*Nainika's Note* Yo, so this is basically *ahem* fact-based and doesn't really have much of a plot, per se....anyways, enjoy!
My city gets a lot of mention around the country, and sometimes even around the world. The City of Big Shoulders, the Center of the Midwest, The Second City, The White City, the City That Works, and most notably, the Windy City. I have lived within the city’s reach all my life, and even though I live out in the ‘burbs, I am proud to call myself a Chicagoan.
And I love my city, I really do.
It is the home of deep-dish pizza, towering skyscrapers overlooking the great Lake Michigan, one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings outside of Paris, and over seventy-seven million people. And it was home to many famous people, including Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, Bill Murray, and the adopted home of Michael Jordan, and Oprah.
We have 26 miles of lakefront with 25 beaches. More than 8,800 acres of green space and 600 parks; the Chicago Park District is the largest municipal park manager in the nation. We have over 200 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths, and more than 13,000 bike racks and parking areas. We have Art on the MART, the longest-running and largest permanent digital art installation in the world. More than 500 public works of art are displayed in over 150 municipal facilities around the city as part of the City of Chicago’s Public Art Program. These works include installations by Picasso, Chagall, Miro, and Calder Approximately 60 museums, nearly 200 art galleries, and 20 neighborhood art centers dot the city. More than 250 theatres, 225 music venues, and 200 dance companies are here also. More than 7,300 restaurants and 167 breweries call the Chicagoland area home — the most breweries of any metropolitan area in the nation. We have 369 landmarks and 59 historic districts, Seven free downtown and lakefront major music and dance festivals, more than 30 food festivals, over 400 neighborhood festivals, and more than 40 film festivals annually. The starting point of “Historic Route 66” at Grant Park on Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The museum is housed in the only remaining building constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition’s “White City.” We have Máximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur known to man, and SUE, the largest and most complete T-Rex specimen in the country, at the Field Museum of Natural History. The Chicago Cultural Center, built in 1897, originated as the city’s first public library and became the first free municipal cultural center in the United States. Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, and one of the few remaining free zoos in the U.S.
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is the second-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Willis Tower held first place until the construction of New York’s One World Trade Center in 2014. Also, the Willis Tower elevators are among the fastest in the world, operating at speeds as fast as 1,600 feet per minute. Wrigley Field (1914) is the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Approximately 16 examples of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the city of Chicago, and a further 25 in nearby Oak Park. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School of architecture originated in Chicago. And we have McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the Western Hemisphere.
We also have amazing radio stations, ones that I proudly have all the merch for. We dye the Chicago River green every St. Patrick’s day, and I am proud to say that it is biodegradable, and doesn’t harm the environment. Well, it might shock the fish, but other than that, it’s an amazing place.
We have a lot of Firsts, too. As the 44th President of the United States, Chicago resident Barack Obama became the first African-American to serve in office. Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times became the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun became the country’s first female African-American U.S. senator in 1992. In 1907, University of Chicago physicist Albert A. Michelson became the first American to receive a Nobel Prize in the sciences. Wallace Carlson and Winsor McCay created the first animated cartoon character with Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914. The following year, Carlson debuted a new character called “Dreamy Dud,” who appeared in perhaps the country’s first afterschool special for Chicago’s Essanay Studios, made famous by Charlie Chaplin. Chicago resident Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her book Annie Allen.
The name Chicago was first recorded in 1688, where it appears as Chigagou, an Algonquian word meaning “onion field.” Chicago’s first permanent settler in 1779 was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a trapper, and merchant credited with building the trading post that evolved into Chicago. With French and African parentage, du Sable hailed from Haiti and settled in what was to become Chicago with his Potawatomi wife, Kittihawa (Catherine). Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833 and as a city in 1837. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed one-third of the city and left more than 100,000 homeless. Its initial spark remains unknown. The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue, now home to City Gallery and Lookingglass Theatre, are among Chicago’s few remaining pre-fire buildings. The 1893 Columbian Exposition was held on the grounds of Chicago’s Jackson Park. The exposition buildings were so striking that they launched the so-called ‘City Beautiful’ movement, which focused on Beaux-Arts aesthetics in American city planning. The exposition also gave rise to Chicago’s nickname, “The White City,” due to the appearance of its massive white Beaux-Arts-inspired edifices. In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project, reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it would empty into the Mississippi River rather than Lake Michigan.
Even when Covid-19 put our vibrant city on lockdown, we didn’t let that faze us, moving with the times and making sure everybody had what they needed. When times changed, we changed with them, allowing nothing to jostle our carefree spirits that shivered with the wind coming off the lake.
But for all its great things, my city does have its faults. Sometimes I can hardly believe that the boiling pot of anger, racism, hatred, and deeply rooted suspicion can be synonymous with all the good things that have come out of the city. Sometimes I am ashamed to say that I am a Chicagoan.
It hurts to hate the city that I was born to love. It hurts to hate something that you have walked so many times. It hurts to hate going into my city because I don’t want to get shot. I don’t want to get mugged. Hurt. And even though most people are not like what I just described, there is more bad than good in my city. And that hurts most of all.
There have already been 108 homicides in 2021. That makes it out to be approximately 1.4 deaths a day. 9 children under the age of 18 have been shot since June 20th. Gun violence in the city is only increasing every year, and it has come to a point where I almost don’t recognize my city anymore.
How can you? When all the good things about the city are canceled out by the bad?
I’ll always love the city that I was born in. There will never be another to replace it. And even though there are some times when I detest what it has become, I will always remember.
Remember that the city has created so many good things.
And in this world, we always need to look for the bright stars even on the darkest nights.