After joining City Bureau’s Documenters network in December 2016, Bridget began writing and photographing for the South Side Weekly. See how the Documenters program works for her in this Q&A, the first in an ongoing series profiling Documenters in Chicago.

By City Bureau

Name: Bridget Vaughn

Neighborhood: I’ve lived in Chatham since 1992. I grew up in Washington Heights. My family then moved to Auburn Gresham.

Tell us a bit about what makes you, you: I’ve been married for 24 years and have a 19-year-old daughter. Twenty-two years ago I left the financial services sector and started a career as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. In January 2017, I declared myself an artist. I am proactively pursuing my photography while learning to be a journalist. City Bureau is giving me the opportunity to pursue my artistic endeavors.

I have a blog dedicated to informing the readers about philanthropy and giving back to the community called Philanthropic Finesse. Activism flows through my veins. I’m a music lover, a people lover, an athlete and enjoy playing Scrabble, Taboo, Bid Whist and Bridge.

What’s one thing you love about Chicago? It is difficult to name just one thing to love about this city. I love that on any given day, especially in the summer, there is always something interesting to do. The music scene is very diverse. We have great cultural institutions. Broadway in Chicago is fantastic. I always look forward to Chicago Ideas Week, Open House Chicago, the Black Harvest Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival. The city has built a strong reputation in the culinary world. And I must give a big shout out to the House Music community. Yes, I am a proud house head.

What’s the best thing about your neighborhood? Chatham has a storied history of being the most affluent Black community in the country in the 70s and 80s. A few of my neighbors moved to the community in the early 60s. Many of us don’t know our great past and it is up to us to make sure our contributions to the neighborhood and this city don’t get erased.

What is something your neighborhood needs the most? We need an active and vigilant group of men, women and children to proudly advocate for Chatham. That means attending community meetings, not accepting the status quo and holding our neighbors and elected officials accountable for maintaining stability and a sense of community. A place where everybody knows your name or at least knows your face.

On a larger scale, what’s something you would change about Chicago?

I want to see the city’s wealth to be distributed more equitably so ALL communities can benefit. I want community policing to return. I want the residents on the south and west sides to not be written off as unworthy deplorables. Chicago lifers, like me, very clearly see ALL of the systemic and blatant ways people of color continue to be marginalized and priced out of a city we love.

Why did you join City Bureau? When I declared myself an artist, my dear friend recommended I contact South Side Weekly to offer my photography services. After a few months, I stopped by, met several editors and got great advice on how to ease my way into the operation.

Since that day, I have been a documenter for City Bureau, had my photos published in the South Side Weekly newspaper and am a regular contributor to the South Side Weekly Radio Hour.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and contribute to a start-up community Newsroom. I feel like I am part of a community that is giving voice to the South Side’s untold stories and unsung heroes. City Bureau, South Side Weekly and Indivisible Institute are agents and voices of change. By being a community meeting documenter, City Bureau allows me to participate and contribute in the change process.

What do you hope to accomplish as a Documenter? Making information available is a powerful tool for change. My hope is that the work other documenters and I do to make information available for residents will allow them to take action and demand accountability. The greatest accomplishment of the documenters program will be when individuals, researchers and news sources routinely use City Bureau’s collection of documented community meeting notes, recordings and photos.

Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to add? City Bureau is a keeper. I love the energy and the start-up vibe of the organization. By identifying what is important to the communities it serves as an invaluable and much needed asset.

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