This weekend I spent sometime up north in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago. I usually don’t venture into the nightlife of gay Chicago (I’m just not big on clubs) but this particular weekend I figured I would deviate from the routine and explore a little. The first stop was Washington Park, a congregating area for south side gay youth. The park (and more centrally, the parking lot) had a carnival feel, negating the cotton candy and corn dogs, it was a couple hundred people walking in circles, socializing, enjoying the long anticipated warm weather and escape from a 6 month Chicago winter.
These people (myself included) were having fun, doing nothing wrong. At exactly 9:58 (the park closes at 10) about 3 police cars came ramming through the parking lot with their sirens on telling everyone through their speaker system to vacate the area. It was like clockwork, and the last thing that I felt was any type of politeness from these officers. So as we were lead out of the parking lot like cattle by the “authorities” its seems like the general consensus was that people would either go home or go up north to Boystown.
The group of friends I was with decided to head north to what many feel is the freedom land or “safe zone” for the LGBTQ community. The problem is that this safe zone many times excludes the youth of color and quickly turns people are on seen as victims (on the south side of Chicago) to people see as the perpetrators (on the North side).
The interesting thing to me was the several of the actions that occurred when I arrived up North. The first thing I noticed is that all of the people who were not over 21 did not have any type of space in Boystown, which in turn means that there would be a lot of loitering and a lot of congregation. When the police approaches these young people standing around they tell them to move, which turns this weekend ritual into a parade for the LGBTQ youth of color. So on this particular Saturday night I found myself walking in circles around the block while interacting with the temporary loiterers, everyone usually in groups of 4 or more.
All the while the only thing I could think of why don’t all these hundreds of black youth of color have a space to go in boystown? While others think that these black youth are a nuisance or intimidating, it sadden me that no one seems to care about these youth when it comes to cultivating them, people only care about the negative.
Which leads me to the next police experience of that night. I was in “loiter mode” near a friends car and a police officer walked up and preceded to slightly harass my friend. She pointed out a sticker that should have been taken out of the car window and a cracked glass which she called a violation. You could tell the point…she didn’t want us there. She said move the car “before I tow it.” For the second time in one night I felt the rudeness of an officer that didn’t want me to be where I was. That is, until I started talking to this officer. I explained to her how I felt about having to walk in circles and not really have a place to go at that time.
She agreed. She said we should talk to the mayor (that will be the day) or at least talk to the center on Halsted and ask them to keep their door open later, so all these young people would have a place to go. Its time for me to start petitioning, we will see if this goes anywhere. In the mean time, I think police just need to learn how to talk to people (at least the ones I come in contact with thus far).