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Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap

I got to do a reading in a bar in the Neighborhood where I grew up on Chicago’s South side this past Sunday.


It was really special, a homecoming of sorts I guess you could call it. Got to do the reading at two in the afternoon in the back of a place Called Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap that’s been around so long that once upon a time my childhood babysitter’s father, a man who left the hills and coal mines of West Virgina to fight in World War Two, and then married a girl who got out of an internment camp for Japanese-Americans by taking a job as a housemaid in Chicago, threw another man through the plate glass window at the front of the bar for calling his wife a “Jap”.


It’s a place with that kind of history and status for me. As I was putting up posters on the block where my parents still live for my reading the Saturday before, I was reminded of how we are truly a nation of immigrants. In a single block I put posters in a diner owned by Greek immigrants, a dry cleaners owned by South Korean immigrants, and a grocery store owned by immigrants from Lebanon. In the same block I got a haircut and a shave at a barbershop owned and staffed completely by people who fled Kosovo during the Bosnian War. Their love for their homeland clearly displayed by this small plaque on the wall made with the stones from a mine in Kosovo. And the next day, my old babysitter Nancy was at that reading in the same bar where her father, a man who went to war to stand up for the values this country was founded on, came home and continued to fight for those same values, and for the dignity of his own wife and mother of his children to be as respected as any other American.


In these times where so much of what we once stood for seems under attack by people who want to build walls against people who don’t look like them, and people who want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of today's immigrants, this reading reinforced the notion that by building walls, all we do is cut ourselves off from the very people that have made and continue to make this country great.         


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© 2020 by Chelsea Burk