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In the last decade, Chicago has lost over 85,000 Black citizens – roughly 10% of the Black population – to “forced migration.” That is, families pushed from their homes due to numerous structural shortcomings that have plagued this city’s Black residents for generations; racist housing policies, a lack of community-oriented solutions to gun-violence, inequitable public schooling, employment disparities, discriminatory policing, gentrification and more..

However, even as scores of native Chicagoans flee the city, hundreds more bright, melanated faces arrive annually as Black Millennials and Gen Z settlers from across the country seek to establish themselves professionally, creatively, and socially. From DJ’ing your favorite parties to handing out pamphlets at your local Chicago Police Department (CPD) protest, young, Black transplants are among us — and it appears that some, at least, are in it for the long haul.

These transitional dynamics leave me, a South Side native, oscillating between a sense of sorrow and gratitude. Sorrow as I observe all that Black Chicago has lost to structural racism, gentrification and economic development. My parents’ schools, my childhood playgrounds and the homes of my friends, have all been erased by unaffordable condominiums, university expansions, presidential libraries and the like. What else of my heritage would be lost if the exodus of “old” Black Chicago were to continue?

And still, there’s also gratitude. Gratitude because even as Blackness departs Chicago, a new, vibrant Blackness is also drawn here. Cue: The Modern Black Transplant. Fresh Black migrants play increasingly relevant roles in the upkeep of our city’s culture,  from our academic and wellness spaces to our spheres of social justice and politics. 

Chicago is no stranger to Black migration, historically speaking. From Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and his trading post back in the late 1700s, to the waves of Southerners fleeing Confederate terrorism via the Great Migration in the early 20th century, one might argue that our city has always been a safe haven for the Black transplant. 

And truly, the appeal is undeniable. From our rap game to our rib tips, social activism to gang culture, JB skating at the rinks to steppers lounges, Black Chicago is responsible for an impressive number of contributions to the Black American Hall of Fame. As far as cultural meccas go, Chicago is definitely in the top 2— and she ain’t number two.

And so while acknowledging validity in native Black residents’ territorial attitudes towards our spaces, resources, and culture – particularly considering what is at stake when lost (R.I.P. Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes, & Black Hyde Park) – I can also understand why external Blackness finds itself drawn here.

That being said, I’d like to offer a few housekeeping tips for non-locals to consider if and when they transition into my dear City of the Wind. A few Obligations of the Black Transplant, as it were:

  • This is a tribal town (i.e.,  South Side vs. North Side, Cubs vs. Soxs, Harold’s vs. Uncle Remus, Latin Kings vs. GDs – you get the point). Thus, building your community is necessary for survival, and also quite easy, given the thousands of interwoven collectives and mutual associates that glue Chicago together. Open yourself to collaboration, sharing space, and aligning missions. Foster a network of genuine relationships, and purposefully integrate local Black Chicagoans into your social and professional circles. As a wise man once said, “We all we got.”

  • If you don’t do anything else during your Black ass time here, be sure to give back to the hood. There’s Black folks on the South Side, and the West Side  (and even the few sprinkled up North). It might look like joining a weekend mutual aid crew (Market Box Chi), an artist collective (SuperGang), a social organizing body (GoodKids MadCity), or even a wellness support group (Sista Afya). The point is, if you love Black Chicago like you say you do, purposefully invest time into the betterment of its communities.

  • As you may have noticed, “life ain’t been no crystal stair” for Black youth in Chicago. Thus it is absolutely your obligation to support our babies (off the sheer fact that your arrival probably drove their parents rent up). Your experience and presence, as a Black transplant, offers diversity that our kids need. Find a way to pour into their development via activities like direct mentorship, summertime volunteering, teaching artistry and more.

  • Don’t come around with that BS. Period. We’ve got more than enough going on as is without having to worry about our external affairs department. Nobody is perfect, but I ask that you commit to being a force of peace and joy within Black Chicago (feel free to raise hell in Wrigley, though). I don’t care what kind of trifling-ass interpersonal skills, habits, or trauma you’re escaping. Leave it at the door, please and thank you.

But I digress. Many of my favorite people were transplanted here from across the country, and they all agree on two things. The first— that mild sauce is a national f*cking treasure. And second, our city’s culture is undeterrable. Even now, in the midst of Black Chicago’s largest population decline since the 1950s, our influence on American society is more apparent than ever.

I am of the opinion that despite the sensationalized headlines and media industry propaganda, our city has a rich, deep legacy; a Black heritage that deserves to be cherished and defended by all. 

When considering the cultural implications of Chicago’s rapidly shifting demographics, shouldn’t we strive to develop a connection between transplanted Black Chicagoans and their native counterparts beyond one of mere proximity — to that of true community?

is a Chicago-based producer, writer, and curator. Interests include Black joy, hood Chinese food, and cozy sweaters.