Loud Engines, Fast Planes, Flashy explosions, smoke effects, military enrollment and of course “Classic Rock” blaring on the PA system. This is the usual scene of Chicago’s Lakefront in mid August due to the annual Air and Water show, but not on the 28th of August.
On August 28th a very different show was happening on Chicago’s Lake Front, promoting ideas and topics almost the exact opposite that of the Chicago Air and Water Show. Instead of showing off fancy machinery and weapons of destruction, this other show promotes ideas of peace and equilibrium. Equilibrium of course that starts with Sharing of Common resources and Public Services.
Although there were no F-15s roaring through the skies, there was a convoy of beautiful 10 speed road bikes ripping through the streets. Following the route of a new proposed 31st CTA bus, over 30 cyclists rode in unity connecting the east and west ends of south side Chicago stopping at a few parks along the way to discuss the need for more open space and parks for minority youth. The ride ended at the 31st street beach and started off the beginning of the Peoples Clean Air and Water show.
The Purpose of the Clean Air and Water Show was to inform, educate and get people active in city issues that the people should be aware of. Through a rally, bike ride, and activities at the beach; people were able to learn about and connect the dots between Privatization, Militarization, and peoples’ lack of access to basic public services.
The entire day of events began with a rally against Midwest Generation’s Coal-fired power plant in Little Village and in support of moving towards renewable energy sources. Over 50 people gathered in unity for the rally including environmental activists, social change advocates, bike enthusiasts, and of course Little Village Community Members. The Rally itself called for a shutdown of the ancient and dirty coal plant and as well as a shift towards renewable energy. The people all chanted and marched in unity carrying posters and banners with messages of change.
After everyone got all hyped up and energized from the rally people began to mount their bikes and prepared themselves for a 8 mile trek down 31st street towards the Lake. Fully equipped with flags and pennants reading “Clean Air and Water Show” and Stenciled Bus stop signs pleading for a new bus route down 31st, the Cyclists rode around in unity attracting attention from motorists and pedestrians throughout the entire route.
With a couple stops along the way at two different park sites the bikers were able to catch their breath and refresh themselves as well as learn about city developments. The first stop was at a former superfund site known as the Celotex Area that will soon be a new park that will be built in Little Village (more info at http://www.littlevillageparks.org/). The second stop was at Stearns Quarry Park, near near the Fisk coal-fired power plant in Pilsen. Local artist-activist group Compass shared their “Coal & Coal Shed” map, which documents corn and coal facilities in our region (http://www.readysubjects.org/mrcc/?p=6).
The Cyclist arrived at the beach around 3pm and was greeted by some brass marching band cheer. Some delicious food was served, picnic blankets were arranged, and people assembled under a shady patch of trees by the lakefront. We were fortunate to have two elders from the American Indian Center open the Clean Air and Water Show with a water ceremony. They gave a powerful talk about the importance of caring for water, the lifeblood of our planet.
The event MCs gave a run-down of the day and the reasons for our coming-together – claiming basic resources like water, education, health care and public transit as part of the commons, things that belong to us all.
We played a game of Climate Jeopardy, with two hosts from Little Village playing the role of Alex Trebec. Our version had categories like Your Money and Your Life, Tragedy of the Commons, False Solutions and Real Solutions. The contestants from the audience did an excellent job!
Local urban homesteader, forager and gardener extroardinaire Nance Klehm lead an exercise on the beach in which we mapped out the Chicago watershed. Participants dug channels in the sand to signify where the Chicago River leaves Lake Michigan and, further downstream, where the Mississippi River flows into the now extremely polluted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
We reconvened in the shade for some participatory street theatre featuring tales of highway funding trumping public transit (and people taking back their tax money to invest in the commons), and the “Average Affluent American” learning that they can’t just dump on Mother Earth forever.
N’Dana Carter from Southside Together Organizing for Power (http://www.stopchicago.org) gave a shout-out about the organizing that STOP is engaged in to defend critical public services like affordable housing and mental health clinics. Teachers for Social Justice was there representing, as were several other community groups.
LVEJO would like to thank all of our co-sponsors, volunteers and supporters for helping to make the Clean Air and Water Show a huge success!