Me, on a boat, in 2016

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.  – Audre Lorde

A Letter From The Editor:

In my young(er) days, my friends and I couldn’t wait for summer to start. Some of us had cars – or, at least, access to a car, which meant begging mom to borrow the whip and then promising not to pack a bunch of kids in her backseat. I had my own car – a used 2004 Ford Taurus; the type of thing that’d get you mistaken for an undercover cop. I hated it. It wasn’t the cute Mazda 6 or foreign Saab I saw on the sales lot, but I couldn’t complain too much. It gave me the independence I needed at 16, so whatevs.

By age 16, a lot of city kids had moved to nearby suburbs of Chicago. Parents wanted to move their growing Black teenagers away from the increasing violence on the block. The summer before high school, a dope boy was shot in front of my house on Fifth Avenue. So my mom chose Broadview. Others chose Maywood. Some went as far out as Naperville. That’s why a car was so necessary for us kids. We had to be able to get back to our roots, our childhood friends and grannies who stayed behind in the city. And, listen. The PACE bus wasn’t cutting it.

So our summertime kick-it sessions required much planning. My grammar-school buddy, Cordell, was the first to have a car. He’d drive from Naperville to scoop me in Broadview and then we’d cruise over to Long and Iowa, where the rest of the crew lived. It became a two-person operation once I finally got my car: Cordell would head straight to Long and Iowa to pick up folks while I gathered the suburban crew, or my friend off Quincy and Cicero since she was right off 290. The end goal was the Lake.

The Lake is where the Black kings and queens from all sides of Chicago come to play. Between 31st Street Beach and the Museum of Science and Industry, you can smell the tangy, sweet aroma of ribs, links and tips fresh off the portable barbecue grills on the most perfect summer day. The all-to-familiar sound of tricked-out Yamahas and Slingshots racing down Lake Shore Drive is the routine adlib to whatever summer jam is blasting from the subwoofers in the parking lot.

Then, there are the speed boats, jet skis, sailboats and yachts – toys that seem unattainable until you see some of Black Chicago’s finest behind the captain’s wheel. Watching the sun glisten off the beautiful Black swimsuited bodies celebrating life atop these boats is an inspiration all on its own.

This is the Black Chicago that gets overshadowed by the violence year after year: the car clubs, the boat life and such. It’s this joyous lifestyle that outsiders don’t understand and, thus, is policed by white folks fearing the unknown (hashtag: BBQing While Black).

So we’re defining the summer for ourselves. Under this quarter’s theme, Boss Things, we will be shining a light on all of the dope vibes happening across Black Chicago.

Stay tuned.