By Vee L. Harrison
This past July marks 100 years of the Chicago race riot of 1919. It was a time in Chicago where the South Side felt the pains of racism and its ugly results. A time where white supremacy plagued our schools, our neighborhoods, and our homes. While a century is quite some time ago, it’s interesting to see history in the current. And the news coverage of violent racism and segregation in the city never truly appear in our rear views. It’s right in front of us, as well as it is behind us.
Natalie Y. Moore, reporter for WBEZ, covers these types of present racial issues, housing, community development, and inequalities in Chicago. Moore grew up on Chicago’s south side, in the Chatham neighborhood with her family.
“It has always been a dream to be a reporter from my hometown,” says Moore.
She remembers her time growing up in Chatham and just how different the neighborhood is now.
“It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. We had a block club, learned how to keep our neighborhood safe, and my family kept me involved.”
Moore has vivid memories, however, of the things that made her neighborhood different from others that she would often visit. She knew those places and moments were different, and at the time of childhood, she really didn’t understand why.
“I understood that a lot of the news that covered my neighborhood was about violence. We also knew that we didn’t have as much. I knew we didn’t have much here than they did there, and I wasn’t sure why.”
Moore recalls going downtown and to other parts of the city and recognizing the differences and how some of her friends lived opposed to the life she had back home with her family in Chatham. Later, she realized that Chicago was segregated. So, she began to share the stories, echo Chicagoans. Moore believes that to understand segregation and come up with solutions to help this issue, people first need to be educated on the basics.
“Southside is shorthand for black. Northside is shorthand for white,” Moore explained. Our schools, our neighborhoods…You don’t have to live in the South. If you live in Chicago, you experience segregation.”
Moore says Chatham has changed. It isn’t the place she remembers growing up.
“The neighborhood is not as attractive. It is a neighborhood that is aging. It is still suffering from the national housing crash in 2008.”
Being a black journalist from Chicago, Moore can share stories in a language that makes people understand that this city’s segregation isn’t old, or new. It’s present. Right now. And Moore is making sure its being documented.
“I think having institutional knowledge, understanding the city and the southside is important for my job as a reporter. I don’t speak for everyone, but to have a voice to tell stories and raise certain issues is important. It’s important for a journalist to document things that are happening and inform people what and why things are happening.”
At WBEZ, every day is different for Moore. Some days she’s reporting, others she is transcribing tapes, doing interviews, attending meetings, and the list goes on as long as the days. On other days, you could catch her teaching grad students audio reporting at Medill. Moore is also a former instructor at Columbia College. Teaching the future industry the game speaks to her passion.
“There is not enough media literacy being taught so that people can understand. “There is so much happening in journalism so that makes it harder to decide what to trust. The first step is understanding that policies are not just something that happened out of thin air. These policies are connected to history. These things that are happening in our present can help pave a new way to our future.”
Moore says that there are things people should do to be involved in their Chicago neighborhoods. She advises people to go to their local meetings, talk to their local elected officials, learn more about the neighborhood, and of course, read her work. The work that she plans to leave behind for her daughter, who is now three. And the work that represents a city that has been through segregated storms that continue to shower the streets of Chicago.