One of my goals with blogging this year is to blog more about city planning. Today, I thought I would show my readers something that I am interested in & studying within my Independent Study this semester. My Independent Study is exploring different ideas of Community Development through HBO’s “The Wire“, Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh, as well as additional research & readings on urban life in the cities of Baltimore (“The Wire”) & Chicago (Gang Leader for a Day) . Through “The Wire” and Gang Leader for a Day, I will be focusing on urban problems, crime, gangs, and drug use. So far, I feel like I have learned a lot. I have watched four episodes of “The Wire” and read just under one-hundred pages of Gang Leader for a Day. I am finding the story more intriguing in GLFAD because Sudhir is deeper rooted in the life of the gang he is researching, the Black Kings; but “The Wire” is also captivating through the eyes of the cops.
I think something that I have learned thus far is how complex a gang actually is and that complexity translates to being poor in an urban neighborhood, especially a public housing tower. The public housing tower, or The Projects” is where both gangs in each text operate their drug trade from. GLFAD discusses how there is a sense of community within them that is very strong. We explored this a little when discussing Pruitt-Igoe last semester, but it seems more real in this text through the way that the gang makes it about community. Can a gang, an organized crime group, really be making a positive impact on their community; or even be considered “community”? Most would think not, but I’m being swayed that it actually can. The way that J.T.’s gang (the man that Sudhir has befriended) convinces the audience that gangs protect people in the projects, get them involved, and even registering the tenants to vote. They do still implement violence like the media portrays gangs to do, but it is out of the protection of the individual or they have been warned already. It seems as if the gang in GLFAD deserves more credit than most would think, or maybe I am just crazy for thinking so.
I am completely fascinated by gang life – which is crazy because I am a suburban white girl who grew up in a town where no gangs surfaced. I’m not saying I’m going to join a gang by any means, but the idea that Sudhir based his sociological research on a Chicago gang – by peer accident or stumbling upon the leaders one day – is so crucial for understanding urban life & structure. My fascination didn’t just begin either, it started last semester when we watched “The Interrupters”. The documentary shows a group in Chicago called CeaseFire that aim to interrupt violence in neighborhoods. CeaseFire works directly with gangs because the “interrupters” themselves were once a part of that life. There only mission is to stop violence, not the drug trade or actual gangs. It’s an amazing and life changing documentary that has influenced me to dig deeper within community development within urban planning.
This post is definitely deeper than some of my other posts, but I would like my blog to be well-rounded and discuss urban planning from time-to-time. I can answer any further questions that people have in the comments, like if I didn’t explain a term that well. I hope everyone has a great weekend!
*The photo is some apartments I saw on my trip to Chicago a year ago – not public housing towers