A celebration of Black Chicago and the cultural contributions that helped shape the city are the focus of the latest selection in our Black Voices Book Club.
The book, “Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago,” by author and WBEZ content director, host and producer Ayana Contreras takes readers through different points in time in Chicago’s Black history and reflects on how those moments influence the creativity and achievements of entrepreneurs and artists today.
“In my job as a radio host, I was able to speak to a lot of older artists and creative people and a lot of younger folks, and what I realized was, there was such a really unique parallel between what they were saying and there was so much connective tissue, they were saying so many of the same things and I wanted to put them in conversation with each other and I thought this book was a cool way to do it,” says Contreras.
Contreras used vignettes and her personal archive of newsletters, magazines, records and interviews to write her book. As a Chicagoan herself, she found the city to be the perfect fit for this type of story.
“I thought about this because theoretically a book like this could be written about a lot of cities, especially cities that have a beautiful molten creative core, but Chicago specifically, not only were we really great at creating and have been great at creating this really exciting identity, self-determination, but we’ve been able to create a whole lot of media that was disseminated throughout the globe that actually demonstrates this concept, so everything from Ebony and Jet which, became publications of record for Black America to music groups like Earth, Wind and Fire,” says Contreras.
“Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago” was published in December by University of Illinois Press.