How Chicago Can Learn From Detroit and Other Thoughts on Reclaiming Space
In Detroit we have a thing called the Slow Roll. Every summer, certain days are set aside, and a path is drawn out through the streets of Detroit. Hundreds of people on the backs of their bikes show up and ride in huddled masses around the city. In a city that gets such as bad a rap as Detroit, it’s truly a fascinating way to see a community you wouldn’t otherwise. So much of the discussion about Detroit is about its ghostliness. Slow Roll lets its riders see the eerie beauty of the abandoned car factories and the rows of Victorian style houses shuddered up and half burned down, while also introducing riders to the urban gardens, the guerilla art of Russell Street and underground farmers markets on Mack Ave. Like the night walks of London, Detroit-ers are reclaiming their streets. Cities do belong to its citizens, it is a concept that sounds so simple but is also revolutionary and rebellious. The Chicago-ians of the Southside and Pilsen and Humboldt Park walk the street with the same silent reverence as Detroit-ers, there is an underlying sense of ownership and belonging to the streets that house them, but also a fear. We respect these neighborhoods of Pilsen and the Southside and Detroit because of their grit but until we have the courage to walk them and enough defiance to leisurely stroll, the streets don’t belong to it’s citizens, but continue to belong to the gentrifiers and the police and the gangs that rule them. Connecting this conversation back to home seemed only logical for me because of events like the Slow Roll and the emergence of guerilla gardens, the citizens are reclaiming their streets. Access to public space creates a sense of belonging and without this sense of belonging a space is simply a space. It takes that love to turn it into a place.
We talked alot in class about the concept of walking and civil disconnect, how when walking most people choose not to speak to one another on the streets. While to some this disconnect can seem cold and rude, but to introverts like myself, a moment of quiet and solitude among chaos is necessary. My map is going to be focused on when walking is to map places where I see or potentially could see people sitting alone. There is a stigma to getting coffee, eating lunch etc. alone but to be able to map those places of momentary comfort in a world constantly seeking to engage us I think would be of benefit to those who seek to find a quiet spot. I plan to walk during the daytime/early afternoon in the Loop and/or Lincoln Park.