Photos of Chicago’s diversity show what really makes America great

Text and photos by Patricia Nabong

PUBLISHED DECEMBER 1, 2016

The results of the U.S. election sparked debates about whitewashing America. Chicago, one of the country’s most racially diverse cities, shows us that a multicolored America is beautiful.

NEW AMERICA

A Native American stands in front of the Trump Tower in downtown Chicago during a Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Many Native Americans live on the North Side of the Loop—commonly known as the center of downtown— including the Uptown, Ravenswood, Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods.

CROSSING PATHS

People take a stroll near Oak Street Beach in downtown Chicago, a popular beach for tourists.

President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks -- which some have perceived as being racist-- during the election gave many people the impression that he wanted an America that was devoid of all colors except white. In many ways, his idea of “making America great again” seemed to be synonymous to bleaching the country. Chicago, home to dozens of races and ethnicities, makes a strong case for why beauty is a spectrum of colors, and not just one.

BRIDGING GENERATIONS

A child helps a woman during a community music festival in Chicago's Marquette Park, famously known as the venue of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 1966 march during which people fought for racial equality.

OLD MEETS NEW

Traditional Chinese architecture foregrounds Chicago's iconic Willis Tower. Dubbed as one of America's architectural capitals, Chicago's architecture is as diverse as its people.

“What I think of diversity here in Chicago? It’s great because that’s why people come here to Chicago,” said Bryant Jones, a public artist who’s lived in the Windy City all his life. “That’s why I love it...I love the fact that you can have a little bit of all the other cultures here.”

Chicago, which now comprises 77 distinct community areas, has a reputation for diversity that dates back hundreds of years. Its first settlers were Native Americans from the Miami, Sauk, Fox and Potawatomi tribes. In 1780, Haitian Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was of African and European descent, became the first non-Native American to live in Chicago.

Chicago’s history also has a strong European tinge. Many Europeans, including Germans, Poles, Irish, Italian and Swedes, immigrated to Chicago due to social and political changes in Europe. By the 1930s, Poles outnumbered Germans as Chicago’s largest ethnic group.

ALL GREEK TO ME

An African American man buys Greek food in one of the restaurants in Greektown. The first Greeks to settle in Chicago started out as food peddlers but eventually rose to the ranks as the city’s leading restaurant owners, florists, ice cream manufacturers and fruit and vegetable sellers.

REFLECTIONS

A boy attends the Mexican Independence Day Parade in Little Village, one of Chicago's predominantly Mexican neighborhoods. Little Village, which some people call the "Mexico of the Midwest," was initially occupied by Irish and Eastern European immigrants in the 1800's. The influx of Latin Americans started in the 1950's.

During World War I and continuing until the Great Migration, hundreds and thousands of African Americans from the South also moved to Chicago due to social upheavals. African Americans are now the second largest racial group in Chicago, next to white Americans, according to the 2015 U.S. census.

To this day, people from all over the world continue to trickle into the city that was once fueled by the steel, iron and railroad industry. Over the years, Latin Americans, Asians and Arabs have added to Chicago’s cultural makeup. Among all races, the Asian population grew the most—24 percent—from 2000 to 2014, according to DNAinfo.

LIVING CULTURE

People celebrate Día de los Muertos in Little Village. During the vibrant Mexican Day of the Dead, people honor their loved ones. "For me, it's to remember that people who died. We didn't die in this life. We have another kind of life, a spiritual life. It means to remember the people and to remember that we will go to another kind of life," said Mexican immigrant Isabel Guytan who was one of those who joined the Día de los Muertos procession.

BRIDGING GENERATIONS

Old and young celebrate during a community music festival in Marquette Park, located on Chicago's Southwest Side where many African Americans live.

Chicago is a melting pot of different cultures, but the city is also segregated—people of identical races tend to cluster in neighborhoods, which are reflective of the many ethnic backgrounds of those who used to live there or those who still call it home; Greektown’s establishments are painted blue and white, reminiscent of the Greek village Santorini; distinctly Latin percussion music fills the air in Little Village and Pilsen; Chinatown is lined with stores selling traditional herbs or roasted goose. Although people from the same country tend to congregate in one neighborhood, they all co-exist in one city, which people from all over the world call home.

LA DOLCE VITA

People from all over Chicago flock to Little Italy for a taste of authentic Italian food, whether it's thin-crust Italian or Chicago's famous deep dish pizza slobbered with cheese. Although Italian immigrants weren’t large in number compared to other ethnicities, their influence is still felt especially in the food Chicagoans eat.

THE FIRST AMERICAN

As a form of prayer, a Native American elder lights tobacco during a rally opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Native Americans in Chicago managed to preserve their culture and spirituality in a highly modernized and Westernized age.

Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods show people that whitewashing the country in the name of “making America great again” does not only mean deporting undocumented immigrants, which Trump has proposed during his campaign trail. It also means erasing diverse traditions, food and customs that have been in this vibrant city for centuries.

“[Diversity]...is a beautiful thing. Not just diversity [in the sense that] 'oh people are from everywhere,' but because over time that changes," said Katanga Johnson, a Bahamian, who now lives in Chicago.

He thinks that diversity in Chicago looked different 50 years ago.

"I hope it [Chicago] will look a whole lot different and much more colorful, much more diverse in another 25 to 50 years, too."

MASKED AND MAULED

Old and young alike cheer as luchadores try to get one another off the ring during a lucha libre tournament in a park in Logan Square, Chicago. Lucha libre is a Mexican form of wrestling characterized by colorful masks worn by the wrestlers.

STANDING TOGETHER

People from all over the city gather at Daley Center near City Hall days after the election to protest Trump's win and the Dakota Access Pipeline. During the protests, people shouted, “Immigrants are welcome here!”

Credits

Text and Photos:

Patricia Nabong

Edited by:

Aileen Chuang

Produced by:

Duke Omara

With special thanks to:

You, our loyal reader

Created By
Duke Omara
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