Deconstructing Misconceptions of Chicago

By: Andrea Sawyer- Kirksey, Executive Director

Some people have expressed concerns about coming to Chicago.  We at DOOR Chicago have thought about this and discussed it with various groups. I’d like to take a moment to address it here. Like many cities Chicago has its strengths and struggles.  I myself am a native of Chicago and was born and raised in the very community that DOOR Chicago is housed in.

While we cannot completely ensure anyone’s safety here in Chicago I can tell you that we have not had any violent incidents involving our visiting groups. This past summer we had several hundred youth and adults come through our program. Many of our groups come a little wary of what to expect because of what they see and hear in the media. After being here they feel safe and are glad they came.

Most of our participants will for the first couple days feel uncomfortable because they are in a new environment, but they will not be unsafe. The church that we are housed in is home to three community churches that are very active in the neighborhood. Most people respect the work that is done in and out of our building. Of course, we can never promise that nothing bad will happen during a group’s visit, but we are committed to keeping our groups safe and making the experience here at Door a great one.

SOME THINGS ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

  • The Garfield Park Conservatory is blocks away from our building. This is a treasure of the city and people come from all across the city and suburbs to visit this location.
  • St. Mel’s High School is also blocks from our location. This is one of the best private schools in the city.
  • Public transportation is very convenient to our location. Busses come directly to our doorstep and train lines have stops just a few blocks away.
  • This neighborhood is filled with amazing longtime residents and activists.
  • They work on behalf of the safety and well-being of children and young people in this community.

SOME THINGS ABOUT THE VIOLENCE IN CHICAGO:

  • Violence does exist.
  • It is usually person to person violence, as when someone did something wrong to someone else and violence against that person happens.
  • Sometimes these targeted incidents happen in spaces where innocent people are also hurt.
  • Violence happens everywhere, not just Chicago.
  • The media is not always accurate about the facts.
  • The citizens of Chicago are actively working to decrease the violence, including addressing the deeper issues of poverty, lack of jobs and other systemic issues that cause communities to struggle.

THE BENEFITS OF A WEEK WITH DOOR CHICAGO:

  • Groups find friendship and commonalities with people that may have backgrounds that are very different from their own. 
  • Groups learn that Chicago is more than just a single story. The images the media has put into the world are those of a war zone. This is not our experience. Yes, the violence has been on the rise and this is heartbreaking and fearful, but it is not the only story.
  • Groups get involved with the work that God has called us to do.
  • Groups have time and space to explore their own preconceived ideas, biases, and stereotypes during their time in the city.
  • Groups learn about systematic injustice and the history of Chicago's black and brown neighborhoods.
  • Groups see the face of God in Chicago, and it is transformative.