Evanston Interview: Yancey Hughes

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded August 12, 2014, and is presented here in full.

yancey_color
Yancey Hughes is owner and operator of Yancey Hughes Photography. His studio focuses on commercial and social awareness—offering professional, friendly, and thoughtful service. Yancey shoots on location and in the studio, with specialization in event, wedding, and portrait photography.

He has lived all over the country and traveled the world, including regular visits to Ethiopia. One of his recent prints features a key aspect of daily life in Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony. He currently lives in Evanston with his beautiful wife and two amazing sons.

Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):

Yancey Hughes: We’re Unitarians… have been Unitarians for 20-odd years. And we gravitated towards the Unitarian church on Ridge. And like most churches that we seem to gravitate towards, they were in an interim minister search process. So it’s lovely; they bring in all these people, all different colors and denominations, and they speak. And it’s great. But then the search committee narrows down their choice, and they pick this white guy from Texas who doesn’t speak to us.

So we go over to Lake Street Church, which is great. And everyone talks about diversity… how they want a diverse congregation, they want a diverse choir… but it’s got to be something other than the wife of the executive that’s not filling the position, you know? That’s not diversity to me. Don’t bring in the white wife of the white exec and call it diversity.

When the definition of public and diverse is just a broader scope of what everyone’s talking about, that’s not diversity to me. There’s so much to offer in the country, in the culture. Let’s not just narrow it down to safe choices…

Int: So we hopped to a very macro-level, which is totally cool. We’re bringing it back down micro for a second. When you think about Evanston and your experiences in Evanston so far, is there anything that you don’t like about living here, or that you’ve noticed that you would identify as a challenge or a barrier?

YH: … It’s great that, you know, there’s apartments that you can live in amongst all the amenities that wealth brings, if you’re aware of it. And the challenge then, to your question, what I see is us as a family making sure we are aware of the benefits that the city has to offer… to give our son just as much experience and abilities as his buddies that have tutors and coaches and private sessions. Just to keep him confident that he can compete with them. That’s the challenge.

Int: It sounds like there are a lot of barriers to opportunity that you’re identifying, and I’m wondering: Do you feel like those barriers are primarily connected to economic—?

YH: —I wouldn’t say there’s barriers; I just say that it requires a lot of reading. You have to know where to go to read to find out you can play baseball—you can play high-level baseball with these boys from Wilmette and New Trier—on a scholarship. But many families don’t know that. You can get classes at Northwestern if you qualify on numbers, but they don’t know that. Family Services will help out with behavioral issues. But you have to know where to read; you have to know who to talk to [when] you happen on a conversation.

Families [where] both parents are working and they’re getting in at 6 o’clock… 8]oclock, and they’re working Saturday. They’re tired, you know? Meanwhile, the ladies who have the wine clutch at the Goddess: they’ve got all the time on their hands. They’re not going to challenge themselves. So they enjoy the peace.

But I don’t think it’s [solely] economic, I think you just have to be aware: Where do you go? Every place we go, you walk in the lobby and there’s the flyer shelf. So we pick up the material: The art programs, the shows, the free things, the readings… all the publicity that’s there. That’s our habit. That’s how we get informed when we come into something. But many families don’t do it… aren’t aware… don’t have the time for it. I won’t say it’s economical barriers. You just have to know what’s out there, and that requires a lot of reading. A lot of computer scrolling and whatnot.

Interviewer: And having the sense of where to hunt the information down.

Narrator: Yeah, what are your needs? Where do you go for [that]? Not taking no for an answer. Not being afraid to challenge the school administration. Some families don’t do that; they don’t want to be confronted. They’d just rather move on and try to keep a job. Try to keep rent on time.

Advertisements

Evanston Interviews: Jayme Gaultier

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded July 17, 2014, and is presented here in full.

jayme
Jayme Gaultier is a world traveler, vegetarian foodie, art and music connoisseur, aspiring writer, social justice advocate, and mother of two beautiful humans.

