Undesign the Redline

 

Hello Backyard Geographers!

I come to you today to share the “Undesign the Redline” exhibit, which is currently being displayed in Evanston at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. I heard about this exhibit through word of mouth, so I mistakenly thought that it was about the CTA’s Red Line. Instead, it delved into Chicago’s history with redlining, a practice used by banks to deny loans to minorities and devalue areas based on the presence of people of color via color-coded maps. It is necessary to note that, while redlining and its effects are highly visible and impactful in Chicago, it is a ubiquitous problem, and has been since the conception of redlining maps in the 1930s.

A primary takeaway of the exhibit was the way in which racism became purposefully encoded into everyday structures and systems through redlining. “Redlining embodies a process that transformed explicit racism into structural racism […] The structural situation created by these programs largely remains the same” (Undesign the Redline, 2019). And indeed, these structures and their impacts continue on; the exhibit included four superb maps that centered on mobility, education, economic security, and health & wellbeing. The connection between redlined areas and these categories became apparent as the redlined maps were layered over present day data on these categories, allowing the viewer to see that, for example, mobility is incredibly low in previously redlined areas (see map gallery above).

The second photo shown in the gallery above is a 1939 map of the “Homeowners’ Loan Corporation Residential Security Map,” which shows small yellow push pins. These pins are placed by visitors to indicate where they or someone they know lives. This exhibit encouraged visitor participation, from providing sticky notes and pens to post questions and comments on the panels, to asking thought-provoking questions of its audience. One of the questions was “How might redlining play a role in shaping the experiences of people in your community?” This question correctly assumes that redlining shapes the experiences of people in their communities, and leaves it to the audience to use the information they’ve gleaned from the exhibit to give their answer.

On one wall, there was an in-depth timeline of racism in the United States, which showed how the U.S. moved from slavery into current manifestations of structural racism. These panels, shown in the gallery above, give necessary context to see those present day manifestations of racism, like the racial wealth gap. In the past, it’s been said that this wealth gap is due to differences in education, employment, and income. These factors have some bearing, but do not affect the wealth gap with as much gravity as intergenerational wealth, something that non-white communities have been deprived of. This disparity resulting from intergenerational wealth (or lack thereof) leads to the following: “[…] Whites have a median net worth ($111,740) nearly 16 times that of Blacks ($7,113), and over 13 times that of Latinos ($8,113)” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).

In the present day, redlining has morphed from its original shape; this is not to say, however, that redlining in its original form has been completely eradicated. A current example of redlining’s presence can be seen in recent days as Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the United States House Financial Services Committee. He was being questioned by Joyce Beatty (D – OH) when Beatty commented on Facebook’s practice of withholding certain information from particular communities based on redlining. “[…] You are redlining or using zip codes to eliminate people from getting information,” (Webb, 2019). Beatty’s comment manifests a present-day use of redlining that is more covertly racist than denying people home loans based on race.

This exhibit had a wealth of information on practices beyond redlining used to systematically oppress minorities, including blockbusting, predatory banking, contract buying, and speculative investment, all of which are shown in the gallery above. These policies are explicitly racist and were intended to be so from the beginning; when classifying neighborhoods, words like “Foreign Born,” “Relief,” and “Negro” would be used to describe the residents and subsequently redline them, causing disinvestment. “Any threat of foreign born, negro, or lower population? If so, indicate these by nationality and rate of infiltration like this: ‘Negro – rapid’” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).  Aside from the overtly racist language used, surveyors were instructed to describe the “rate of infiltration” as though people of color were the enemy, and committing a crime by residing in certain neighborhoods.

Although this exhibit mainly focused on presenting and outlining the history of redlining and other discriminatory practices, there were also suggestions to remedy it. “Redistributing, regenerating, and recirculating needed resources” (Undesign the Redline, 2019) were all listed as ways to un-design redlining, as the title of the exhibit stated, and reinvest in disenfranchised communities. It is possible that the suggested solutions were kept vague in order for viewers to engage with the concepts and potentially think of their own solutions, writing their suggestions on the space provided at the end of the exhibit.

The only thing that I would change about this exhibit is its accessibility; it was so well done that I would love to see it in schools and libraries all over Chicago, rather than being tucked away on the third floor of Evanston’s civic center. In fact, my friend and I were looking for the exhibit and asked multiple people if they knew where the exhibit was, only to find out that most people didn’t know it existed. This being said, I absolutely recommend taking a day trip to visit. As a practice in thinking geographically, take notice of who is occupying certain spaces while in Evanston, and conversely, who is not occupying them. In thinking like a geographer, perhaps you can use some of the information from this blog and WE’s Undesign the Redline exhibit to contextualize your findings.

