Tour of city after Floyd protests leads to fa­ther-son photo book, ‘Boarded Up Chicago’

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA CHICAGO CHRON­I­CLES mi­he­jirika@sun­times.com | @maud­lynei

In late May, a Floss­moor teen got money for his eighth-grade grad­u­a­tion from his fa­ther and other fam­ily. The bud­ding photograph­er bought a $200 cam­era, a Canon Pow­erShot.

Soon after, Ge­orge Floyd hap­pened: a Black man killed un­der the knee of a white po­lice of­fi­cer in Min­neapo­lis. Protests fol­lowed. And loot­ing. And destruc­tion.

Days after, the 14-year-old’s fa­ther, who lives in South Shore, con­tem­plated the af­ter­math, seek­ing cre­ative ways to bond with his son in this strange new world of pan­demic and protests.

“I’d no­ticed after the ri­ots that graf­fiti artists started tag­ging the board-ups, and other artists were us­ing them as can­vasses,” said 47-year-old at­tor­ney Christo­pher Slaugh­ter.

“So I said, Zach, you’ve got this cam­era, let’s go ride around and take a look at this stuff,” Slaugh­ter said. “It was a chance to spend time to­gether, talk about all that was go­ing on.”

The re­sult? “Boarded Up Chicago: Store­front Im­ages Days After The Ge­orge Floyd Ri­ots,” a photo book by the fa­ther and son duo that con­tains more than 200 im­ages of the beauty that artists created from trauma.

“I’m into art, so it was pretty cool to see all the dif­fer­ent art styles across the dif­fer­ent city neigh­bor­hoods and com­pare like the themes on the South Side vs. themes on the North Side,” said Zachary, a fresh­man at Home­wood-Floss­moor High School. “It in­spired me.”

Protests be­gan after the cell­phone-videoed killing of the hand­cuffed Floyd on Memo­rial Day. An of­fi­cer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 min­utes and 46 sec­onds un­til he died.

Protests that be­gan peace­fully grew vi­o­lent as they un­furled across the na­tion, the in­ci­dent again ex­pos­ing racism that too of­ten seeps into Amer­ica’s polic­ing. It has trig­gered a na­tional reck­on­ing on race.

It was the sec­ond week­end after the ri­ots calmed that the fa­ther and son drove around the city. For 12 hours, they zig-zagged from South Side to North Side, East Side to West.

“When we’d see some­thing, I’d let him get out, take a few pic­tures and get back in. And we’d keep look­ing. We drove un­til the cam­era’s bat­tery died that night. I had no idea there was so much art out there. I’d only seen what was in my South Side area,” Slaugh­ter said.

“And be­cause we didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know where all the board­edup busi­nesses were in all th­ese Chicago com­mu­ni­ties, a lot of our time was spent just driv­ing.”

And a lot of time was spent talk­ing, of po­lice bru­tal­ity, racism, of how and why peace­ful protests de­volve into an­ar­chy.

“It’s pretty tragic how Black peo­ple are treated, es­pe­cially since we built this coun­try [on slave la­bor] and con­trib­ute a lot right now [as es­sen­tial work­ers],” young Zachary opined.

“It’s not just about Ge­orge Floyd. This hap­pens pretty of­ten to Black peo­ple. Ge­orge Floyd was just the last straw, and peo­ple wanted to take ac­tion be­hind it,” the teen said.

“I feel like our voices need to be heard. Protest is good. But there are some bad protests, like what’s hap­pen­ing in Kenosha right now. Some peo­ple use protests to do wrong.”

The teen was of course re­fer­ring to the Ja­cob Blake in­ci­dent in Kenosha on Aug. 23.

Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a white po­lice of­fi­cer. Peace­ful protests were fol­lowed by destruc­tion and loot­ing. Then two protesters were killed, al­legedly by white 17-year-old vig­i­lante Kyle Rit­ten­house, who’s charged with mur­der.

“Boarded Up Chicago” is 218 pages of the vi­brant, cap­ti­vat­ing art­work that sprouted on ply­wood board­ing after that ini­tial un­rest in Chicago, which by no means has seen its end.

Reach­ing home and re­view­ing that night the more than 250 pho­tos Zachary took, Slaugh­ter re­al­ized he was look­ing at art that would dis­ap­pear once the shops re­opened. Fleet­ing pieces of his­tory never to be seen again? They were too beau­ti­ful to let that hap­pen.

“As Zach was tak­ing them, we weren’t re­ally look­ing too closely at them. So it wasn’t un­til I saw them in their en­tirety that I was like, ‘Wow, th­ese are just so pow­er­ful. I sat and looked at them the whole rest of that night, think­ing, ‘We’ve gotta do some­thing with this,’” he said.

Hav­ing al­ready dropped his son back home in Floss­moor, Slaugh­ter found him­self go­ing back out on the same ad­ven­ture alone to photograph ar­eas of the city the two had missed.

While sim­ple cu­rated pho­tog­ra­phy, their book is re­ally the story of po­lice bru­tal­ity in the year 2020. Pas­sion­ate, peace­ful protests — that as Zachary ar­tic­u­lated — are taken ad­van­tage of by vi­o­lent in­ter­lop­ers and greedy crim­i­nals, whose goal is not to raise voice but to raise hell.

And as you flip through the poignant art spat­tered through­out Chicago neigh­bor­hoods fa­mil­iar and un­fa­mil­iar, you re­al­ize it’s a Chicago story, yes. But it’s also the story of Min­neapo­lis, At­lanta, Los An­ge­les, Louisville, Port­land. The list goes on.

And in Kenosha, artists’ temporary con­tri­bu­tions to heal­ing a boarded-up city now sprout.


Christo­pher Slaugh­ter drove the city with his 14-year-old son Zachary, a bud­ding photograph­er, after the destruc­tion and loot­ing that fol­lowed peace­ful protests in the wake of the Ge­orge Floyd po­lice killing. The fa­ther-and-son duo put the image into a photo book “Boarded up Chicago: Store­front Im­ages Days After the Ge­orge Floyd Ri­ots” that will be avail­able on Ama­zon.

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