You think you know a place.... by Nicole Marroquin

 The back of a photo, including the clipped article and date it was published. 

The back of a photo, including the clipped article and date it was published. 

You can think you know a place, and then you fall down a rabbit hole and realize you don't know so much. I read a few books recently that made me feel a whole new excitement and disdain for Chicago history.  Someone asked me what books I was reading, probably because I was spouting pointed opinions, but I read these books in a short time, and it transformed me. These are the books about Chicago you should read if you want to know how things got to be unfair, difficult, and dangerous, particularly for Black and brown communities. I'm interested in schools, the south and west sides, and young people, in-particular, and they are the lens I look through when I think about the power dynamics and history of Chicago. There are a few that just came out that I'm excited about.  Dr Elizabeth Todd Breland's upcoming book is high my to-read list. 

Danns, Dionne. Desegregating Chicago's Public Schools: Policy Implementation, Politics, and Protest, 1965-1985 (2014) With the dual impetus of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chicago, like so many other cities, began the process of desegregating its public school system. What resulted was a unique study in the implementation and transformation of public policy, as the city dealt with and pushed back against directives and lawsuits from both the state and federal governments. In this book, Dionne Danns provides the story of how public policy on this historic topic was formed by stakeholders at all levels, from superintendents to parents to state and federal officials, and how politics and stakeholder perceptions and protests determined outcomes for the school system.

Diamond, Andrew J  Mean Streets: Chicago Youths and the Everyday Struggle for Empowerment in the Multiracial City, 1908-1969 (2009) Mean Streets focuses on the streets, parks, schools, and commercial venues of Chicago from the era of the 1919 race riot to the civil rights battles of the 1960s to cast a new light on street gangs and to place youths at the center of the twentieth-century American experience. Andrew J. Diamond breaks new ground by showing that teens and young adults stood at the vanguard of grassroots mobilizations in working-class Chicago, playing key roles in the formation of racial identities as they defended neighborhood boundaries. Drawing from a wide range of sources to capture the experiences of young Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Italians, Poles, and others in the multiracial city, Diamond argues that Chicago youths gained a sense of themselves in opposition to others.

Satter, Beryl, Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America (2010) In this powerful book, Beryl Satter identifies the true causes of the city's black slums and the ruin of urban neighborhoods throughout the country: not, as some have argued, black pathology, the culture of poverty, or white flight, but a widespread and institutionalized system of legal and financial exploitation.  In Satter's riveting account of a city in crisis, unscrupulous lawyers, slumlords, and speculators are pitched against religious reformers, community organizers, and an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers—the author's father, Mark J. Satter. At the heart of the struggle stand the black migrants who, having left the South with its legacy of sharecropping, suddenly find themselves caught in a new kind of debt peonage. Satter shows the interlocking forces at work in their oppression: the discriminatory practices of the banking industry; the federal policies that created the country's shameful "dual housing market"; the economic anxieties that fueled white violence; and the tempting profits to be made by preying on the city's most vulnerable population.

 Fernandez, Lilia. Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (2014)  JUST READ IT. None of the blurbs I found did it justice. 

*Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 1998 In Making the Second Ghetto, Arnold Hirsch argues that in the post-depression years Chicago was a "pioneer in developing concepts and devices" for housing segregation. Hirsch shows that the legal framework for the national urban renewal effort was forged in the heat generated by the racial struggles waged on Chicago's South Side. His chronicle of the strategies used by ethnic, political, and business interests in reaction to the great migration of southern blacks in the 1940s describes how the violent reaction of an emergent "white" population combined with public policy to segregate the city. *about to read this....

 Innis-Jimenez, Michael. Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago, 1915-1940 (2013) Examining how the fortunes of Mexicans in South Chicago were linked to the environment they helped to build, Steel Barrio offers new insights into how and why Mexican Americans created community. This book investigates the years between the World Wars, the period that witnessed the first, massive influx of Mexicans into Chicago. South Chicago Mexicans lived in a neighborhood whose literal and figurative boundaries were defined by steel mills, which dominated economic life for Mexican immigrants. Yet while the mills provided jobs for Mexican men, they were neither the center of community life nor the source of collective identity. Steel Barrio argues that the Mexican immigrant and Mexican American men and women who came to South Chicago created physical and imagined community not only to defend against the ever-present social, political, and economic harassment and discrimination, but to grow in a foreign, polluted environment. 

