Chicago is back in the news. For gun violence. Again.
This morning, I woke up to an NBC Chicago news article in my Facebook timeline, "Boy, 3, Among 13 People Shot in Chicago Park". The overnight shooting quickly grew legs outside of Chicago and popped up in CNN.com's top headlines. Not a good look for "The City of Wind," as this incidence of violence comes on the heels of reports this week that the FBI is now calling Chicago the U.S. murder capital. The same city many have jumped on the bandwagon of nicknaming "Chi-raq". It seems we just can't catch a break this week.
The violence in Chicago is out of control, but the truth is that the violence can happen in any part of the city at any time. People have been shot while simply sitting on their sofas in their homes. You can't control a freak incident of being shot while in your home, minding your own business. However, you can control where you choose to go or NOT go and this is where things can get tricky.
Chicago has beautiful parks and neighborhoods, but if it seems that the likelihood of being shot increases enjoying those spaces, folks may choose to stay away. Adults will only go to work, and children will only go to school (not that THAT'S any safer...). I don't have a good feeling about the city moving in this direction, so I just want to point out 5 really awesome things that can happen in the park that DON'T include being shot. I love the outdoors and I love my city. I refuse to be a prisoner where I live and you should, too.
In no particular order:
1. Lots of walking and running.
Parks. With walking and running paths. Made for walking and running. What a novel idea! Full disclosure, I volunteer with an awesome national nonprofit, GirlTrek, that inspires and empowers Black women and girls to live their healthiest lives simply through walking. We're bringing neighborhood walks back! Parks are perfect for walking, connecting with nature and meditating on how we can end the violence in our city instead of hide from it. Nothing is accomplished anyway by hiding, only by facing the enemy. So go for a walk or a run.
2. Fun at festivals.
Perhaps only second to our violence, Chicago is known for its "Summertime Chi" season filled with festivals. Whether they are local neighborhood fests, or major productions like the African Festival of the Arts held in Washington Park, park festivals bring life to the city. Park festivals change the energy of the city and make parks feel safe, even if only for a limited time.
Anything done outdoors is usually better and yoga is no exception. Other than the beach at sunrise, yoga in the park is probably the best place to enjoy a practice. Fresh air, soft wind flowing through the trees, sacred solitude...sounds pretty yummy to me!
Aaaah, public displays of affection (PDA). I am, indeed, about that life. A warm, Chicago summer night, strolling through the park with your boo, being all lovey-dovey is the -ish! Kiss, hold hands, play "Tag", let nature take its course. Parks inspire love and the city can DEFINITELY use more love!
All you need is a grill, food, maybe some spirited beverages and cool people and you have an instant cookout! Cookouts in the park are a staple in Chicago communities. When you focus on the good times that doesn't leave much room to devote energy to the negative. I suppose you run the risk of being shot even while having a good time, but I've eaten some food good enough to die for! I'll take the risk :-)
I believe we CAN take back our city and our communities, but living in fear is NOT the way to do it. Let's do our best to enjoy our city and our parks. This list of 5 is a great way to start the revolution. #SpeakLifeOverChicago