Ambition 2 Action.


Southside Economic Development Project

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Above the Gate.

UntitledSouthside Economic Development Project.

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The Lost Streets.

The BBC just released a mini documentary on Chicago’s intractable gun violence problem, featuring interviews with young black men who live around the city.
The near 15-minute piece begins with an interview with a father and Iraq War veteran who says he has to be careful of violent neighborhoods because of fear he will be mistaken by a shooter as a rival gang member. The piece also touches on some of the structural issues that have fanned the flames of violence in Chicago neighborhoods, particularly those that political pundits tend to ignore.


“I’ve never seen so many guns now than ever. It’s like somebody dropped off crates of guns in everybody’s hood, like it was designed for a motherfucker to lose,” says Bo Deal, a West Side resident.

“The police authority don’t like the way we live. We don’t actually like the way we live,” says Steve Bennefield, a resident of the South Side. “But when you’re pushed into a way of life—when you’re forced into a way of life—how else can you live?”

Unsurprisingly, the Chicago Police Department declined to comment for the story. The piece is well worth your time, but it’s also unfortunately missing the voices of any officials who have or could have had a tangible role in affecting any type of real policy changes that would help Chicago’s neighborhoods heal.

A look inside the South and the West sides from the perspective of the people who live with daily violence and tragedy would certainly be an eye-opener for those not paying attention to daily reporting from many local sources (especially people who live outside the city), but it would also do pundits and certain presidential candidates well to remember that the violence plauging the city doesn’t exist in a vacuum.gangs-2We didn’t get here overnight. From the largest set of school closures in history to the decimating of neighborhood mental health care and other services, to the fact that money gets siphoned from poor neighborhoods to fund pet projects for well connected developers, this crisis has been decades in the making.

Camera/director: Darren Conway; video editor: David Botti; assistant producer Gabriella O’Donnell; aerial photography Phil Jorden; executive producers Jacky Martens and Ben Bevington



Southside Economic Development Project

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The Southside Economic Development Project

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Your Door.


The Southside Economic Development Project.


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The Satirical Spin.


When I heard Spike Lee was making a film called “Chiraq,” I immediately thought it would be a documentary, perhaps a drama, but not a comedy.

I had a chance to view the film at the end of the Revolt Music Conference in Miami, Florida, which included a screening of “Chiraq” (also called “Chi-Raq”), hosted by Lee at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Complex.

The film’s title is a combination of “Chicago” and “Iraq,” characterizing the city’s South Side as a war zone because of its high crime rates. The film opens with shocking statistics, stating that Chicago is not Chicago if the city’s murder rate is higher than the murder rate in Iraq.

Lee insists the film is not a musical, but in true Grecian comedy form, it is comprised of song and dance. “Chiraq“ is a modern-day adaption of the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata“ by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago.

Spike Lee took a satirical spin on the anguish of gun violence in Chicago and challenged the audience during the screening, saying, “We know the history of police brutality against African Americans, but this film is showing what African Americans are doing to themselves, what black-on-black violence is doing to our communities, it is an act of self-inflicted genocide.”


“Chiraq” has a star-studded cast with Samuel L. Jackson, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Dave Chappelle, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, Steve Harris, La La Anthony, Jennifer Hudson, and Nick Cannon like we’ve never seen him as a hotheaded gangsta rapper from Chicago’s South Side.

The criticism lies in the casting of Cannon as a gangsta rapper. Why not an up-and-coming actor, established gangsta rapper or even a Chicagoan to play the role to ensure authenticity? Cannon’s acting seems learned and not genuine.


Lee’s cinematography invokes fear and a sense of urgency; it is an outcry for help in Chicago communities.

Some audience members voiced their outrage with Lee’s depiction of black men in the film. Lee remained calm under fire and said, “I believe this movie will cause change, art can change the world.”

Hmmm…..we’ll see.



By Ashlee C. Jordan

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UntitledSouthside Economic Development Project.

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