Petty, Audry. High-Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing (2013) In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation instigated the relocation of thousands of families and the destruction of buildings that had once held such promise, especially for families who came to the city as part of the Great Migration. In the latest book from the admirable and acclaimed Voices of Witness oral-history series, we hear from public-housing residents. (from Booklist)

Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago (Latinos in Chicago and Midwest) edited by Leonard Ramirez (2011) Overflowing with powerful testimonies of six female community activists who have lived and worked in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Chicanas of 18th Street reveals the convictions and approaches of those organizing for social reform. In chronicling a pivotal moment in the history of community activism in Chicago, the women discuss how education, immigration, religion, identity, and acculturation affected the Chicano movement. Chicanas of 18th Street underscores the hierarchies of race, gender, and class while stressing the interplay of individual and collective values in the development of community reform.

Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, 2011.  In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.


David "Boogie" Gonzalez, 1973 by Nicole Marroquin

boogie died for peace.jpg

July 23, 1973, Chicago Daily News did a series about Pilsen, and one of the days they interviewed Henry Villagomez about the death of his friend Boogie.  They had called a truce between several competing street organizations, and during the truce, they organized a concert, and El Chicano played at the Nuevo Leon on 26th and Trumbull. The series is worth reading, and you can read it here.

boogie died for our sins.jpg

*Thanks to the Chicago person who had the website "cockroach people" where I found this xeroxed article 10 years ago. 

Festival de Mujeres Part 1 by Nicole Marroquin

“Festival De Mujeres,” June 30, 1979, by Eleanor Boyer and Karen Peugh. It was originally shot using U-matic 3/4 inch video. and It features several interviews and shots of the streets in Pilsen, and is essential viewing for those interested in Chicanx/Latinx, feminist and immigrant organizing in the midwest. For one thing, this features Salima Rivera reading a scorching poem about Pilsen gentrification, so hold on to your hat, because she goes hard. There is also an interview with Malu` Ortega y Alberro, famed muralist and art educator, describing her program at the Casa Aztlan, and the mural she is about to paint on Benito Juarez Academy High School, which had just opened. This festival was organized with Mujeres Latinas en Accion, the anti-domestic-violence organization that was started by women in Pilsen. 

This video is so remarkable on it's own, but after meeting with Eleanor Boyer and learning more from her as we worked together, I think this needs a dedicated blog post. 

Also, the artist Diana Solis was at the Festival, and her documentation of Eleanor and Karen making this video, her photos of women for the t-shirt (seen in the thumbnail above) and stories of the event deserve a dedicated entry, too.  Both are coming up.  

(from the Media Burn website) “Festival De Mujeres,” June 30, 1979, by Eleanor Boyer and Karen Peugh. Color video. Documentary about a women”s festival in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. A woman reads several of her poems, one is an ode to Pilsen, another dedicated to women searching for their sons after the Allende government was overthrown. There are silkscreening and ceramics workshops, plus art activities for kids, and booths selling posters and t-shirts. Many women’s advocacy groups are represented as well, giving information on violence against women, health care, etc. Traditional Mexican foods are sold as well, such as pineapple water. The tape closes with a poem read in Spanish over still photographs of the festival.



La Mujer, Mexposicion III by Nicole Marroquin

 La Mujer, A Visual Dialogue was an exhibit curated by Jose Gonzalez, and this poster, also designed by Jose Gonzalez, features a photo by Malü Alberro y Ortega that appears to have been taken at Casa Aztlan. I got this poster from Len Dominguez.  

La Mujer, A Visual Dialogue was an exhibit curated by Jose Gonzalez, and this poster, also designed by Jose Gonzalez, features a photo by Malü Alberro y Ortega that appears to have been taken at Casa Aztlan. I got this poster from Len Dominguez.  

Today I transferred 90 minutes of audio from a cassette tape from this the 1978 exhibit shown in this poster.  I'm listening to it now, and I hear a voice I recognize... I think Maria Almonte is breaking it down. This is a real gem, and I hope to be able to share the transcript soon.  