She currently works as the Program Manager at Hackstudio in Evanston, which has programs for both adults and children focused on helping individuals explore their passions and realize their dreams.

 

Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):

Jayme Gaultier: Safety is a really interesting concept for me, because I think there’s a lot of people, particularly people of color who don’t have the luxury of feeling safe. Just the way that our society has been structured, it often paints people of color as the people to be feared, when in reality they have the most to fear because of the laws and legislation that really targets them. So as a white woman, you know, I don’t really feel afraid of much. I feel like there are neighborhoods that I can go into as a white woman and might be looked at funny, like, “What is she doing here?”—but not unsafe. I don’t feel like I’m ever personally at risk. And so I think that that’s a very different experience, depending on your race.

Interviewer: You had mentioned people of color have much more reason to feel unsafe. Are there things that you’ve either experienced or been aware of, in terms of other residents that you know have felt unsafe here?

JG: I have an 8-year-old black son, and he notices just as much as I do, and I sort of point it out, too, that when we see cops pulling people over, they’re often black. Or when we see a group of black young men standing on a corner at a park, the cops are fairly quick to intervene; whereas I don’t think that would be the case with white boys or girls. And so that’s been something that we’ve talked a lot about in our family: how to keep my kids – I have twins – safe, and the things that they will need to do to make sure that they’re okay. And how the expectations for black kids in America are going to be very different than the expectations for white kids in America. And so, you know, things like, when they go to a store, they need to keep their hands visible, and where their friends might be able to run across people’s front lawns, my kids can’t do that.

And just sort of without burdening them with that, you know, there’s so much you can’t do, but teaching them how to keep themselves safe. And it really sucks because, in essence, I’m telling my children that it’s their obligation to make sure that nobody feels threatened by them. And that’s a huge burden to put on anybody. To be responsible for someone else’s perception of you is something that no person should have to contend with, and yet every day, we see cases of how a black young man was perceived as dangerous and therefore lost his life or you know, all these horrible things happen.

Int: I would think, as a parent, there’d be a difficult balance between sharing information so that they’re well-informed and ready, but also not necessarily wanting to color their perception or predict their experience.

JG: Or terrify them. You know? I mean, it’s a challenge for sure. I tend to err on the side of too much preparation, just because, you know, it only takes one bad experience. I also know them very well, and I know what they’re capable of handling, and so I think that that makes it a little bit easier, to sort of know how to guide those kinds of conversations. And if my kids were different people, and if, you know, they were more sensitive to stuff like that it might take a different shape, but I still think it’s pretty important for them to know not only what to do to keep themselves safe, but the history. I think history is incredibly important.

And so we’ve done a lot in terms of teaching them the history of the United States, and black people in the United States, and what they’ve had to face. And we focus a lot on the positive stories of empowerment and resilience and strength, because I think that that’s a really critical piece. And then we talk a lot about white people who have been allies and who have helped and who have stood up for what is right in the face of what might be popular.

Int: I feel like every ward has a very different personality, and it’s perceived very differently throughout Evanston… so it’s always interesting to me how the city reacts to particular neighborhoods. So within your ward, what would you say are some of the greatest challenges that you face, or difficulties that you face as a neighborhood?

JG: I think that the 8th Ward gets sometimes a pretty negative reputation, and part of that is proximity to Chicago. And there has been recently an uptick in gang activity and shooting, which is obviously concerning… but it hasn’t impacted my sense of safety. I think that the 8th Ward has a lot of really great things to offer, and I think, you know… our neighborhood is a great neighborhood. We chose it specifically, and we wouldn’t stay there if we didn’t love it. But I think that again, it’s the problem of perception.

And it is a very racially, and even to some extent socioeconomically, mixed area. And so I’ve seen some interesting dynamics between Jamaican, and Haitian, and then Latino families in our neighborhood. And then there’s been—in the past several years since we’ve moved in—a growing number of white families that have moved in. It’s always been pretty diverse.

So I think that the perception is the biggest challenge that we face. We just had the Brummel Park Food Truck Fest and the Starlight Concert Series, which is nice because everybody comes out for that, and those sort of community gatherings are a really nice way to sort of see your neighbors that you might not see as often. And community-building things like that are nice.

