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North Lawndale and Little Village have a history of division that goes back generations. However, the One Lawndale movement to bridge the gap between the communities may become a reality.
The two areas used to be one called North and South Lawndale. The Burlington Northern railroad tracks have “always been the dividing line,” Charles Buckhanan explained. He is a long-time North Lawndale resident and part of a West Side youth boxing organization, Boxing Out Negativity. Buckhanan characterized Lawndale as one area divided into two, with one prospering better than the other.
Back in the day, Lawndale was united. Then, in the 60s, the southern area distanced itself from the north once Black people started moving in and rebranded as “Little Village” as an homage to the roots of the European immigrants living there.
In the 70s, it was then called “La Villita” by Mexicans who began immigrating into the neighborhood.
As the population of North Lawndale dwindled to a quarter of what it was, Little Village became crowded. There are clear signs of different worlds on both sides of the railroad tracks that separate the two areas.
People have tried to unify Lawndale before. Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz named a new high school “Little Village Lawndale High” in the early 2000s. The school on 31st and Kostner hosted students from both neighborhoods. Murals showing Black and Latino people together can be seen all over the area. Unfortunately, during the George Floyd protests in 2020, rioting turned to violence.
Tensions were high as stores in Little Village were looted by some people from North Lawndale. This prompted members of the Latin Kings to take action and protect stores in the neighborhood.
Black people were also harassed during this time in Little Village. A group of Black women had their car damaged by men with bats while driving in the area. Additionally, people were seen throwing objects at vehicles passing by on the corner of Kedzie and Cermak. A mother and her son were pulled from their car at the same intersection. Community Leaders were able to negotiate and bring about peace soon after.
A New Call For Change
Many voiced their concerns about the violence through multiple gatherings and protests. Organizers of the One Lawndale movement addressed the reality of bringing the two communities together for needed change.
Associations like Brown Folks for Black Lives orchestrate events to give food and other necessities to those in need in both parts of the community.
Young people participated in events like designing a t-shirt at an arts center. For example, the “One Lawndale” shirt depicted the old Sears headquarters with a Little Village landmark.
Shedd Park also held inter-neighborhood boxing matches where people got to know each other and exchanged contact information.
Pastor Philip Jackson of Firehouse Church labeled the George Floyd protests as a “tipping point” for the community. Many believe it was the culminating factor in making the One Lawndale movement a reality.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Chicago Magazine: Bridging the Divide of the Burlington Northern Railroad; by Edward McClelland
Block Club Chicago: Black Chicagoans Being Harassed In Some Latino Neighborhoods, Officials Say: ‘We Are In This Struggle Together;’ by Mauricio Peña
Featured, Top and First Inset Image Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second inset Image Courtesy of City Year’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License