This exhibit was at the Chicago Cultural Center in 1978, curated by Jose Gonzalez- who also signed this poster.  [He went to Harrison and graduated valedictorian in 1973.] I'm not finding much on Mexposicions 1-3, but I've just started to dig.  More as it comes. 

UPDATE: Linda Vallejo's website has 4 of the invitations from the events on her website.  Lovely scans. 

Froebel: ethnography of an urban school (1974) part 2 by Nicole Marroquin

If I could have anything, it would be to have access to an archive of all of the Spanish-language newspapers that covered local news on the Near West and Lower West Sides in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Thing is, these newspapers have not been collected, and there is no archive of Spanish Language newspapers in Chicago. (trying not to shout.)  I found two issues of El Informador at the Chicago History Museum and I found issues from 6 various newspapers in the Walter Reuther Library's collection of the Chicago UFW Strike Office. There were at least 7 Spanish Language newspapers that covered the 1973 Froebel uprising, according to Bishop, who took note of what reporters were present.

Here is his bibliography, including the newspapers that were on the scene. There's a side to this story I have not read, and it's in these newspapers.  

Bishop observed the students closely and drew this diagram of a 1973, noting that boys rarely initiated a dance, and stayed together throughout most of the evening, which sounds like a middle school dance to me. He reports that there was a female DJ at this dance, and I want to know everything about her! What exactly did she spin? What made the students run out on the floor? What requests were made?   

dance diagram

Froebel: Ethnography of an Urban School (1974) by Nicole Marroquin

Bishop III, Ralph John, (1974) Froebel: Ethnography of an Urban School. Retrieved from Northwestern University 2014. 

If you want to know about Froebel, you should read this dissertation by Ralph Bishop written between 1972-74 for his PhD in anthropology at Northwestern. I got it via interlibrary-loan. It's 285 typed pages including a huge number of photos and several hand drawn diagrams. He diagrams a school dance, breaks down the ethnic groups in fine detail, and documents the complicated lives of students who attended Froebel for one year.  I'm not always fond of his evaluations of the students or his editorials on the quality of teaching or why students are not paying attention (or lighting fires in lockers) but his writing is mostly generous and full of amazing nuggets of information. What is most important to me is that he was at the school on the day of the uprising and made documentation both inside and outside of the school that day. 

 A view from outside looking in, and a view from inside the school as riot cops round up the protesters.  (from Bishop, 1974)

A view from outside looking in, and a view from inside the school as riot cops round up the protesters.  (from Bishop, 1974)

Some of the everyday-life photos are lovely and important.  He also documented the car wash fundraiser, which is the same carwash that is in Mi Raza: Portrait of a Family.  It must have been pretty strange to the students to have 2 sets of graduate students documenting them during that carwash. 

Mi Raza: Portrait of a Family by Nicole Marroquin

Mi Raza: Portrait of a Family is a documentary film about a working class Mexican-American family dealing with the stresses of maintaining their cultural heritage in the face of the dominant Anglo society.

This 1973  film by Susan Stechnij provides essential context for anyone interested in Pilsen and the surrounding, Casa Aztlan, schools or the incidents at Froebel, Harrison and the fight for Benito Juarez High School.  At the center is Lola Navarro and her children. (Chuy Garcia and Rudy Lozano Sr. say introduced them to activism. We should all know her name! More on Lola Navarro to come.) Read more about this film and the filmmaker here on the Chicago Film Archive website! 

Stechnij, who was a member of MARCH (Movimiento Artisitico de la Raza Chicano) wrote a masters thesis after completing the film, and it details the community editing process, which took place at the Casa Aztlan.  This is exactly what it sounds like, and if you are interested in community responsive cultural production and collaboration, check it out. 

Stecjnij thesis call number

Stechnij and her partner Santiago Boiton were activists, and Boiton can be seen shouting down members of the Chicago Board of Education in the film. Their names also appear in I found Susan on FB and reached out to her, and she responded!  

