Tuesday, May 15, 2012

West of Humboldt Park

I never heard anyone who lived in West Humboldt Park actually say they lived in West Humboldt Park, never. It has to be something created by the real estate industry, or created by some community organization in an effort to describe their location, something to the effect of, "We serve an area west of Humboldt Park, south of Augusta, north of Chicago Avenue, and east of Pulaski." Somehow the name morphed into West Humboldt Park and that name got appropriated, and today that is what the area is called on the southwest border of the actual community of Humboldt Park, mostly to non-profits, City and Federal agencies, the media, and those not from the area. If you actually asked a resident, like some teenager hanging out on Chicago Avenue, what neighborhood he lives in, he may say, "I'm from Harding and Iowa" or some other cross street. It is just interesting, this fetish for neighborhood naming; the need to name a space, not only that, it's interesting to try and backtrack the history of neighborhood identity. Attaching a name to a space has all kinds of sociological, political, and economic meanings and implications. In the past the area was named for, among other things, the farmer that owned the land, then maybe the parish, then the cross streets, then maybe the gang territory, then maybe to sell houses, then maybe to organize a community, then maybe to give context to a crime on the evening news. As my church moves deeper west of Humboldt Park, the actual park, will the area around the church, which just bears the names of the cross streets, or unofficial names such as Grand City or Cameron City, the names given to the area by the gang bangers that inhabit the space; will the area be defined anew by us? And what sociological, political, economic, and moral implications will our definition of the space leave on the area we are being called to serve?

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