We surveyed folks on the border of North and South Lawndale about demographic change and their perception of the upcoming census.

By Samantha Cabrera Friend, Ayana Cochran, Max Herman and Sebastian Hidalgo

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This summer, City Bureau’s photo fellows are working closely with the cohort’s three reporting teams. As a collective, the photo team recently set out to talk to residents between North Lawndale and South Lawndale (Little Village), asking about the upcoming 2020 census and population change—two of the larger topics City Bureau is looking into this cycle. Continuing what the spring photo team started, we also asked about how people feel their neighborhood is represented in the media.

Of those we talked to on the street, knowledge of the census varied widely from person to person, but everyone seemed to have a strong sense of their neighborhood and how the media can serve it better.

Dion Davis at Greater Progressive Baptist Church. (Photo: Sebastian Hidalgo)

Dion Davis at Greater Progressive Baptist Church. (Photo: Sebastian Hidalgo)

Dion Davis, Austin

Generally, what do you think the census does? 

I know that it’s supposed to be for counting the people in the community as far as making sure that we get funds for the area.

Do you live in Lawndale?

I grew up in the Lawndale area, but I still live on the West Side, in the Austin area now. This was where I was born and raised. So that’s why I'm here at my home church today. I came back to the area to serve the church so I’ve been a part of this community for a long time.

Have you seen it change in any way?

Well you know, [Lawndale] is changing because... house prices raise and rents are high. So it changes but it's just a change that happens because, first and foremost, it's the future! I mean, it's not going to be the same as 1969. There's a new generation, new technology, new computers and stuff like that. We have Internet now, we have so much more now because of education.

Now hopefully they could put more money back into community organizations. Hopefully they can fund [more of] these kind of [organizations]. I think that would make a difference and make a community better. Let's start at the ground and build ourselves up. 

I think every community as far as Latino and African-American communities, wherever else, it starts when the organizations are part of the community itself.

Gloria Hernandez (right) and her daughter wait for the bus home. (Photo: Samantha Cabrera Friend)

Gloria Hernandez (right) and her daughter wait for the bus home. (Photo: Samantha Cabrera Friend)

Gloria Hernandez, 76, Pilsen

What do you think of the census?

It’s good. It’s how we see how many of us live in Illinois. It’s a way to communicate information.

Is there anything you would like to know about the census?

No, I think it’s good. It’s a process but it seems to be OK.

The census is responsible for the allocation of federal funds to local communities based on their population’s needs. Do you feel these funds have been distributed fairly and accurately?

No. There’s not enough good health clinics, there’s less opportunities, and there’s not enough free resources here. People are also scared about ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] trying to take families away. To me the Hispanics become the forgotten ones.

So, things could stand to improve?

Yes, many things stay unequal. Street cleanings are inconsistent on 18th Street. It’s common in the winter for the garbage truck to not show up for days and it is not good. Soon there’s animals and rats all over. I’ve been here for over 25 years and it’s no question that there’s more people living here than others think. 

Where do you get your news?

Newspapers like La Raza and various channels on television. 

Titiana Milbrooks waits for the bus on her way to a job interview. (Photo: Samantha Cabrera Friend)

Titiana Milbrooks waits for the bus on her way to a job interview. (Photo: Samantha Cabrera Friend)

Titiana Milbrooks, 30, Lawndale

 What do you think of the census?

I don’t think trying to count everyone is realistic. How can it really be accurate for all the years to come?

The census is responsible for the allocation of federal funds to local communities based on their population’s needs. Do you feel these funds are distributed fairly and accurately?

No. The government hasn’t done its job. They’ve raised the minimum wage, legalized weed, that’s great but there’s still more. I think there’s a lot of money that needs to be issued and a lot more coverage on local issues. At this point, I don’t think I’ll participate in the census because it doesn’t bring any good. I have kids too and I don’t think I’ll have the time.

Where do you get your news?

Word of mouth and social media like Facebook.