Evanston Interviews: Noelle Krimm

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded August 8, 2014, and is presented here in full.

Noelle Krimm cropped
Noelle Krimm is a writer, director, and public speaker with a particular interest in using art and personal narrative as a means of community building. She was an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists for 9 years, writing for and performing in their signature show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Currently, Noelle is using her experience as a writer of creative nonfiction and crafted, self-referential story-telling as a means of activism through a series on her blog “The Amazing, Affordable Adventures of Mama, Bunny, and Pip” that is hosted by Chicago Tribune subsidiary ChicagoNow.

Noelle hopes that by sharing insider views into the lives of people affected by changes in legislation and the hopes and fears of average people on both sides of the ever-widening political divide, she can help build some bridges and foster understanding. Noelle is also a regular speaker on behalf of Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network where she crafts stories about her “Miracle Child” son as a means of raising awareness about the importance of medical research funding.

Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below: 

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):

Noelle Krimm: There’s a bunch of things that I love. The school is great. I just recently looked it up on the Great Schools website, and it’s a 10. And it was one of the schools on our list that, when we started looking, we knew we wanted one of three or four schools, and that was one of them. I love that we can ostensibly walk to the lake, although I never do.

And rarely ride bikes to it, either, but… we could. That is an option. It’s right by the train. It’s a quick one and a half block walk to the train. We have playgrounds on either side of us, so half a block one way is the Fireman’s Park; half a block the other way is Tallmadge Park. I kind of like being on the edge of campus because the college students amuse me.

And it feels a little bit more like the city, being over there… because the students are walking back and forth to class. And there are shops right around the corner. There’s a tiny grocery store; there’s some restaurants just right in walking distance—which feels a little like the city. I was worried when I moved to a suburb. You know, when you’re young and in Chicago, and you’re like, “Oh, I’d never become a suburbanite.”

And so I became a suburbanite, and I was like, “Oh, it’s going to be so cliché and awful… and strip malls… and no public transportation.” But this was a nice—I’ve never really missed those things about living in the city, because it all is actually right here.

Int: So then what do you like least about living here, or what are the things that are difficult or frustrating about your neighborhood?

NK: The first thing that comes to mind is the property taxes. The property taxes are just insane. Infuriating.

So high and they just seem to randomly suddenly get higher. And then… if you decide you want to fight the property tax, you have to hire a lawyer. So the condo association periodically hires a lawyer and fights for the property taxes to be lowered from “completely-not-affordable” to “somewhat-slightly-less-heart-attack- inducing” is basically what the scale seems to be over here. And I’ve talked to a number of people—after, of course, we had purchased this condo and we’re underwater—a number of people were like, “Oh, I’d never. I’d just go to Wilmette, because, you know, you go just slightly north and your property taxes are way lower.” It was like: Oh. Well, that’s good to know. Thanks! Thanks for telling me after I purchased this condo.

But to me, that’s the biggest thing. That’s the biggest thing that would drive me out of Evanston… the property taxes are bad and I don’t see them getting any better because I just see Northwestern inheriting more and more homes as alumni pass away and leave them those homes, and then the city has to make up for that loss of property tax somewhere. And apparently, they find it here. In my pocket.

Int: I’m curious, because I know we’ve lost some families in our neighborhood, or in our school, because of the property taxes. Have you noticed anybody heading out because of that?

NK: Nobody that I have talked to. You and I live in sort of a different neighborhood. When we had decided to buy this condo, we took a walk from the condo to the school that the kids go to, which is Orrington. And you pass nothing but mansions. And my husband turned to me and was like, “Well, I think we got the one place in Evanston that we could afford, you know? The one place in the Orrington district that we could actually live in. So there won’t be any moving and keeping the kids in that school, because that’s it.”

And so…on the playground, those aren’t the complaints that I hear. We have a lot of people in the Orrington district who are from other countries. So we’ve lost a few different good friends to them going back overseas.

