Audio Slideshow: Visit the mission and hear the stories of those staying there.
By Fatimah Salami and Amber Tweedie
After being turned away from several homeless shelters for not fitting their criteria, 20-year-old Alex Samuelson sought out one more place where he hoped to temporarily call home, San Jose Obrero Mission.
San Jose Obrero is a Latino male homeless shelter in East Pilsen that finally gave Alex a place to lay his head and opportunities to rebuild his life.
“Everybody is equal here,” said Samuelson. “We’re all in the same boat. Just because you speak one language or both languages or just because you’re one color it doesn’t matter here. We’re all brothers here.”
San Jose Obrero began as an organization by Friar David Staszak in 1981 as a way to fight homelessness in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Interactive Map: For locations of San jose Obrero missions in Chicago, visit this map
These are challenging times for Mexican-American immigrant communities, said Dr. Jorge Partida, psychologist and author of the book “The Promise of the Fifth Sun.” The impact of the economic downturn has devastated some Americans, but even more so in the Latino community.
Hopes of achieving the American dream are dwindling in the reality of immense job loss and home foreclosures, due to the sub-prime lending crisis. Disheartened and defeated by the uncertainty of the future, many have retreated to Mexico. Yet, despite the despair, inspiring stories of hope, resilience and survival are rising from the suffering.
Audio Slideshow: Listen to poetry slam founder Marc Smith and the participants talk about the competition.
By Tessa Fegen, Kellen Winters and Vince Floress
As first-time slam poet Robby Q steps center stage onto the dimly lit arena, it isn’t difficult to notice that he has his reservations.
“I’m nervous big time,” he mutters into the microphone.
But with some quick crowd reassurance, Robby Q proceeds as he looks onto a rather multi-faceted audience who anxiously awaits the delivery of his debut performance. Among them sits Marc Smith, who may just be the biggest critic of them all.
Smith is the founder of the slam poetry movement, which ultimately helped him earn his the nickname, “The Slam Papi.” He runs the popular slam at the Green Mill a jazz club in the North Side Uptown neighborhood, in a three-hour show every Sunday night.
Audio Slideshow: Visit three Chicago late-night diners.
By Allison Barinholtz and Katie Fraser
Peter Poulos has a simple formula for the success of his business, Margie’s Candies.
“When you go to Gene and Gorgetti’s for a big steak dinner and you spend all that money on dinner, you don’t have a desire for dessert,” said Poulos, owner of Margie’s Candies. “So you get out and drive around with your lady and you come here an hour later, that’s the time to have dessert.
“What better thing can you do than share a banana split with your boyfriend and feed each other with one spoon?”
Margie’s Candies sits on the corner of Western and Armitage avenues in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Opened in 1921, it has stayed in the Poulos family for almost 90 years and has stayed the same since, except for the slight change in hours of operation.
“I changed the hours to 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. just to make my life easier,” said Poulos, 74, owner of Margie’s. The original hours: 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Audio Slideshow: A look at a day downtown with the Flirty cupcakes truck.
Cakes are cumbersome. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are compact confectionary treats- the perfect baked good for any glutton on-the-go. The Flirty Cupcake truck, a mobile mini bakery, roams city streets seeking to satisfy the sweet teeth of busy Chicagoans.
Tiffany Kurtz, owner and founder of the Flirty Cupcakes, attributes her novel idea not to big city trends, but to enjoyable moments from her childhood. Kurtz began the venture with her husband, Chris Sewell.
“I remember being so excited when I heard the ice cream truck coming,” she said, “then I saw this beat up old truck sitting on the street, and it all just came together. While I wouldn’t chase after ice cream now, I would chase after cupcakes.”
Audio Slideshow: Listen to Asiaha Butler and Englewood residents talk about what they’re doing in their community.
By Matt Bailey and Rashanah Baldwin
Frustrated with the lack of programs and outlets for youth in Englewood, lifelong neighborhood resident Asiaha Butler started working to change the impression of her neighborhood with a program that gives young people an opportunity to express themselves with words rather than gunfire.
“I’m not an anti-violence activist. I’m a peace activist,” Butler said.
Beginning last April, she started a series of documentary screenings, in donated spaces, followed by open-floor debates of issues raised in the films, called, “So Fresh Saturdays: Docs and Dialogue.”
This monthly gathering of people between the ages of 12-20, provides an opportunity to have “a fun, safe and educational space, in the heart of a place that people call so violent,” Butler said.