Fanny Diego, at right, pictured with friend Yadira Montoya. (Photo: Max Herman)

Fanny Diego, at right, pictured with friend Yadira Montoya. (Photo: Max Herman)

Fanny Diego, 32, Little Village 

What have you noticed in your neighborhood about demographic change or population loss?

So there has been population loss in the last 20 years. When we were growing up, it was a ton of people. But some of it may be natural because people were doubled, tripled up and [because of] new immigrants, and some of it is because of cost. Chicago is getting more and more expensive. And so I want to say that a good chunk of our friends now live like Cicero or Berwyn.

So you’ve noticed people moving west or south?

Mostly west, I have sensed. I think people from Pilsen have moved more south or other areas, but I think a lot of people in Little Village people usually go to Cicero and Berwyn.

Do you know much about the census yourself?

Yeah, a fair amount.

Is there anything you would like to know more about from the government or from the media?

I'm probably the demographic that is more informed. So I typically am sharing what I know with others.

And as far as the resources that come from the results of the census, do you feel that Little Village is covered? If not, what could they use more as far as the federal federally funded programs based on the census results?

That's a great question. They estimate that one in four people in Little Village is undocumented. So that means that pretty much every household has someone that's undocumented and definitely most homes are mixed status. So there’s citizens, permanent residents, DACAmented people, undocumented people. So I think the counts are always a little bit off. So even in population loss, I don't know how much of the numbers are real, right? I think in general schools are underfunded, but that's also an issue of the state—the state money is really crucial in that field.

A third of our population is uninsured. That then also impacts other things, right? Because if people are uninsured, then they're spending more on certain things versus others. And then that limits their ability to purchase a home or maybe even be involved in their child's education. So I think there's a lot of needs like that—federally—more resources, I think maybe health resources would be key. 

Ashley Jefferson at the Farm on Ogden. (Photo: Max Herman)

Ashley Jefferson at the Farm on Ogden. (Photo: Max Herman)

Ashley Jefferson, 29, North Lawndale

So a lot of federally funded programs come from the results of the census every 10 years. Do you feel like your neighborhood is adequately funded for resources?

You see a lot of organizations or business come to the neighborhood, and they appear to be for one thing, and then it becomes something else. Like people in the neighborhood is not using, not utilizing the business or the opportunities.

So a lot of these things might be for people who…

Who don’t live in the neighborhood but want to live in the neighborhood.

How do you feel about the way the news represents your neighborhood?

That's a tricky question. I mean, it's so many things wrong with it. But for one, we just don't get enough news coverage whenever there's something good in the neighborhood happening. There's a lot of good, hardworking people that’s doing block parties or just bringing the community together, literally by doing icee stands and stuff like that. So they don't talk about that—they talk about the gang violence and just when something happened like a fire or a murder or something.

The businesses that's contributing to it, like allowing this to happen, like gas stations or liquor stores and little business like that—[the media is] not talking about it. There's also a lack of resources for the people in the neighborhood. So it's bittersweet. We have things, like, now we're here [at Farm on Ogden], but you don't really see too many people from the neighborhood coming here.

And what about visuals in the media—images? How do you feel about the way that North Lawndale is seen to the public?

Again, they only highlight the violence in the community. So every time you see like parents, it's usually like somebody who lost somebody or something bad happened. It's never like, “Oh, look at this beautiful family, you know, out here in the neighborhood just enjoying the day and inspiring others to enjoy the day.” And the news doesn’t show that. They show things that are going on downtown and up north, but they don't necessarily come out to the hood or to North Lawndale to shine a light on what’s going on, unless we call our own news people or connects.

James Williams (Photo: Ayana Cochran)

James Williams (Photo: Ayana Cochran)

James Williams, 51, Lawndale

What do you know about the census? Do you know how to fill it out?

They wanted to implement a question about identity. Probably use it to separate ‘illegals’ [sarcastic tone] from the rest of the citizens. And sure, I can fill it out.

Is there anything you would like to know?

Reparations. Will they give reparations to the Black community?

What about your neighborhood would you wish the media would pay attention to?

I wish the media would look at these dilapidated communities. These torn up buildings and vacant lots.


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