Monday, February 05, 2007

Scared to Death Sunday

I have been wandering around Chicago looking to feed my new photography habit. In general the wandering happens from the safe, warm confines of my car. Given that it is currently near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the car is a necessity. I have become fascinated with the south side of Chicago, the old buildings, the derelict neighborhoods, the empty lots and interesting storefronts. So far no one has bothered me in any way, but I have been cautious not to put myself at risk. There are still Chicago neighborhoods where it is not safe for a white woman to go alone.
Sunday I went for one of my rambles. It wasn't one of my better outings. I am reluctant to stop for a picture when there are people around in case someone objects. I had assumed that the sub-zero weather would keep people indoors but actually there was a lot of activity. I only managed a few shots and decided to start heading back to indulge in my other hobby, lurking in Borders and reading over a cup of coffee. On the way back I passed an interesting looking series of buildings that were all boarded up and shuttered. Ida B. Wells Homes
I decided to investigate. It turns out it was part of a nearly defunct housing project, the Ida B. Wells Homes in the Bronzeville neighborhood. (See my post on Robert Taylor homes for photos of one of the high rise projects). Against my better judgment, I drove around a little bit and took a couple of photos (all my nerves would allow). It was very creepy, especially since the graffiti seemed to include some gang insignia. All those empty buildings seemed to be potential homes for danger. Door in Ida B. Wells
My better judgment won out and I decided it was definitely time to head home. I turned down a street away from the abandoned projects and turned right into a street lined with projects that were definitely more lively. The street was narrow and a lot of men were loitering in and near the street. I guess the weather didn't keep these guys indoors. I have no idea what they were up to and decided not to find out. I drove out of there a bit faster than was ideal. Nothing bad came of it but I decided that I need to be a bit more careful where I drive. Even though no one threatened me, my imagination was sufficient to leave me a bit shaken up. I'll try to keep the photo ramblings a bit more sensible in the future.
Oh, and do me a favor, don't tell my husband what I've been up to. I might get grounded.
For more on the Ida B. Wells Homes click on this link.


m.m.crow said...

wow! good work on getting the photos! i'm always blown away by the pictures you post. you have some real talent for capturing images... keep up the good work. and thanks for staying tuned in!

WestEnder said...

I lived in Chicago for 1 year back in 93-94. I picked up photography a few years after I left and I always wish I had done so while I lived there. I would do exactly the kind of thing you did in this post.

For now I'll have to enjoy it vicariously through you... keep 'em coming!

Debo Blue said...

Listen girl, you're not a photographer for AP...yet.

Stay out of dark alleys (no pun intended) and strange neighbourhoods. Heck, some of those places are scary for Black people too, ask some of the residents:-(

Quiana aka Haute Chocolate aka Mrs. B said...

Hello- I just came across your blog three years after the fact- as i am researching my old neighborhood for a personal project of mine. I am a 30 year old, higher ed. administrator who lived in Ida B. Wells for 22 years of my life until I graduated from college and moved out on my own.

Just a note to you and your readers, Ida B. was NOT a hell ridden- exceptionally scary place to live. i think its sad that the media in general along with others individuals really painted the picture that it was this hell hole of a community, when in fact it was not. It was however a place where good & bad resided- gang bangers and grandmothers all living together because their economic means were of "low" or "impoverished" status. Just like any area, most residents were aware of what house or area was "seedy" or not to walk home alone after a certain hour. But wouldn't that be the same of any neighborhood in Chicago? Ida B was no different.

I'm not upset at your post,nor at you, but I felt compelled to let you know that despite how the buildings looked at the very end (getting ready to be demolished) , there was many people who enjoyed living there, who played outside without fear, who celebrated many birthdays and have many fond memories of growing up in a close knit community. I learned some very valuable lessons living there and I wouldn't have changed it to live in Evanston, Beverly, Lincoln Park or whatever other neighborhood people tout as being these "havens of endless joy". Don't believe the hype folks!