Bridgeport: a glimpse into Chicago’s future?
// By Jacqueline Brennan
We hope you’ve had a chance to check out this year’s lineup for Chicago Inside & Out – a dozen thoughtfully designed experiences, all guided by dynamic community leaders across Chicago. These immersive tours are a cornerstone of the Upswell experience, which is all about going deep locally to uncover enriching and surprising insights that apply to changework across the board. We’re continuing to share more every week about the unique slate of community experiences happening this November, including our recently announced Community Dinners lineup, and now, this Chicago Inside & Out preview of the Bridgeport Tour.
You may have noticed a trend beginning with our preview of the Back of the Yards Tour – namely, Chicago Inside & Out isn’t about exposing you to any sanitized version of history. Rather, these tours are intended to be intimate, candid, and most importantly, instructive. The spirit of Upswell is one of elevating the best local stories and solutions to the national conversation. That storytelling implies the all-important context of history, and you’ll find that the immersion tours won’t shy away from giving you the nuanced, warts-and-all cut of history for each neighborhood we’re visiting in November.
Changework doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the scope of positive transformation is most apparent when we understand the conditions it’s borne out of. Bridgeport’s story is a prime example of how drastically a community can evolve with time, care, and commitment, and it’s an especially enlightening case study in the way systems of power play into equity and inclusion. Once known for its racial intolerance, this South Side community today ranks as one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods. How did it get there? Well, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the years of work and investment firsthand on the tour, but we’ll catch you up on the basic background.
To anybody versed in the mechanics of structures and systems that underly inequity, it will come as no surprise based on Bridgeport’s racial history that it is also known as a historic pipeline to the most powerful office in Chicago. Bridgeport was the home of five Chicago mayors, representing all but 10 years of mayoral administrations between 1933 and 2011. That timespan includes an uninterrupted 46-year period, and another uninterrupted 22-year stretch under Richard M. Daley, widely credited as the architect behind Chicago’s notorious political machine. Because this isn’t old history, we don’t need to mince words here: there’s a long history of corruption in Chicago city government. It has actively disenfranchised many Chicagoans and effectively disenchanted even more of them. It’s one of many big reasons that the recent election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot is considered historic and potentially pivotal (more details about that in this update from May). In that light, Bridgeport’s evolution to a thriving, diverse community may be a microcosm of what’s ahead for Chicago under this changing of the guard.
If you sign up for this tour, you’ll take a chartered bus Wednesday morning from Upswell’s home base of Hilton Chicago to Morgan Street in the heart of modern Bridgeport, a hub of artists, entrepreneurs and makers. Once at Morgan Street, you’ll get a guided tour of local artist and entrepreneur Edmar Marszewski’s cultural and commercial centers including the Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery, Lumpen Radio, and the site of one of the Upswell Chicago Community Dinners, Marz Community Brewing.
During the tour, you’ll get to meet Chinese-American contemporary artists Shan Zou and DaHuang Zhou otherwise known as Zhou Brothers, and explore their Morgan Street developments (here’s a photo of the Zhou brothers with an up-and-coming Chicagoan you might recognize). Lunch will be served at one of Ed Marszewski’s nearby restaurant locations before you take a short walk to the last of the tour stops, the new Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571, designed by architect Jeannie Gang. By November, it’ll be a little too chilly to try it yourself, but the new site is a great spot for kayaking on the Chicago River. If that’s up your alley, make plans to visit the boathouse if you find yourself out in Chicago in the mild weather months of the year!
The Bridgeport tour will showcase how creating hybrid spaces for arts and public use in tandem with using alternative approaches to planning and organizing can cultivate economic opportunity, stronger community, and more equitable outcomes in Chicago and beyond. It’s just one of a dozen tours happening at Upswell this November. Choosing between them will be tough, but all of them will put you in an inspired headspace to kick off the first day of Upswell. We’ll continue to highlight tours and much more about the Upswell Chicago experience, but keep in mind that many of these Inside & Out tours can accommodate no more than 35 participants and will fill up. So, if you see one that you’re over the moon about already, don’t sit on saving your spot!
If you’re interested in taking a deep dive into how to build a race equity culture in your organization, be sure to sign up for our pre-convening with the great folks at Equity in the Center! Saving your spot is easy – simply add it on when you’re completing your Upswell Chicago registration.