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Neighborhoods Wed Jul 01 2015

Chiraq vs. the Good in Englewood?

Good in Englewood Twitter stream
Screenshot of the @GoodInEnglewood Twitter account

Chiraq, Spike Lee's new movie filming this summer on the city's South Side, has stirred the contentious pot of Chicago public opinion into a boil over the name of the film. Aldermen William Burns (4th) and David Moore (17th) have spoken out against the title and what they see as a negative branding effect it could have on their communities. Burns has proposed legislation in City Council that would urge Illinois lawmakers to deny any tax credits to the production of the film. Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spoken out against the film.

However, Father Michael Pfleger, an icon in the fight against gun violence, has come out in support of the film. St. Sabina's, his parish, hosted an annual block party recently that was co-sponsored by the film and some of the stars of the movie were in attendance. Even this caused political trouble, as Ald. Moore tried to prevent the party by denying St. Sabina's a permit.

However, Pfleger resolved that the party would go on whether the church received a permit or not, and Moore cracked after speaking with residents who told him that they supported the block party, but not necessarily the name of the film.

Pfleger told the Sun-Times that he has been amazed at the reaction of the community to the film. "I just really wish there was as much outrage about the daily shootings as there is about the name of a movie," he said. "Seemingly we're more concerned about the perception of others than we are about the residents right here."

Aysha Butler, the current president of the Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E. for short) has been working hard to fight the name, not only on the silver screen, but across the media.

"As a Chicagoan and Englewood resident, when you hear 'Chiraq' you know they're talking about violence in marginalized communities," she said of the name.

"I've never been fond of the label of Chiraq nor the definition of what its supposed to mean-- that we are a community that is living in an absolute war zone," Butler said. "I think it belittles all of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan and paints a very grim picture of what is happening in our community."

Butler points to the history of the city to explain the existence of the name, and how failed policies have led up to a culmination of violence and destruction in communities that have been ignored or pushed aside by the city government.

"We need to turn to the history of Chicago to see why individuals turn to violence to solve their problems," she said. "We need to also share some light on how failed policies have really contributed to the results we've seen today, from failed schools, segregation, housing projects being demolished, white flight, etc."

She hopes that as people explore the name Chiraq through the current controversy, they also explore what led to the situation.

"There have been tons of issues that have lead up to why Chiraq is a name that has even come up in Chicago, and I hope the emphasis will be on those sorts of things rather than the violence and the negatives surrounding it," Butler said.

Butler also emphasized that not everything is bad in her community of Englewood. She points to the programming that R.A.G.E. has been able to provide, and the hashtag #goodinenglewood, which displays everyday acts of kindness.

"Look up #goodinenglewood and you will see the variety of really good things and stories that are happening in our community, shedding light on the positive of the community," she said.

"Our goal has been to activate more residents to be involved and informed of what's going in our area as well as to highlight and uplift the positive things that are happening in the community that no one wants to talk about," she said. "We want to continue to shine light on those positive things and the residents and institutions of Englewood even when the media won't."

 
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