This is post 4 of 6 in the series “2022 South Side Weekly Student Essay Winner”

South Side Weekly’s third student essay contest call was inspired by the poem by sociologist, author, and poet Eve L. Ewing, “I saw Emmett Till at the grocery store this week.” We asked students to write a piece of Chicago history—a A person, an event, a place that no longer exists – to write in the year 2022.

Upon learning that our invitation was based on her poem, Ewing generously offered to sponsor a portion of our awards, which—in addition to Weekly Merch, gift cards to 57th Street Books/Seminary Co-Op bookstores, and a one-year print subscription to the newspaper – Includes $500 in cash for first place winners and $250 for runners up, plus autographed copies of their books.

We received over sixty entries from across the South Side. We are so grateful for each of these submissions and for the time, energy and care that the students put into writing these posts. The essays were wonderfully creative and meaningful, and made our decision-making process incredibly difficult.

Madeleine Parrish, the Weekly’s education editor, formed the selection committee, which consisted of Chima Ikoro, the Weekly’s community organization editor, Bridget Killian, the Weekly’s visuals editor, Jackie Serrato, the Weekly’s editor-in-chief, and Adam Przybyl, the Weekly’s, passed editor-in-chief. They decided to print first and second place awards for middle school and high school, and honorable mentions for both categories.

Read all winning entries at the links below.

AAfter school I rush home. I throw my bags on the floor, homework can wait. I’m just too excited. I slide auspiciously into the kitchen and form a halo around my head. “MOM,” echoes through the house as I look at the mail. My mom walks down the stairs and looks at me like I’m a hitchhiker begging for a ride. “Yeah, what do you want,” she sighs. I grin and say, “Can I go to the Regal Theater with my friends tonight? Lily’s mom will be there and Alisa, she’s 14, and” – she interrupts me with a mischievous smile and asks, “Have you done your homework?” I play with my fingers and before I open my mouth, she says, “As long as I can you’ll be back at five and get me a pastry from one of the restaurants.” I hug her and start jumping down the block.

I see Alisa and as soon as I turn the corner she runs and yells, “OMG I’m so freaking excited, are you ready?” “Yeah,” I giggle, “but shut up, we don’t want the whole 46th to We go to Lily’s house and see her and her mother waiting for us on their porch. “Ready to dance like you’ve never danced before,” says Lily’s mom. As we walk, we chat about homework, our crush, and what songs we think they’ll play. We turn onto 47th Street and everything hits me. The blinking lights sparkle in my eyes. The music is dancing in my ears. The smell of food fills my nostrils. The words roll off my tongue. The air brushes my skin. Each has a welcoming vibe. The music gives me the feeling of dancing on a flower meadow. I am so excited that I could run around the world, soar across the oceans and even fly to the top of the highest mountains. I’m at home.

“What are you girls waiting for? Let’s go inside,” says Lily’s mother, staring at him in awe. We all slowly approach the magnificent building. As we walk in, we see the band on stage. They focus on the music and make sure the audience is happy while dancing. We join the crowd, stand, dance, sing and laugh. A waitress brings a menu with a “what can I get you” smile. I kindly ask for water to start and continue this bright dream coming true. Once she’s gone, I examine each item carefully. “What should I take?” I think to myself. When she comes back, she asks, “What will it be?” “I’ll have the sliders with fries,” I say. As we wait, we watch several bands and singers, each with a different hope and dream, bow and blush as they come off the stage.

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