After seven years of living in the West Town neighborhood in Chicago, I finally moved to a new neighborhood. Seven years was the longest period I’ve lived in one place since my early childhood home. In October of 2010, I moved to West Town with two of my best friends, a photographer and filmmaker, and seven years later left with my significant other. So much was shared in that home, but it was time to start a new chapter, one that involved a new community and new collaborators. At the same time that I had to pack up my belongings just weeks ago, I was in the throes of starting the rigorous MFA Creative Producing program at Columbia. The new struggle was real compared to the struggle of the nine-to-five routine I was living prior. Now a graduate student at Columbia and a resident of Logan Square, I have fallen in love again with this city.
As I divide my time between the creative space that Columbia provides and my new home in Logan Square, I’m reminded of the importance of community and what it provides for the collective and the individual. There’s so much to do in Logan Square, whether it’s going to see a late night movie at the Logan Theatre on Milwaukee Ave., getting groceries at the new Dill Pickle Co-op and the local farmers market on the Boulevard, or sipping coffee and tea for hours at one of the many coffee shops. My favorite hideaway is the The Bakery at Fat Rice, where you can find the best natas in the city, possibly the best in the world. Natas are traditional Portuguese egg tarts and Fat Rice offers a Macanese inspired menu with Portuguese and Chinese influences. The bakery is adjacent to the restaurant and offers handmade sweet and savory breads and pastries inspired by Macau, Malaysia, and Portugal. Having grown up in Mozambique and parts of Southern Africa from the age of eleven to eighteen, natas are one of my comfort foods that take me back to my formative years.
Another food favorite in Logan Square is Jibaritos y Mas, which serves up delicious, garlicky jibaritos, a Puerto Rican inspired plantain sandwich that originated in Chicago.
Logan Square is a community that takes pride in its neighborhood association. The LSNA (Logan Square Neighborhood Association) mission is a community-based organization advancing diversity, leader development, and models for engagement as the catalyst for social justice. Coming from a family of community activists, it gives me joy and inspiration to live in a neighborhood that advocates strategies of community organizing for social justice.
Community and collaboration go hand in hand, whether it’s where you live or where you work. Collaboration has been a significant and recurring topic in our creative producing classes. Takeaways from those discussions are very similar to the mission statement of the neighborhood community organization, emphasizing the importance of diversity, leader development, and models of engagement – essential core values.