Don't like to read?
While youth from all over the Chicagoland area and neighboring states ascended upon North Lawndale for the Lyrical Lemonade Hip-Hop Festival, some of the community’s residents celebrated Juneteenth and Father’s Day right down the street from the festival grounds. Light Up Lawndale’s Juneteenth Father’s Day Block Party was no average block party.
Planned by North Lawndale resident and Light Up Lawndale founder Princess Shaw, the block party was a chance for the people of the community to celebrate two important holidays together and see long-sought changes finally made in front of them. The event was supported by the offices of U.S. Congressman Danny K Davis, State Representative Lakesia Collins, Cook County Board Commissioner Dennis Deer, St. Agatha Church, Chicago Cares, North Lawndale Reads, Equiticity, Boxing Out Negativity, Firehouse Community Arts Center, along with other groups and organizations.
Families from across the North Lawndale community came to the 3100 block of West Douglass Boulevard on Juneteenth and were served food provided by Big Gurl BBQ while children played games and participated in arts and craft activities. They also watched on as the city of Chicago Park District came to fix the defaced “A Nation’s Image” statue. Workers also removed hazardous benches along the boulevard, many of which had sat in disrepair for years.
The statue, which was created by Sidney Murphy, a lifelong Lawndale resident, features a family and stood prominently on the corner of Kedzie and Douglass Boulevard until the father’s head was knocked off by non-residents during the civil turmoil of 2020. Princess Shaw and a group of residents wrote to the city to repair the statue and the repairs were finally approved in the early spring of 2022. Shaw decided it would be fitting to repair the father statue on Father’s Day as a symbolic gesture to promote the importance of family. The restoration of Murphy’s statue and the long-overdue repair of park benches gave residents hope that in the future. They will see their community treated by the city the same way as other neighborhoods within Chicago with different racial demographics and more resources allocated to residents.
Shaw who describes herself as “a 3rd generation Lawndalian,” started her organization Light Up Lawndale in 2019 in order to bring back the family atmosphere to North Lawndale she felt had weakened since her childhood. Upon founding Light Up Lawndale, Shaw said her first mission was to bring Christmas light shows back to the area similar to the yearly display on the 3300 block of West Flournoy Street she visited with her grandmother when she was a child.
Shaw noticed the light display was no longer present around 2015 and investigated further to learn the woman who’d been coordinating the decorations on that block had passed away recently. Princess stepped up and raised the money to place battery-powered lights along Douglass and Independence Boulevards during the holiday season.
“The community came together and made this happen because they were tired of what they saw,” Shaw stated after the event. “The people enjoyed themselves, the relaxed atmosphere, the commodity of people being people and being a community. There was no fighting no arguing, everybody was just at peace,” Shaw reflected.
The break from gun violence was refreshing for nearby residents, as the area surrounding the event has seen the frequency of shootings increase steadily in the past month.
Written by Justin Connor
Princess Shaw interview: 6/21/2022
Light Up Lawndale Juneteenth Father’s Day Block Party: 6/19/2022
Images Courtesy of Justin Connor