Chicagoans across the city have shared their own hopes for their neighborhoods. Will you join?
By Aja Beckham
Last week I completed my cycle in the City Bureau 2019 Summer Fellowship. My team has been reporting about southwest Chicago neighborhoods, specifically Chicago Lawn, Brighton Park and Back of The Yards. Early in the fellowship, my team lead, Kim Bellware, suggested we meet in Marquette Park, as residents from our neighborhoods were likely to visit the expansive, 300-acre park on a summer day.
During interviews, one question I posed to Chicago Lawn residents was, “If you had one wish to change anything in your neighborhood, what would you change, if anything?” The residents shared their desire for activities for families and children, park maintenance and community safety. Maria and Leslie Carrera, a mother and daughter living in Chicago Lawn who I met that day, had plenty of ideas. Leslie told me she wanted, “More maintenance in Marquette Park. More history of Marquette Park. The park hosts a movie night once a year, and community members come out for movie nights. There should be more movie nights.”
The following week, I attended a Marquette Park Advisory Committee meeting, where residents gather monthly to discuss strategy and goals for improving the park. There were about 15 to 20 women who attended. As each resident introduced themselves, they shared a wish or concern for the park. While listening, I began reflecting about a way to share their list of concerns. The Humans of New York campaign seemed to me like an effective strategy that has compelled and engaged people all over the world. It was a simple idea—a photo and a caption that was relatable or insightful.
The My One Wish campaign similarly strives to capture a photo and a wish. The campaign highlights and encourages community voice, gathers common concerns and asks neighborhoods across Chicago to reflect on the same question.
“If you had one wish to change anything in your neighborhood, what would you change, if anything?” is a two-part question because it requires the respondent to identify a challenge and a solution.
Though the project began in Marquette Park, highlighting Chicago Lawn residents, my goal is to capture all 77 Chicago neighborhoods by the end of 2020. Recently, during the My Block, My Hood, My City 5K in Marquette Park, we asked Chicagoans from all neighborhoods to participate in the campaign, including 17th ward Alderman David Moore, My Block Explorers, 5K sponsors, and more.
Now that my City Bureau fellowship is over, I am still working to get responses and expand the reach of this work. I’m excited to begin a new position as Economic Justice Editor at Free Spirit Media, and we’ll be picking up the project from there. As the campaign continues, I hope it can generate a community-specific signature campaign around common concerns and solutions. Another goal is to host one-on-one conversations with residents from different and similar neighborhoods to speak on community experience. And, finally, we’d like to meet with aldermen and other local officials to discuss community concerns and solutions and urge action.
If you want to get involved, upload a photo using #MyOneWish and tag your neighborhood. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect or join the project. Follow us on Instagram @MyOneWishChicago for new posts!