With any film editing process, a lot of the footage did not make it into the film, but this film was edited by community consensus, which makes viewing the outtakes even richer. The amazing people at the Chicago Film Archives have preserved AND digitized 90 minutes of the silent outtakes. I presented all of the outtakes for 2 months during my residency at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2017. The outtakes feature Stechnij herself, but there are also important historical events like a UFW protest at A&P on Kedzie, and some sweet moments with Rudy Lozano and Lola Navarro with kids hanging around in front of the Casa Aztlan.  Major thanks to Brian Bielak at CFA for his expertise and patience. 

Unraveling the incidents at Froebel, part 1. by Nicole Marroquin

Built in 1885, demolished in 1978, Froebel was the oldest school in the district on June 5th, 1973, which is the day of the walkout that made the Channel 2 news.  The Froebel uprising and the events surrounding it were mentioned briefly in a few dissertations (Danns, Alanis, Bishop) and a few books (Mujeres of 18th Street, Fernandez' Brown in the Windy City) and it was reported widely in the Trib, Sun Times, Daily News and Defender, and in several Spanish language newspapers that covered the incidents that day.  (I've been trying for years to find Spanish Language newspapers that were known to have covered this event, to no avail. I'll share the list in another post.)

What I heard from witnesses was much more harrowing and unbelievable than the "official" accounts. In a 2017 interview with Sandra Mendez, she recalls that a couple Mexicanos were beaten so severely by police that they could not stand up without falling down, and at least one person had to go back to Mexico because they were unable to work. Others talked of police herding people into an empty lot and then attacking. 

 As part of a tour of places that gone (part of All Out in the Streets symposium November, 2014)  a group gathered while I described the 1973 Froebel uprising. 

As part of a tour of places that gone (part of All Out in the Streets symposium November, 2014)  a group gathered while I described the 1973 Froebel uprising. 

I met a guy on the street one day, when I was standing on 21st Street with a group of people on a tour of places that were gone (above) and I told them about the little-known uprising at Froebel School. While I was talking, this guy told me he had been there and could give me an eyewitness account. (But first he seemed perplexed that anyone was interested, so it took a little convincing.) A month or so later, I called him and we talked.  He told me he had lived on 21st, that he was Puerto Rican, and that he had moved to the suburbs, but that he still had people on 21st.  I realized that he hadn't told me his full name, and when I asked him, he hung up on me. But before he hung up, he told me a wild story (which was later corroborated by others) and what he told me changed the way I looked at this photo. In 1973, he was an 8th grade student at St. Ann's (on Leavitt by 18th Place) and on June 5th, 1973, his school allowed students at his school to march in solidarity with Froebel students if they had their parent's permission, which he did. He said he arrived on 21st street and he heard a police officer had been hit with a brick that had been thrown off of the roof. (The police officer had been walking up the fire escape, probably thinking he could nab the students who were on the roof, but the students were throwing bricks and furniture they had been collecting, as if they expected a siege. That scene was also captured by Channel 2 news.) He saw the officer sitting in a squad car where he sat for 2 hours in air conditioning, awaiting the arrival of the press photographer. This this photo that ran in newspapers all over the country. 

 This photo ran in the Baltimore Sun in June 1973, and it ended up on Ebay. Note the railing and advertisement in the background. Both are still there!

This photo ran in the Baltimore Sun in June 1973, and it ended up on Ebay. Note the railing and advertisement in the background. Both are still there!

The Tribune described a hostage situation that resulted in the serious injury of a police officer, and a community that was protesting conditions at a dilapidated school. But The Defender quoted a 9th grader who said she was marching to save Froebel because they did not want to have to go to school with Blacks. This is reportedly the protest that led to the construction of Benito Juarez High School, and I had questions: If Juarez granted by Daley Sr. on his deathbed, what made him concede after years of pressure? Was Juarez re=enforcing segregation by keeping Mexicans and Blacks apart? Was Juarez really a victory for the community, who wanted a school that would enforce the law and give Spanish speaking students access to an education?  

La verdadera historia de un alzamiento by Nicole Marroquin

Contratiempo, October 2014, issue 118

I am grateful that Stephanie Manriquez for giving me the opportunity to write about the Froebel uprising for the Contratiempo issue about neighborhood change, published in 2014. I was new to the topic, and pretty excited.  If you read spanish, you can read the article in Contratiempo.  If not, you can read a longer version in English here. 