 

Enjoy your visit!

Julie

 

Undesign the Redline was produced by WE, a social impact design studio. Check out their website for more information on their work and projects. http://www.designingthewe.com/

 

 

Works Cited

“Undesign the Redline.” 4 Oct. 2019, Evanston, IL, Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Webb, Kevin. “Ohio Congresswoman Rips into Mark Zuckerberg, Calling It ‘Appalling and Disgusting’ That He Failed to Answer Questions about Facebook’s Civil Rights and DiversityProblems.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 23 Oct. 2019, www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-joyce-beatty-facebook-diversity-race-congress-2019-10.

Divvy Into Spring

by Emily Speelman

With the range of temperatures in 2017 thus far, Chicago has had several spring-like days and citizens are returning to one of their favorite warm-weather past times: biking. While many Chicago citizens have their own two-wheeled transport, both locals and visitors alike take advantage of Divvy, Chicago’s bike share system. Since it’s establishment in 2013, Divvy has grown in size and service, making it the third largest bike share program in North America (behind Washington D.C. and New York City).

Photo: Divvy Bikes

Divvy is owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and operated by Motivate, which owes the majority of U.S. bike share programs. Currently, Divvy has over 580 stations docking around 5,800 bikes throughout Chicago and the nearby suburbs of Oak Park and Evanston. Bike share programs are designed for short-range or one-way trips lasting no more than 30 minutes, making it great for commuters or visitors on the Lake Shore Trail. To begin riding, riders must first purchase a 24-hour pass (9.95 plus tax) or a Divvy membership (varies). Then undock the bike, ride, and re-dock it at any Divvy bike dock in the service area. While passes last 24 hours, bikes must be docked every half hour to prevent additional fees.

One of the primary goals for Divvy and other bike share programs is to connect to other transportation methods, such as connecting to a CTA bus line or a Metra train line. Since its establishment, Divvy has been widely popular in Chicago. In a statement by the Mayor’s office at the end of 2016, Divvy was near (and since surpassed) 10 million trips in less than four years of operation. With the additions of Evanston and Oak Park, Divvy covers the largest geographic area of North American bike share programs.

Photo: DNAInfo

The majority of Divvy docks are located outside of CTA stations, in the Loop, and along the lakefront. According to the Mayor’s 2016 report, the most popular stations in 2016 were located at:

  1. Streeter Dr. & Grand Ave. (Navy Pier)
  2. Lake Shore Dr. & Monroe St.
  3. Theater on the Lake (Fullerton Beach)
  4. Lake Shore Dr. & North Blvd.
  5. Clinton St. & Washington Blvd. (Ogilvie Station)
  6. Michigan Ave. & Oak St.
  7. Millennium Park
  8. Clinton St. & Madison St.
  9. Canal St. & Madison St.
  10. Canal St. & Adams St. (Union Station)

As Divvy grows in usage and popularity, they have introduced a number of discount memberships to ensure more people are able to use the bikes. Many Chicago corporations have a Divvy partnership and students are eligible for a discounted annual membership fee. Most recently, Divvy established the Divvy for Everyone program in 2015, a discounted annual membership for qualifying customers based on their household size and income. This is a one to two year discount membership starting at $5. This also allows for memberships to paid for by cash, eliminating the requirement of a bank or credit card that is needed for 24-hour passes and most annual memberships. More information on this program can be found below.

As the weather gets warmer, consider trying out this bike share program for a fun new way of seeing the city.

Photo: WTTW

See all the current Divvy stations here.

 

More Information about Divvy:

About Divvy: https://www.divvybikes.com/about

FAQ about Divvy and Bike Share: https://www.divvybikes.com/how-it-works/faq

Divvy for Everyone: https://www.divvybikes.com/pricing/d4e

Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Department of Transportation Announce Divvy Bike Share to Hit 10 Million Rider Mark in Coming Days (December 29, 2016) : https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/bike/news/2016/december/mayor-emanuel–chicago-department-of-transportation-announce-div.html

Explore the Philippines at the January 17 Travelogue

THE PHILIPPINES: The Most DIVErse Underwater and Above

presented by Lynn Funkhouser

(Photo  Credit:  Brian  Siegel) Lynn  Presenting  at  the  Diving  and  Equipment  Marketing  Association  in  2016                                         

The Verde Island Passage (VIP) has been scientifically proven to have more diversity than elsewhere.  Surprisingly, Luzon Island has more species of mammals than anywhere else on Earth!  Lynn will explain the reason for this diversity, as she shows you amazing critters and pristine reefs in The Philippines.