Int: So I’m curious, because I know you and I have talked about this a little bit outside of this [interview], but what is that like—that experience of knowing [you’re] in this area that’s clearly affluent, and feeling like there’s a bit of a separation between what you see around you on the playground and where you’re coming from?

NK: Well, what’s interesting is I haven’t ever experienced anything else, because we moved here before Lily started kindergarten. So she did go half a year to preschool at a public school in Chicago, but: not the same thing. So I would say that I don’t really have any good friends among the moms on the playground. I tend to notice that it’s like: groups of moms on one side and me by myself pushing my kid on the swing on another side.

I don’t know how much of that is me not making friends very easily. They do live in a very different world than I live in, with very different problems. And the few that I have told my problems to, or my struggles to, who can’t fathom what it’s like to be me, sort of  pity me whenever they look at me, because they’re rich and… you know. And then the other people just… I just don’t even bother.

Let’s see. I mean, I will say the people are certainly nice enough to me. They’re nice to my kids. When we had kids over who are little enough to say exactly what they think before they’ve been trained to you know, not—

Int: To filter.

NK: I did get questions like, “Um, this is where you live? Is this what an apartment looks like? How can your car be this small?”

I mean, for the most part, I think it’s fine. Although you know, there are some times when I look at what you have at Washington and I envy all the networking that goes on over there. My people over at Orrington don’t have need for exchanges or barters, you know, the nanny does it. So I wish I could start something like that at Orrington. I just don’t know that there would be a lot of call for it.

Evanston Interviews: Rebeca Mendoza

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded August 26, 2014, and is presented here in full.

rebeca
At the age of five Rebeca Mendoza, with her mother, immigrated from Mexico City, Mexico to Evanston, Illinois. She attended Washington Elementary, Nichols Middle School, and graduated from Evanston Township High School. As a lifelong Evanstonian she is very aware of its identity and struggles; engaging in efforts professionally and as a volunteer to improve the lives of its residents. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Rebeca returned to Evanston and worked for organizations such as Family Focus Inc., McGaw YMCA, Y.O.U., and Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

A graduate of Leadership Evanston, Rebeca contributed as a board member for the Evanston Coalition for Latino Residents for 8 years, as a mentor for Project Soar for 5 years, and served on the Evanston Arts Council for 3 years. She continues to volunteer by organizing and participating in several service events. She has strong ties to educational programs and advocacy efforts to close the achievement gap in Evanston’s public schools. In addition to her professional and volunteer works, Rebeca is the proud mother of a 10 year old girl. who she loves sharing new experiences with while teaching social responsibility.

Listen now:

Evanston Interviews: Mary Adams Trujillo, Ph.D.

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded August 27, 2014, and is presented here in full.

mary
Dr. Mary Trujillo’s family lived in Evanston for over four generations; however, at the time of this interview, she was beginning a transition to nearby Skokie. Mary was an active volunteer and advocate in Evanston for many years working on behalf of social and racial justice. A board member of the Grandmother Park initiative, Dr. Trujillo and her colleagues successfully worked to establish a “tot lot” in Evanston’s 2nd ward for neighborhood children. In addition, she is a Professor in the Communication Arts department at North Park University, where she co-chairs the Conflict Transformation major and works with students to transform violent environments.

Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):

Mary Trujillo: I can remember when my sense of safety really, really was challenged, and that was in 1999. We went to church with the Birdsongs, so I knew Ricky Birdsong, and I know his family. And I remember after that, feeling like: wait—he was in a good neighborhood, some person out of the blue spots him and shoots him. And so I literally, after that, [became] very mindful. For example the 4th of July thing down on the beach… going to the fireworks and thinking: Any person at any time could just start shooting. It could happen. So that is something that I have actively carried around with me. I’m not real secure in those kinds of environments. And it’s not so much that I feel particularly as a woman vulnerable, I really do feel like it’s more race-based.  I’m really aware and mindful of situations where, as a woman, I’m vulnerable. That I’m clear about. And maybe those two sort of reinforce each other.