 Froebel Elementary, built in 1885, pictured here in 1943. Note the streetcar track and cables. Photo courtesy of the archives at the Chicago Board of Education.

Froebel Elementary, built in 1885, pictured here in 1943. Note the streetcar track and cables. Photo courtesy of the archives at the Chicago Board of Education.

Podcast: (un)making- ArtPractical by Nicole Marroquin

Episode 8: Nicole Marroquin

In September 2016, I was a resident at Ox-Bow where I met Weston Teruya, and we quickly found out we had a lot of shared interests- like Black power, solidarity movements and archives. 6 months later, Weston reached out to chat with me about a podcast on the Art Practical, and you can check out our conversation by clicking below....  

By Weston TeruyaApril 14, 2017

In this episode, we talk with artist and educator Nicole Marroquin about her creative and political research into Lower West Side Chicago student activist history from 1968 to 1973, youth arts education, and creating a public archive. Nicole’s exhibition with Andres L. Hernandez, Historical F(r)ictions, is on view at the Chicago Cultural Center through May 7th. 

Weston Teruya welcomes artists, arts administrators, and cultural workers of color to get real about their lives, practices, and careers. Each episode is an in-depth look into how art gets made, but more importantly how these folks are seeing to the system of art’s (UN)making.  Subscribe to Art Practical on iTunes to catch (un)making!

 Future Homes accordion zine, by students at Benito Juarez, 2016

Future Homes accordion zine, by students at Benito Juarez, 2016

My first post by Nicole Marroquin

For the last 4 or 5 years, I have spent my limited free time researching school uprisings that happened in '68 and '73 on the southwest side of Chicago.  One reason I fell into an obsession with this is that the stories I read were gripping, and there was just too little information that people could access. What is out there, two incredible dissertations (by Dr. Jaime Alanis and Dr. Dionne Danns) were not accessible to everyone. Also, I care more about what teens at Benito Juarez Academy High School think about this material than anyone else, which is where I started.  I began with the deep translation, from academic writing to visual presentations that would engage the students and connect these events to them and their experiences. The students, under the expert guidance of theri teacher Paulina Camacho, created interpretations and artwork in reaction to the materials, which informed the next iteration of the curriculum, which morphs and keeps on growing. This is not about static archives, in other words. 

 Students from Benito Juarez Academy High School making clay sculptures the Chicago Cultural Center, December 2016

Students from Benito Juarez Academy High School making clay sculptures the Chicago Cultural Center, December 2016

I am going to try to gather up all of the threads in an effort to organize my thoughts and materials.  I also want everyone to have access to this work, and to make a map of the sources, so more people can join in and do this work, because there is a lot of work to be done!  Recovering the role of women in the Chicanx mural movement, uniting the historical accounts of Black and Latinx Chicago student uprisings on the Lower West Sides, a curriculum of youth revolt in CPS, interviewing mothers who fought for Benito Juarez Academy High School...  don't just sit there! Do something.* 

I'm no historian, but I am going to do my best to be clear and considerate. I know a little more about education, visual culture and youth rebellion, and that is what I focus on.  I could not shut off what quickly became an obsession, my intuition and excitement have been my guides, but the result of raging enthusiasm turned out to be a file cabinet full of chaos. Please bear with me as I tease apart hundreds of hours of late-night image oogling sessions, cell phone pictures, hand scrawled lists, interviews and conversations.   

* Whatever you do or make, you have to share it with the community it belongs to. My guiding light during this project has been Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book Decolonizing Methodologies, and I've tried to learn as much from these principles as I could. This book asks people to think harder about their research: who we are in service to, and who the work benefits.  For example, don't harvest important information from community members to use in your art project and then stick it in a collection where nobody can see it. Don't interview people and then hoard the recordings on your laptop- or worse, at your institution. Same goes for your research paper. Who is raised up when it is sitting in your college's library? The institution. And that's baloney. Get it out there. Anyone can print a zine. Heck, if it's related to this, I will host it on my website. (I'm scolding everyone including myself. Also, don't assume your work does shit for anyone, and get a lot of critical feedback. more on this later.)

All hands on deck!