– Is it safe around here? I asked Karen, my Airbnb host as we engaged in small talk upon my arrival.
– Well, I was brought up in New York you know, so I always watch my back. The neighbouring blocks around here are griddy especially after nightfall same thing with the metro.
I took a deep breath before I replied and thought I perhaps should have enrolled with a nice hotel in the city. After all, I was here for a corporate event.
– Thanks Karen, I’ll keep that in mind. Your place looks great by the way.
I strolled down to my room, said hello to Buster, the family dog and recollected the conversation I had with my cab driver on my way from the airport.
– Don’t wear any t-shirts or hoodies with explicit colours, don’t wear a baseball cap and stay away from the blocks north of here. You will be alright, but keep in mind this is the South Side, he had said.
Obviously, South Side Chicago and Bronzeville in particular have many facets. Prior to the trip I did my fair share of research and what caught my interest was the urban landscape that has sprung from the social, cultural and historical progression of the neighbourhood, often referred to as the Black Metropolis and a Mecca of Afro-American history. Unfortunately, the reputation that surrounds South Side and Bronzeville ain’t all good. Segregation, poverty, gang violence and weak gun laws have left parts of the city in distress.
Even though I played it safe and avoided the most blighted areas, it struck me how drastically the ambience could change from one block to another. From beautiful old Victorian housing rows to vacant lots with corner boys on the lookout, Geed-up rides blasting out heavy Drill tunes of local talent acts like King Louie and Chief Keef while giving you grim looks.
That kind of urban dynamic is hard to come by in Sweden. The hardship put aside I was totally blown away with all the friendly people I met (including Karen and her family that rented me the room), the mind-boggling architecture, crazy light conditions coming from a moody Lake Michigan and the delicious Chi-food. I’ll definitely come back.
All in all, I spent one day short of a week in Bronzeville and the greater Chicago area. When I wasn’t busy attending a major tech-conference, I wandered the streets with my Nikon. The pictures shown below are from those walks.