Interviewer: The lack of safety for women, is that clearer than the lack of safety in terms of race?

MT: I think so. I think so, yeah.

Int: Like, we know those dangers a little bit better, and it’s something that’s more a part of the social consciousness. Whereas race… we still don’t talk about what that violence means.

MT: Yeah. And that’s part of the significance of this Ferguson episode for, I think, many African-Americans, this sense of: You could just be doing what you do. Just doing what you do. And that could be it. And this doesn’t matter that you have your hands raised, saying “I’m cooperating with you.” It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. There is an open season on black life. It really feels like that.

Int: So this connects to Evanston and its diversity. Evanston prides itself on being diverse, and so one of the things that I’m really curious about is… especially for residents… how do you feel about that reputation and that perception? How does that connect with or contrast with your experience?

MT: I think we have access to diversity, and many people have multiple cross-racial, cross-cultural relationships. I think that’s (kind of at a very superficial level) that’s a norm. That’s an expectation. I think we do better than many communities with having situations where people can have those kinds of relationships. And it does not have to go any deeper than that.

So that’s kind of the downside: that people don’t have to go any deeper. The opportunities are there for meaningful relationships, but you don’t really have to. And my observation is, those areas that are uncomfortable, people don’t do them, black and white. It’s too hard. Those personal relationships stop or – and I’ll use the word – “fail,” and “fail” may be an overstatement, when those structural considerations  emerge. So I can be friends with you, and we can go and have coffee and we can talk and relate on that level. But when we have to confront the fact that the experience at Evanston High School is very different for black students, for any number of reasons, than it is for white students, there’s not a need, there’s not a requirement, for the more privileged party to deal with that. They don’t have to.

Int: Right. They can easily hear that in the conversation and then go home and just put it away.

MT: Yeah. And we can still be friends, we can still have coffee, and we can say that this is the level that we’re going to be friends, and this is how it’s going to be. So again, the opportunities are there, and people take advantage of them or not. Mostly – to go deeper, mostly not, is my experience. Because it’s too hard. And I’ve heard black people say that; I’ve heard white people say that. It’s too hard.

Int: What do you think they mean when they say that?

MT: Again, confronting the structural realities is hard. Looking at ourselves deeply and our own perceived flaws or the ways that we enable situations of racism or power, that’s hard. Who wants to feel bad?

Evanston Interviews: Gilo Kwesi C. Logan, Ed.D.

This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded June 10, 2014, and is presented here in full.

gilo_closeup
Gilo Kwesi Logan
is the proud father of two sons and a native of Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Logan is an internationally recognized diversity consultant, educator, writer, and speaker. As President of Logan Consulting Services, LLC, his mission is to help organizations and leaders meet the challenges of working and living in a global society. Dr. Logan has over 20 years of K-16 interdisciplinary experience in education, is a member of the National Diversity Council, and serves as adjunct faculty of diversity and social justice in Chicago, IL. He founded SOUL Creations, is a doctor of education with research expertise in racial/ethnic identity development, and has seven years’ experience living in 23 countries throughout North and Central America, the Caribbean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and West Africa.

Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:

TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):

Gilo Kwesi Logan: I was born at Community Hospital so I’ve been in Evanston my whole life, which is 48 years—fifth generation Evanstonian actually, and I live in the fifth ward.

Interviewer: Wonderful! Wow. So, one of my questions is what brought you to Evanston, but that doesn’t quite apply to you!

GKL: I can say what brought my family here… in short, my maternal line of my great-great grandmother. Apparently her family escaped on the underground railroad from the South into Canada…Windsor Canada, which is on the other side of the river of Detroit.

So from Windsor Canada they came to Evanston in the late 1890s, approximately around 1897. And then on my father’s side, the paternal line, my grandfather came here when he was three, in 1903. Though, apparently in that time there were busloads of African-American Evanstonians who were family clans, in a sense… the Logan clan is apparently a clan who came out of the area of Greenwood, South Carolina. And apparently, as a result of lynchings that were happening down there—and the burning of property, because this was just after the abolishment of slavery and our family acquired land that we lost, as well—apparently there were a number of these families who… escaped up here in the middle of the night.

