Guest Post by Dan Gunn

The following is part 2/2  about Project Cabrini Green commemorating the demolition of the last major public housing tower in Chicago. Part 1/2 is an interview with artist Jan Tichy that details the genesis and scope of the project.  Here in Part 2 we provide the voices of the other collaborators in the project, the students whose writings commemorate life in the towers, both from life experience and through association. The students in this post are from workshops held at Cabrini Connections, the Marwen Foundation and After School Matters.  Each of the following poems was performed by the writer, recorded and will be published both online and in book format as a part of the project.

Project Cabrini Green

Our Destruction…..
by Marquis Steele

If you lived in my place, you would know that no area is truly safe,
They made it seem as though all the crime was in the projects,
Now that the projects are gone, I still haven’t noticed the change yet.

They thought getting rid of Cabrini was a safe bet,
Promising false dreams and writing minuscule checks,
But that small amount of money won’t cover the bills and their debts,
Our problem is that we were put in a system designed to keep us down,
When that happened, things could have only went south,
We should have been applying ourselves and not making it worse by running our mouths.

I understand that it was a struggle and everybody needs a hustle,
But people were afraid of the projects because they felt if they walked by, they would get mugged,
But it wasn’t that way; the buildings just looked scary because of the bad wiring,
Passersby felt afraid and it was getting tiring,
See you can make anything worse seem worse than it is if you don’t know firsthand,
The media does a good job of proving that to be a fact,
All they did was overlook the good and search for the bad.

Our destruction was the infrequent crime,
The crimes that happened every once in a while,
The crimes that looked worse on them because of the complexion of their skin and where they were,
I guarantee it wouldn’t have been a big deal if downtown wasn’t so close to there.

But now the building and tenants are gone,
No more BBQ’s and children singing double-dutch songs,
I truly don’t care much because I left years ago,
But still, kicking people out for property value is low.













My Room

by Jasmine Dilworth

Lay me down to sleep my Lord, if I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”

“Babu-Gum, Babu-Gum in a dish, how many pieces do…you…wish”

Looking at the building as it takes its last breath

Boom! It landed in the middle of my room

My room


My room!

My room was the place where all my girl cousins chose to hang out

My room

My walls

My color

But my color faded away

“Babu-Gum, Babu-Gum in a dish, how many pieces do…you…wish”

I wish I had just one more time to play before they all moved away

To where I don’t know

But they were my best friends; I hope to see them again

One day

Sometimes I can still hear them laughing and running up and down

the fifth floor ramp, with purple popsicles dripping down their chin

Too bad we will never ever play again

“Babu-Gum, Babu-Gum in a dish, how many pieces DO…YOU…WISH”

SAIC grad students Monica Nickolai Hillermann and Eddie Breitweiser conducting a writing workshop at Marwen














by Justus White

Why must we all have to live in a lie?
Just to hear another voice of our people die.
This, itself, enrages me in anger.
But who really wants to hear the voice of a young black stranger?
So all I can say is why?

Why can’t we live in a world where you can be you?
How come people don’t like you because of what you do?
Soon as you hit those streets you better watch your back
For those in which your abilities inside they lack.
So all I can say is why?

Why do we live in a world where everything my race does is bad.
This can be like being back stabbed by your close friends which is kind of sad.
I just really want to spread a deep message to this earth.
To say not all black kids are born the same at birth
So all I can say is why?

Me? Why should I always be the one to turn the other cheek?
When a boy can’t be safe even walking down his street.
Sometimes my heart is filled with perpetual darkness and pain
But it will never be enough for me to learn from this or gain
The knowledge to know that this pain will not last
This makes my heart beats one thousand times fast.
Maybe one day now I have no need to ask why

Because the life I live, I know is not a lie
Hope is of the essence, it will never be wrong
All you need to do is keep faith and stay strong.
So my last question I ask why
Why can’t we sprout our wings and just fly?

Efrat Appel with students at After School Matters. Photo Credit: Josef Aguilar















How Did They Break It To You?
by Michelle Stearn

Dear Former Cabrini Resident,

How did they break it to you?
Did they send you a letter?
A form letter, addressed to a number
Anonymous, like the number on your door.
A white envelope
Innocent when sealed, but when opened —
a shock of a thousand volts.
A letter made from an arrangement of letters,
assembled on a page
as words
Deciding the fate of your existence.

How did they break it to you?

How did they break it to you?
Did they come to your door?
Knocking three times, serious knocks, hollow, devoid of
Did they look into your eyes when they said it?
To see your reaction — or lack thereof?
Did they react to your reaction?
Or just blurt out the news and then bolt
Like a hit and run, a drive by, a robotic telegram,
an empty urn, serving you the news.
How did they break it to you?

How did they break it to you?
Did you hear it from a neighbor?
From a fellow survivor, sufferer, witness of all things unseen?
Or from a mouse, a rat, a roach —
preparing for evacuation
going off some inexplicable animal instinct sensing unrest.
Or through the grapevine of gossip, from which you would soon be
Cut off from the source
Cut off from the roots
Cut off from the very foundation.

But these are mere speculations
Inevitably ignorant assumptions, not unlike the ones that decided your
So, you tell me,
How did they break it to you?

"ThaBrigade Stamps" marching band drums.













Why Do You Build
by Robert Harrison

If you build to tear down, then why do you build.

If you build to break it up, then why do you build.

If you build to hurt lives, why do you build.

If you build and they have to evacuate, then why do you build.

If you build and they have to relocate, then why do you build.

If you build and waste materials, why do you build.

If you build to tear apart, then why do you build.

If you build to break up relationships, then why do you build.

If you build to separate families, why do you build.

If you build to destroy, then why do you build.

If you build to leave people without homes, then why do you build.

Why do you build, if you build to make memories,

If you build to break memories, then why do you build.

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