Study: October 2009 Archives

Jens Ludwig discusses Crime Lab

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It sounded like everyone attending latest Divinity School Wednesday Lunch had a story about crime in Hyde Park. Before Professor Jens Ludwig of the Social Service Administration School spoke about the work of the University of Chicago's Crime Lab to combat street violence in the city, the students and staff at my table traded stories about our own dangerous encounters in the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

But while we were worrying about getting mugged, more than 36 Chicago Public School students were killed, most by gunfire, during the past school year. And Ludwig was more interested in talking about how gun violence is affecting students in the city's public schools. That includes children like Nequiel, a ten year-old girl who was killed last September after members of the Latin Kings gang opened fire on their rivals, the Latin Dragons, around Chicago's 8700 S. block, he said, playing a slide-show of her faimily.

According to Ludwig, Chicago has some of the highest homicide rates in the United States after Detroit, St. Louis and Baltimore, because of social problems like poverty and gang violence. He blames public schools in part for failing to keep children at the bottom of the educational achievement percentile engaged in school. Instead, youth who can find more stability in gangs than at school or at home may turn to violence to vent their frustrations, he said--and if they have access to a gun, that violence can turn lethal.

Impulsive behavior, especially the tendency of young people who feel unhappy to overreact to provocation, is just one factor in the youth gun violence equation that Crime Lab would like to see combated through mental health and counseling programs.

Crime Lab is also examining ways to make prisoner re-entry programs more effective and training more police officers to deal with these issues.

Ludwig (and I do, too) recommends this very insightful series on youth violence and education in the Chicago Tribune.

Don't Be a Stranger: tBtW tours Bronzeville

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bronzeville.JPGBy Hillary Ross

Over the summer, my friends in Montana asked me, "What is the South Side of Chicago like?" While I started to answer their question, I realized I was only describing Hyde Park, which is, of course, not a fair description of the South Side.  The University of Chicago is located on the South Side, yet few students (including myself until recently) can answer this question with observations extending far beyond Hyde Park. The University of Chicago recognizes students rarely venture to the neighboring "Black Metropolis" of Bronzeville, and therefore recently sponsored a South Side Bike Tour and Historic Bronzeville Tour

Before going on the Bronzeville tour, I knew very little about Bronzeville.  Our tour guide, Timuel Black (a notable Bronzeville historian), said this is common. Unfortunately, the history and contributions of Bronzeville are relatively unknown. In a way, Bonzeville, like the rest of Chicago, is plagued with the "Second City" syndrome. New York's Harlem receives far more attention and is the best-known black metropolis, despite the fact that Bronzeville was once actually the largest and most populated Black neighborhood.       

 Bronzeville had equally significant parallel institutions that rivaled Harlem's. While now demolished and historically obscure, Bronzeville's Regal Theater was in its time just as prominent as the Apollo Theater. Louis Armstrong frequently played at the clubs of Chicago's "Black Belt," especially the Sunset Café, which is now an Ace Hardware store. In the churches of Bronzeville, gospel music was born. The best blues music in the nation was performed on 43rd Street. Civil Rights activists like W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King came to Bronzeville's Quinn Chapel to give rallying speeches of social change.  The Harlem Globe Trotters actually started at Wendell Phillip's High School in Bronzeville. Unfortunately, these claims to fame are no longer readily visible, and because little physical evidence remains, people are unaware of the Bronzeville's history. Nonetheless, Bronzeville's current identity is still infused with the energy to obtain racial equality, gospel music performances, and ubiquitous pick-up basketball games.
Even thought the neighborhood lacks physical evidence to showcase its historical stature, Bronzeville has a thriving, distinct neighborhood culture, making it a worthwhile trip. Moreover, most students on campus deem Bronzeville as unsafe or dangerous--a place to avoid. I completely disagree.  While I would not recommend a solo night trip, I would definitely feel safe visiting the neighborhood with a group of friends during the daytime. 

Here is a list of five feasible (and safe!) Bronzeville excursions I recommend:
1.    Attend a service at Quinn Chapel
2.    Visit the South Side Community Art Center
3.    Go to a Gospel, Blues, or Jazz Concert
4.    Tour the Bronzeville Historical Society Museum
5.    Eat a meal at the Ain't She Sweet Café.

It is a shame that Bronzeville sits in the shadow of Harlem as the "Second Black Metropolis" and goes unnoted and underappreciated in mainstream society. However, it is even more of a shame that many University of Chicago students fail to explore or learn about Bronzeville's rich past and current culture. As a leader of the Bronzeville Historical Society told me, "Tell your friends and classmates to come down and to stop being strangers with their South Side neighbors."   I encourage you to visit Bronzeville. After seeing this neighborhood, you will be able to give a better and more complete description of the South Side community-- one that is far richer and more interesting than just describing Hyde Park.

Hillary Ross is a second-year in the College, and a Contributing Blogger for the Blog that Works. 

by Lauren Makholm

Nestled comfortably between a restaurant and a hair salon on 57th street is a bookstore well worth a visit. Though I've frequented its neighbor, The Florian Restaurant, many times as a UChicago undergrad, I somehow never made it into O'Gara & Wilson Antiquarian Booksellers. On nice days a discounted bookshelf lingers outside the door, offering little-known theoretical texts for only a few dollars. Unfortunately, perusing those titles is as close as I came to ever entering this eccentric bookshop.

As soon as I entered I felt transported into a different era. The odd collection of books, magazines, and odd cultural artifacts was reminiscent of a forgotten room of Citizen Kane's Xanadu. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the enormous buffalo bust hanging from the ceiling at the center of the room. Then, my attention shifted to the plush dinosaur ambling along the shelf devoted to the history of Chicago.  Below it, a child-sized rocking chair lay seemingly forgotten and unused.

O'Gara and Wilson's, much like the University of Chicago, seemed chiefly concerned with the theoretical and philosophical. Literary Criticism filled the left hand side of the store, while the right raced from continent to continent, covering every people and culture. The haphazardly stocked and cramped Fiction section masked hidden treasures, such as a box set of old snoopy cartoons, or the extensive collection of previously loved sci-fi thrillers. My favorite find, in the African-American section, was a 1983 yearbook from Jean Baptiste Point DuSable High School. The smiling faces of the seniors were as intriguing as their undeniably 80s fashion senses.
Chicago's oldest continuously operating bookstore, O'Gara and Wilson's lies a little to the East of 57th Street and Blackstone Avenue. The bookstore also operates a blog, at They are open Monday - Friday 11:00-7:00; Saturday 11:00-8:00; and Sunday 12:00-6:00.

Lauren Makholm is a fourth-year in the College and a contributing blogger for the Blog that Works.