‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Kenwood

Located on Chicago’s South Side, Kenwood stands along the shore of Lake Michigan with a mix of 19th century mansions and affordable housing. It’s an area that’s been fighting the closure of schools and gun violence, while drawing investment. 

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Carver 47 Food & Wellness Market has created a space for the neighborhood to explore healthy food options and Southern culture.

Owner Monica Haslip first founded an arts program in a basement 28 years ago, and it has since flourished into Little Black Pearl, a cultural art center for the community. Now she and chef Lizz Wright have taken on another task: introducing comfort food and healthy eating to the neighborhood.

“The pandemic has made it easier for us all to be a little bit more sensitive around health,” Wright said. “It’s important for me to put comfort and nourishment together. I want someone to have a big party biscuit and a 16-ounce juice. I don’t think you have to choose between the two.”

They offer homemade salads, sandwiches, fresh juices, and a variety of natural home goods.

The cafe is named after George Washington Carver, a leader in agricultural innovation and humanitarian. Haslip says she wants people to feel inspired when they walk into the cafe.

“We want them to take the time to enjoy food and that everything is now fast,” Haslip said. “These days are an opportunity for us to slow down to see one another, to appreciate each other and to bring some beauty into everything that we do together.”

Million-dollar homes surround parts of the neighborhood. The area has been home to some well-known names. Muhammad Ali once lived in Kenwood, as well as blues singer Muddy Waters.

There’s also a large population of middle-class families and lower income residents. Over the years, the community has battled with racial inequalities and segregation when it comes to housing and keeping schools open.

The Kenwood-Oakland Organization has been at the forefront of that battle.

“It’s a big fight,” said Shannon Bennett, executive director of the organization. “We are fighting in a legacy of strong community organizers … you can walk through this community and see living monuments of that work in spite of things like white flight in the early ‘50s and ‘60s and dealing with things like restrictive covenants which restricted Black folk of certain parts of the community.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Shannon Bennett

Meanwhile, Kenwood Academy takes a lot of pride in being a neighborhood high school.

Assistant Principal Corey Morrison says its academic and sports programs have a large impact not only on the lives of students but also bleeds into Kenwood as a community.

“Champions are easy for people to understand in the community,” Morrison said. “It sparks a fire in the community to come up and see what’s happening at the school … when people walk through the door, they see that our debate team is one of the best in the city this year … it keeps the engine going.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Corey Morrison

The Rev. Dr. Leroy Sanders, at Kenwood United Church of Christ, has been providing resources for more than 40 years.

“We’ve seen our black people being able to come back because they have jobs, professional people come back to the community,” Sanders said. “It’s a striving community that I watched over 41 years that didn’t happen back in 1979 so 2022 is a new year, it’s a new day, a new month so we look forward to the joy and the peace that we can survive even during this coronavirus.”

The oldest Jewish congregation in Chicago stands along Hyde Park Boulevard. Cantor David Berger from KAM Isaiah Israel Temple shares how the congregation has been working with the community through music and service work.

“We are an incredibly a racial diverse congregation,” Berger said. So we don’t see it as there’s black culture out there and Jewish culture here. Our self-perception Is that we are teaching our kids how to really embrace our culture and their black identity. I have two kids and my kids are not white either. “

The congregation has been in the area for more than 100 years and it’s now going through huge renovations. The Kenwood United Church of Christ on 46th street has also been serving people for decades.

Sanders has been running the soup kitchen for years and at one point operated a free medical clinic.

“I imagine God put this attitude and me at the church at the church has to be more than a church other than on Sundays,” Sanders said. “I’m sold on the idea that the church should be open every day of the week because people need help not just on Sundays, but we need the word of God to become alive and by feeding the hungry, by giving clothes to the naked and by providing health care that they cannot get anywhere else.”

Sanders hopes to reopen the clinic inside the church in the future. He’s currently looking for a doctor or nurse practitioner who is willing to volunteer their time. 

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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