Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader
CHICAGO – Chicago Crusader columnist Elaine Hegwood Bowen has written her first book, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago. The book is a retrospective about her parents coming to Chicago from Shaw, Miss., in the early 1950s and then buying a home in Englewood in 1959.
Elaine was prompted to write this collection of coming-of-age essays, because she feels that for too long the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago has been getting bad media coverage—she wanted to show a “different” Englewood when, working-middle-class families were the norm and fathers made sure that their children had guidance and were, as well, instructed in social, moral, spiritual and cultural development.
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the Englewood neighborhood was akin to many urban areas throughout the nation, such as those in Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others. But now these areas are beset by black-on-black violence and drug activity.
“Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago” illustrates how life once was in Englewood and shares the story of a family, which included five children, who lived the American dream, where families today are living under siege. The author shares her recollections of what life was like growing up in Englewood and grounds her stories in exciting childhood adventures, as well as the cultural happenings of the time, discussing such issues as the Great Migration, the origins of the Black press, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, among others.
Here is an excerpt from the essay titled, “Block Clubs, Block Parties, and James Brown.”
“Into the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s the families on our block were part of an active neighborhood Block Club, and with this came many parties where the street would be cordoned off and little babies and young teens could play in the street without threat of getting run over by a car. There would be games for kids, ball playing, food, and music from James Brown, Stevie, and Aretha blasting to the high Heavens. There would be the customary sign at the corner letting visitors know that they were now entering a block where there were proud members of the Block Club who cared about the neighborhood’s safety and appearance. Block clubs sort of remind me of Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ when the guy comes to visit the Younger family and he says he is from the Clybourn Park Improvement Association representing the neighborhood where the Youngers are all set to move. It creates more pride in your neighborhood when the entire block is vested in its upkeep and welfare. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like there aren’t any block clubs and block parties now. I see the block club signs as I travel throughout the city. It always makes my mind wander back to the days of my youth, when the families on the block worked together for the good of the block—whether it was during election time, campaigning, and voting, or buying nice, coordinated outdoor lights to be placed in front of the homes.”
Elaine Hegwood Bowen earned undergraduate and graduate journalism degrees from Roosevelt University and is a veteran journalist who has covered both Chicago’s urban and suburban communities. She has taught Journalism classes at Roosevelt University and has also taught at City Colleges of Chicago and Taylor Business Institute. She has been writing for the Chicago Crusader since 1994.
(To purchase “Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago,” in paperback form or for eBook download, and for more information, visit http:-//www.lulu.com/shop/elaine-hegwood-bowen/old-school-adventur-es-from-englewoodsouth-side-of-chicago/paperback/product-21756942- .html?ppn=1, email the author at email@example.com or visit Women & Children First bookstore at 5233 N. Clark St. in Chicago.)