There Grows the Neighborhood: Meet the 2019 MacArthur Fellow transforming Chicago’s South Side

There Grows the Neighborhood: Meet the 2019 MacArthur Fellow transforming Chicago’s South Side

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CHRONIC PROBLEM RE
SOLEDAD: THERE’S A NEW
GENERATION WORKING TO RE-DESIGN
URBAN COMMUNITIES LIKE CHICAGO’S
SOUTH AND WEST SIDES. THEY INCLUDE EMMANUEL PRATT. HE STUDIED ARCHITECTURE AND
URBAN DESIGN AT CORNELL AND
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITIES. NOW, HE USES HIS EXPERTISE TO
TURN AREAS ONCE NEGLECTED INTO
VIBRANT AND THRIVING
COMMUNITIES. HE’S THE CO-FOUNDER AND
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SWEET
WATER FOUNDATION AND HE’S
LITERALLY GROWING BETTER
NEIGHBORHOOD
EMANUEL, THANKS FOR FOR HAVING US IN YOUR HOME BASICALLY. EMMANUEL: THANK YOU FOR BEING
HERE. SOLEDAD: YOU BET. DESCRIBE FOR ME WHAT HAPPENS
HERE, AND BY HERE, I MEAN ALL
THE BLOCKS THAT YOU OVERSEE. EMMANUEL: IT’S THE REBIRTH OF A
NEIGHBORHOOD. OUR TAGLINE IS THERE GROWS THE
NEIGHBORHOOD AND WE PUT THAT FOR
A REASON, RIGHT. SOLEDAD: IT IS ON YOUR T-SHIRT. EMMANUEL: SO WE HAVE A MIXED BAG
OF AGRICULTURE. SO GARDENING FARMING MEETS
CARPENTRY, THE BASICS OF
MEASUREMENTS AND TAPE MEASURES,
AND HOW TO USE THOSE DRILLS AND
SAWS. WE’RE ALL TOGETHER VERY
INTERGENERATIONAL, BRINGING
PEOPLE TOGETHER TO DESIGN THE
REBIRTH OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD. SO WE HAND RAISED THE THOUGHT
BARN AS A BARN RAISING IN 2017. SOLEDAD: IT’S BEAUTIFUL. EMMANUEL: WE GOT 17,000 POUNDS,
A DOUGLAS FIR THAT WE CAME
TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY TO BE
THE FIRST PIECE OF ARCHITECTURE. HAND RAISED AS A PAVILION. SOLEDAD: IT’S BEAUTIFUL. EMMANUEL: AND WE’VE GOT, OF
COURSE, WE HAD TO PUT A BARN
DOOR TOGETHER WITH A STAR. SOLEDAD: I THINK IT WOULD BE
VERY EASY TO KIND OF COME HERE
AND THINK, BASICALLY, YOU’RE
DOING A GARDEN, RIGHT? I MEAN, I’M NOT MUCH OF A
GARDENER BUT I SEE KALE AND
BROCCOLI. EMMANUEL: AND CHARD AND CARROTS. YEAH, COLLARD GREENS. YEAH. BUT YOU KNOW HOW MANY COMMUNITY
FARMERS ARE IN ANY CITY? WE HAVE URBAN FARMS. BUT IF THE FARMS ARE NOT
ACTUALLY TIED TOWARDS EDUCATION
AND THE HOUSING AND THE CRITICAL
NEEDS OF HOUSING THAT ACTUALLY
THAT NEIGHBORHOOD NEEDS, I’VE
GOT A LOT OF POPULATION THAT WE WORK WITH THAT ARE UNEMPLOYED,
UNDEREMPLOYED OVERPOLICED, YOU
, KNOW, ALL OF THIS
UNDEREDUCATED CAUSE, THE CLOSURE
OF SCHOOL SYSTEMS. BUT IF YOU TIE IN HOUSING AND
EDUCATION TO THE FARM AND THE
GARDENING, THEN YOU HAVE A
NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT PLAN. SO OURS IS A REGENERATIVE
NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT
STRATEGY. SOLEDAD: SO WHAT’S THIS DOWN
HERE? EMMANUEL: SO YOU KNOW WHERE THE
SIDEWALK WAS NOT FINISHED, WE
BUILT A PUBLIC BENCH IN THE
SEATING AREA WHERE WE HAVE OUR
FARMER’S MARKETS EVERY FRIDAY,
FRESH FOOD FRIDAYS. WE’VE GOT OUR GARDEN BEDS. PEOPLE SAY, IS IT OPEN TO THE
PUBLIC? WE LIKE WE DON’T HAVE NO FENCE
THERE. COME GET IT. SOLEDAD: ANYBODY IN THE
NEIGHBORHOOD CAN JUST COME AND
