When you search the words “Back of the Yards” on your smartphones, what do you find?
More than likely, you’ll find articles about violence.
This Southwest Side neighborhood is my home. Still, while we all know the media describes our home as violent, it’s not something any of us who live here are used to. It still takes us by surprise.
On Father’s Day, 22-year-old Salvador Suarez left mass at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 4541 S. Wood St., only to be met with iron to the face. It was more blood spilling on our streets.
Whether it’s the shooting near a playground or the way too numerous shootings on the streets, Back of the Yards residents have wounds from these gunshots even though the bullets never touched them.
After Suarez’s shooting, the neighborhood seemed to close itself away, staying indoors not wishing to test life. People seemed to feel there was nothing promising or inviting outside, only danger and violence. So, a group of young people decided to do something to start the healing.
The Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble has always carried hope for a better tomorrow for all of us who play in it and those who hear our music. The ensemble is made up of middle and high school students. I played in it for seven years and was a leader.
I know these are young people, who decide to learn music rather than test life on the streets. And because they have traveled around the country performing, they learn there is more to life than just violence. This current group of about 14 decided the next concerts had to be for our neighborhood.
So the marimba band took to the streets at 45th Street and Marshfield Avenue one week ago and set up their instruments to do what they do best: perform.
The pop-up performance was given in hopes that residents would hear the music and it would help them heal. It seemed to work. People forgot about their fears and came outside. Some sat on their porches, others grabbed chairs and sat right in front of the group, talking to one another and clapping. The only thing that mattered at that moment was the music. Even the policemen on duty stopped to admire the group and request a song.
These pop up concerts will continue through August — a different street every week. I’m hosting one this Thursday.
Yes, people are dying in this neighborhood. But many of us are also living there as well and many of us still have hope.