My friend Audrey Petty has spent years gathering stories from residents of Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, Robert Taylor Homes, Stateway Gardens and Cabrini-Green — all publicly-funded buildings that no longer exist. Audrey collected oral histories from residents and gathered them in a new book called High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing, and I’m heading to the Chicago Humanities Festival this Sunday to hear her interviewed about the project. From the Chicago Humanities Festival web site:
Narcotics, violence, and the perpetuation of poverty—for many of us, these are the lingering images of the Chicago housing projects Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes. But what was life in the homes actually like? University of Illinois professor Audrey Petty interviewed former residents for their firsthand accounts of Chicago public housing. Her oral history, which also includes such housing complexes as Stateway Gardens and the Henry Horner Homes, offers a revealing collective story of community, displacement, removal, and relocation. Forthcoming in McSweeney’s Voice of Witness book series, High Rise Stories is both a crucial addition to Chicago’s social history and a portal to a meaningful conversation about poverty, housing reform, and urban renewal in the United States.
Audrey and I met more than a decade ago when we all still lived in Urbana, Ill. Audrey was born and raised in Chicago — she returned home to work on the High Rise Stories project, and now
Audrey, her husband Maurice Rabb, and their daughter Ella live in a third-floor walkup so close to the Obama family’s Hyde Park house that little Ella has seen the President coming and going on recent visits. A few weeks ago Ella asked Maurice, “Daddy, is Romney real? Ella’s dad assured her that yes, he is. “Well, if Romney is real,” she said, “how come we never see him?”
It’s been a joy having the “Prabbys” back in town, and I’m looking forward to being with Audrey and her family this Sunday. You can come too –
Audrey Petty’s presentation is this Sunday, October 21 from 2 to 3 pm at The University of Chicago Law School’s Glen A. Lloyd Auditorium, 1111 East 60th Street in Chicago, and you can purchase tickets online now.