I took a walk today. Down North Michigan Avenue…towards the magnificent mile. It is 81 degrees outside and Chicago is absolutely lit. My children are with my sister in law and my husband will be here tomorrow. The hotel coffee is actually good and they have this bomb ass lemon water with crushed ice in the most beautiful container, that I’m actually considering stealing. In fact, according to my phone, I got in 9608 steps, all before 9 am. At the time of writing I’ve clocked 13864. I had decided that when I got here I was going to make fajr every morning, actually read and comprehend something non arts admin related, and take a walk all before starting my work day. For this one day, I have made my word to myself bond. I am feeling fucking awesome and quite aware that God does in fact dwell in me. It might just have been the perfect morning.
So, I’m thinking about the project Jasiri and I are working on, P.O.W.E.R. (People Oppressed Will Eventually Rise), while walking down North Michigan Avenue. The Magnificent Mile. North Michigan Avenue…where homeless people sleep under windows with mannequins wearing 20 thousand dollar outfits…where White privilege walks down the street in tailor made suits checking the time on Rolex’s instead of phones and where the streets look like they are paved in diamonds, because people that look like me are cleaning them…
I keep walking…towards Oak Street Beach and after a moment I realize the only image of a Black person chilling, outside of myself, was on a mural…and he is bodiless and his countenance is weary/pensive…so to call him chilling is kinda a stretch. Most Black folks appeared to be either students or on their way to work. I did see one brother walking around the Water Tower and he wouldn’t give me eye contact, so we could do the nod…whateva sucka!
Now, I’m not like, floored or anything…as this is not a Black neighborhood. But, what was so very interesting to me was seeing what this particular affluent neighborhood looked like at 7 am. When I thought of the Magnificent Mile, I would more or less think of the stores. But, when you walk down North Michigan Avenue, you’ll see a bunch of really dope private residences down the side streets. Big beautiful graystones that are now protected historical properties and condos to die for. This is like THEE walkable residential neighborhood.
Folks out here walking dogs, biking, and jogging. Old men are walking slowly with yellow polos and pink shorts on…old women with faces worn from too much alcohol and sun…outchere walking…strolling…chilling. I know for a fact the scene is completely different on 115th and State where I grew up in Chicago. Only folks on the street at 7am are my retirement age Momma doing street work (what Jehovah’s Witnesses call their proselytizing efforts while not at yo door) and folks catching the bus to/from their jobs. The juxtaposition is sobering. I am wondering if, at 7 am, what is the activity in North Lawndale. What is the activity, at 7 am, in Englewood where my Grandma’s house was? Cuz I’m thinking about stress, and lack, and illnesses that are caused not by heredity…but economics, lifestyles and choices…and all of it borne of oppression.
I’m tripping because I am here, on the Magnificent Mile, fortunate to have a break from the hustle of being self employed. Living a childhood dream of flossing in my downtown apartment. Fortunate that for the next few days, technically, I don’t have to worry about nothing but Celeste and making art… Fortunate to be able to take a walk by myself, not worrying about my child darting into the street or Gorilla pens at the Animal Prison. In this moment, I have no grants to write…no clothes to wash…no food to cook… I am fortunate that I am able to, while here in Chicago, engage in a regimine of self care that is much more difficult in my normal life…and the lives of many others. I am chill. I am creative. I am not tired. I am fuckin’ euphoric. Not because I am physically away from my fam…who will join me shortly, but, because my pace has slowed down tremendously and I am wide open. Grateful.
It made me think, yes, affluence absolutely affords the luxury of leisure….the luxury of ease. Cuz when you make enough…you move differently and your priorities shift in terms of the everyday. When you make enough, you can take vacations…even in your own city. When you make enough, you can only work one job…if you want to. When you make enough the necessities of life are a given. When you make enough, if your car breaks down you don’t have to wait til the next check to fix it. When you make enough Obama care actually helped your health insurance situation. This simply is not everyone’s reality. This is not my everyday reality.
How do we create environments of ease within our communities with the resources we have? Environments where our self-care is a priority and we are able to take a minute to make it so…with ease? I know we are doing so in pockets…but I’m wondering what an entire community, in a less affluent neighborhood, would look like without the stress of survival on its neck. I am still in my thoughts…but, I wanted to share a bit of what I am seeing, feeling, and thinking…before I get back to my normal life sans the luxury of a residency.