And that wasn’t that uncommon at that time in history in that region of the country; but apparently, from my grandfather’s family [there] were victims [who] came up here as a result of that… escaping that form of oppression and racism.

Int: And since your family’s history is so unique—I mean fifth generation, that feels so very significant—what does Evanston mean to you, or how does that affect your view of Evanston… having been here for five generations?

GKL: There’s a lot of what we would call transplants to Evanston. People who’ve come from a variety of places come to Evanston. They fall in love with it for a variety of reasons and they [become]: blood, sweat, and tears Evanstonians.  But I feel, being a fifth generation Evanstonian on both lines of my family as well… I feel that roots me. That gives me a groundedness in the community that, just from my personal experience and observation, not a lot of transplants have, or don’t feel, as well as a lot of Evanstonians who have been here for multiple generations. Because it’s more than numbers, it’s more than a chronological “how-many-years,” it’s a rootedness in the community.  

And I find a number of families have been here for a long time but they don’t share that rootedness.  And that, I feel, gives me that type of groundedness, particularly after traveling overseas and coming back. I feel that Evanston is my village. That’s how I approach it. So when I reflect back on my life growing up, I look through the lens of myself as a child in the village, and the elders in the village who played their role, and [the] role that the community centers played, and hence my community, and so on and so forth. So I feel it’s given me a groundedness and a rootedness into the community of Evanston, not just the city of Evanston.  

And so understanding the history, seeing the changes in my lifetime, but also hearing the stories of Evanstonians like my grandfather who lived to be 94, just next door, and he passed away just over 10 years ago; people born in the 1800s, who I was able to know and love, and who loved me and raised me—to hear those stories and to feel their passion to the community, to see their connection to the community (because I was exposed to a lot of community servants and community activists), I think that exposure growing up really has given me a sense of ownership.

And with that accountability, I feel responsible for what happens and what doesn’t here in Evanston.  I understand how it impacts all of us, despite these silos we kind of live in, in Evanston, in these different Wards.  But I feel a connectedness and a rootedness. And being born at Community Hospital—which at that time, for the most part, African-Americans were almost all born at Community Hospital.  So my parents, my brother, my sister, myself… we were all delivered by the same doctor: Dr. Hill at Community Hospital. 

So even though it’s not Community Hospital any longer, I still feel that sense of community every time I walk past there. I know where Dr. Hill lived on Darrow, you know: the doctor who delivered me into the world. I mean, I saw the barracks where my parents used to live, and [grew up] hearing the stories of horses going through here. And so from that time to this time, to see the changing development, it’s easy to get lost or to have a shifting perspective of Evanston. I mean it’s going to shift and evolve, but it’s anchored in a history that I was able to experience and be a part of. So it’s still very close to me. So to me, living here and having that history here gives me a sense of ownership, and accountability, and belongingness to the village, the community, the people. You know, the passion and the hearts, the souls of Evanston.  

Welcome to the Project LRN Website!

Project LRN logoProject LRN (Listening to Residents & Neighbors) has been a passion in the works for over a year so far. Despite the slow pace, I am thrilled to unveil the website with this inaugural post.

Project LRN was inspired by a personal sense of disconnect paralleled with an increasing level of disconnect on a local and national scale. It is my personal belief we don’t listen to each other enough. And I mean really listen… sitting quietly with eyes and ears and heart open, being present and actively engaged, to truly hear another person’s story and to honor their truth.

This means we do not sit poised with the next question. We are not thinking about how it might connect to “me” or “I” or “my.” We are not internally (or externally) challenging their story or questioning their truth or poking at their interpretations.

We hear them. We honor them. We acknowledge them. We see them. This is what leads to connection. It leads to empathy and humility… to gratitude and awareness. And ultimately to change. Because we cannot hurt one another, or condone systems that hurt those around us, if we truly feel united. There is no other. There is only “we.”

And that is how Project LRN began.