What is community?

Today, I had the opportunity to watch 70 Acres in Chicago. It’s a film about the residents of Cabrini Green. But really, it’s a film about a Chicago community that has been shattered.

It offered a perspective that I had never before considered. I grew up in Chicago’s south suburbs and had little occasion to go to Cabrini Green. I avoided it on reputation. But the film depicted an alternate reality: a huge community of supportive, caring neighbors.

After the film, which was screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Loop, the producer and two of the main interviewees depicted in the film took part in a brief panel discussion. Raymond ‘Shaq’ Macdonald, who appeared in the film, was one of them. He appeared in the film wearing Schurz High School spirit wear, bringing the connection among Chicago residents of all stripes, colors, and backgrounds, powerfully home for me. To quote the Muppets, “Peoples is peoples.”

My neighborhood high school is Schurz. My neighborhood is smaller, population-wise, than that of the Cabrini Green complex in its heydey. My history with my neighborhood isn’t as long; I’ve been a resident for 14 years, since I moved to the city of Chicago. I feel the same way about my community as Cabrini Green’s residents felt about it: this is my home, these are my people, I don’t want to leave it. I hope I don’t have to do so.

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