the Chicagoan-existential dilemma: Do I stay to help/persevere, and display the positive? Or do it I run from the negativity?

( NOTE: No, I didn’t forget about the East or the West. Just wanted to best convey the dichotomy within the city. And if you are from the north side reading this, I’m not attacking or criticizing my north-sider brothers and sisters. I’m probing a much much broader issue, using people to illustrate my point. There are some really bad neighborhoods on the North side, just like there are some GREAT neighborhoods on the South side. And there is violence over the entire city, not just the south side. If I accidentally offended anyone’s loss or personal experience, I definitely apologize. It is not, was not, and never will be my intention, so I hope you understand the ideological work I’m trying to do in this article. Please bare with me).

Neighborhoods, particularly on the south side (and some in the west side) of Chicago have erupted with youth violence. With death tolls increasing year by year, more kids have died in Chicago than US troops in Afghanistan. Seemingly every year, more and more Chicago Public School students have passed from shootings during the course of a school year (and we won’t even get into how the numbers skyrocket as soon as summer hits).

Too long have news headlines brought me to tears (like the first time my friend showed me the video of Derrion Albert getting beat to death), just like Lupe Fiasco when he saw old footage of him in his neighborhood with now fallen friends, or our beloved humble superstar icon Derrick Rose at the unveiling of his new shoe.

This epidemic of killing has almost left myself and many like me with a deep sense of hopelessness. It’s very difficult to cope with, and many of us just want to get as far away from the violence as we can. The constant RIP Facebook statuses and daily local news reminders are heartbreaking. So now when I come back home, after I see my family and few friends, to be honest, I wanna get out of here as fast as I can. Being here can be so training on my spirit at its low points. 

To read the entire blog post, check out Adams' blog here. Joshua Adams is a music producer and music journalist from the south side of Chicago, and a recent graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A in African American Studies and a minor in English. He intends on applying to graduate school to get a masters in Journalism.

Turnstyle News featured photographer and filmmaker Carlos Javier Ortiz who documented gang life in Chicago. Check out a collection of his emotional and graphic photos here.

Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit Youthradio.org