GRAB WHATEVER.>>YEAH, ABSOLUTELY. WHY NOT? WE DESERVE GOOD FOOD. HUMANITY DESERVES IT. WE HAVE CARPENTRY IN THE
ALLEYWAYS WHERE WE HAVE OUR
APPRENTICES THAT ARE LEARNING
HOW TO DO, BUILD THE GARDEN
BEDS, BUILD THE FURNITURE FOR
OUTDOOR PUBLIC SEATING AS AN ENTRY WAY TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO
REHABILITATE A HOUSE. SOLEDAD: HOW MANY APPRENTICES DO
YOU HAVE? EMMANUEL: CURRENTLY THIS ROUND I
, THINK WE HAVE 15 AT THIS SET. SOLEDAD: WHAT’S THE THINK DO
HOUSE? EMMANUEL: SO THIS WAS A
FORECLOSED PROPERTY, WAS
ABANDONED PROPERTY THAT THE CITY
TOOK OVER AND WE DECIDED TO TURN
INTO A COMMUNITY SCHOOL. SO THINK IT. DO IT. MIX IT. SHARE IT. BRING SOMEBODY. BRING SOMEBODY AND SHARE THE
STORY. AND THEN YOU MEET SOMEBODY LIKE
MAMA BETTY. SOLEDAD: HEY, HOW YOU DOING,
MAMA. EMMANUEL: HOW YOU DOING, ANGELA. SOLEDAD: HOW ARE YOU? I’M SOLEDAD. NICE TO MEET YOU. HI. EMMANUEL: GIVE ME SOME. WHAT ARE YOU MAKING?>>OH, I’M DOING STIR FRY KALE. SOLEDAD: SO YOU’LL MAKE SNACKS
FOR THE KIDS. I MEAN, I CALL THEM KIDS, BUT
THEY’RE YOUNG ADULTS.>>YES. I MAKE HEALTHY SNACKS FOR THEM. I MEAN, DINNER, TOO, RIGHT? SOLEDAD: YES.>>I DO FROM TIME AS MUCH AS A
FIVE COURSE MEAL. SOLEDAD: WHAT TIME WE EATING?>>I WANNA MAKE SURE I’M READY,
SOON I CAN HOOK YOU UP, GIRL. EMMANUEL: SO, YOU KNOW, THIS IS
A FULL TRANSFORMATION. SOLEDAD: IT’S BEAUTIFUL. EMMANUEL: IT IS ACTUALLY DEEP
HEALING. DEVONTAY, WHO IS ONE OF THE PEER
MENTORS WITH THE CARPENTRY AND
WOODWORKING, YOU KNOW, HE’S
TAKING A LEAD ROLE WITH
EDUCATION. HE’S ALSO TRANSFORMED HIMSELF. HE DID THE DINING ROOM TABLE,
ANOTHER PIECE, BUT HE ALSO LIVES
RIGHT UPSTAIRS. SOLEDAD: HEY, DEVANTAY, IT’S A
NICE SIZE BEDROOM.>>YES, IT IS PRETTY DECENT. I LIKE IT A LOT. EMMANUEL: HE HELPED BUILD IT,
LITERALLY. SOLEDAD: DESCRIBE FOR ME WHAT IT
WAS LIKE WHEN IT WHEN YOU FIRST
STARTED.>>TO WORK ON THIS HOUSE? SOLEDAD: YEAH. BECAUSE THE PICTURES ARE CRAZY.>>I DON’T KNOW IF ITS WORDS TO
DESCRIBE WHAT I THINK WHEN I
LOOK AT IT. I MEAN, I GET A SENSE OF
ACCOMPLISHMENT EVERY TIME I WALK
THROUGH THAT DOOR. SOLEDAD: PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK
PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN POVERTY DON’T
DESERVE BEAUTY. EMMANUEL: THIS IS ARCHITECTURE
IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD. WE’RE SO CONDITIONED TO THINK
THAT IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE
HERE WHICH IS INSANE. SOLEDAD: DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE
YOU’RE PUSHING A BOULDER UP A
MASSIVE MOUNTAIN? I MEAN THIS IS, IT’S JUST A BIG
ASK TO EVEN JUST GET PEOPLE TO
THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT A SPACE. EMMANUEL: IT IS. BUT THEN HERE WE ARE. WE’VE BEEN HERE FOR FIVE YEARS. YOU PLANT THE SEED, LITERALLY,
YOU CULTIVATE IT. I FEED IT. I SHARE IT WITH YOU AND LOVE IT
BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER TO TALK
ABOUT LIFE AND HISTORY AND THEN
WE TALK ABOUT POTENTIAL FUTURES. SOLEDAD: THANKS FOR TALKING WITH
ME. EMMANUEL: THANK YOU SO

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