Lynn Funkhouser, inducted into the inaugural Women Divers Hall of Fame, is an internationally published photographer, author, presenter, environmentalist, adventuress, and leader in dive travel.  She has photographed over 261 islands in the Philippines.  As an environmentalist, Lynn is committed to making a difference on this planet through her images and presentations.

1 p.m.
Tuesday, January 17 
Chicago Cultural Center, Renaissance Court, 78 E. Washington Street

This event is free and open to the public. There is no cost for attending the presentation.

The Legacy of Wrigley Field

by Emily Speelman

Last week, the Chicago Cubs made history by winning their first World Series in over 100 years. The famous “Billy Goat Curse” was broken and Cubs fans around the country rejoiced. This victory will go down in history and be as essential to Chicago as the Cub’s stadium itself: Wrigley Field. It’s located between Lakeview and Uptown in the appropriately named Wrigleyville and is one of the oldest stadiums in the Major League. Since it’s construction, Wrigley Field has undergone big changes, massively impacting the surrounding neighborhood and becoming a famous Chicago icon.

Wrigley Field was built in 1914, making it the second-oldest ballpark in the country. Initially called Weeghman Park (after property owner Charles J. Weeghman), the park was built on the grounds of an old seminary at Clark and Addison on the city’s north side. The initial stadium allowed for up to 14,000 visitors. The first game at Weeghman Park was on April 23, 1914 where the home team, the Chicago Federals, played Kansas City. Weeghman purchased the Cincinnati Cubs in 1915, moving the team to its now permanent home. The Wrigley family purchased the Cubs franchise in 1920 and the stadium was renamed in 1926 after Cub’s owner William Wrigley Jr.

Once called Central Lakeview, the area was renamed Wrigleyville to celebrate the park. Unlike many stadiums, however, Wrigley Field is in the middle of a dense residential and commercial neighborhood: therefore, all stadium renovations and changes directly impact the residents of Wrigleyville and interests can often clashes with the team’s ownership. One key example is the long-awaited approval for stadium lights at Wrigley to allow night games. Unlike the White Sox’s Comiskey Park (now known as Guaranteed Rates Field) who gained lights in 1939, Wrigley could only have day games for its first 74 years. Lights were only installed in 1988 after the Cubs threatened to leave Wrigley if the renovation was denied. There are also no official parking lots for the field, making street congestion a constant throughout baseball season. Under its most recent ownership, however, Wriglyville will look very different in the upcoming years.

Since Tom Ricketts’s purchase of the team in 2009, Wrigley Field and the surrounding Wrigleyville has undergone significant change. According to the Chicago Tribune, the current Cubs owner is working with Boston’s Theo Epstein to remake Wrigley and its surrounding neighborhood in the style of Fenway Park, which was built just two years before Wrigley Field. The project is titled The 1060 Project and began at the end of the 2014 season. Learn more about the project here: http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/restore-wrigley/

The 1060 Project

Since 2015, Ricketts and his associated businesses purchased 10 of 16 rooftops surrounding the park, where fans have full view of the game from the top of nearby buildings. Huge signs from companies such as Budweiser now stand on the outer perminter of the stadium, bringing large revenues to the team while blocking the view of rooftops that refused to sell. A McDonalds adjacent to the stadium on Clark Street was recently demolished after being purchased for $20 million: now, a hotel is being constructed on the site. Plazas were created on all sides the stadium and will host events both on and off game days. Northwest of the field, a large building for Cubs’ offices and related retail shops will overlook the stadium.

Mark Schlenker, a local rooftop owner, noted that the Cubs ownership made it clear they want to purchase all of the buildings on the east-bordering street of Sheffield Avenue. While Alderman Tom Tunney is optimistic about the economic growth of these plans for Wrigley, there are concerns about how this will affect long-time residents and businesses in the neighborhood. With an average of 40,000 fans in attendance at Cubs games, however, there is a strong draw to diversify and expand businesses in the area. The team will work closely with both Alderman Tunney and Mayor Emanuel as field renovations continue into the upcoming years. 

As the 2016 World Series Champions celebrate their victory, it is clear that Wrigley Field (and all of the changes to come) will remain an important part of the Chicago landscape for years to come.

 

For more information about Wrigley Field and the continuing renovations, please see the links below:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cubs-wrigleyville-redevelopment-met-20161023-story.html

http://wrigleyville.org/about-wrigleyville/

http://graphics.chicagotribune.com/wrigley/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-cubs-wrigley-rooftops-future-20150213-story.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/chi-chicagodays-wrigleylights-story-story.html