The Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) organizes a wide range of community events and activities in the South Side neighborhood, including bimonthly meetings on neighborhood issues and tours of local parks, to “reclaim the parks in the name of peace,” says the group’s executive director Asiaha Butler.
“It’s an association of residents from the community who want to see positive change, wanted to jump in and have a voice in projects that impact our community, and really just build camaraderie amongst our neighbors in the neighborhood,” Butler said.
But since the pandemic brought Chicago to a halt in March, many of R.A.G.E.’s plans and activities been postponed.
The group has used the shutdown as a chance to personally connect with each of its roughly 300 members. After surveying its needs, R.A.G.E. found that, like other communities across the city, food insecurity was a major concern.
In response, the group has partnered with other community groups and is now helping distribute groceries to people across the neighborhood.
“Every Monday, that’s our pickup day, we probably unload about 3,200 pounds of that food every week, and that’s where we’re at today, at the church, packing up the groceries for individuals who reached out to us via the survey.” Butler said. “We deliver it, in limited contact with the people each week.”
As in other Chicago neighborhoods suffering from disinvestment, Butler says the pandemic has exacerbated existing issues in Englewood.
“People already were financially strapped,” Butler said. “When you think about Englewood we’re not talking about a wealthy community. We have a huge population of working poor, working class people here who have lost income, and not able to support folks that they support in some of these households, so you hear a lot around [the need for] additional cash, or issues with their landlords.”
Butler says R.A.G.E. has also tried to provide an outlet for people to have fun and de-stress, even if they can’t leave their homes. The group has organized a weekly DJ set and dance party on its Facebook page.
“My husband who’s a R.A.G.E. co-founder is also a DJ, he used to DJ at Whole Foods on Fridays after 5 p.m., they called it ‘5 after 5,’” Butler said. “So we just turned that same concept, people know him, people know that gathering space, and now we do that on our Facebook page and we’ve got one coming up Friday.”