[Voices of Cabrini raw: Mark Pratt & family]

Video for the documentary "Voices of Cabrini." Shot between 1995-1999, it documented the Cabrini Green redevelopment project proposed and carried out by the City of Chicago. This tape includes two interviews with Mark Pratt outside on the common grounds of Cabrini and inside his home on December 17, 1995. He talks about resident protests against the Chicago Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cabrini Green's community, the 1992 gang truce, growing up in Cabrini, the Robert E. Byrd Academy, his family, and the effects of the demolition project on residents.

00:03Copy video clip URL Audio of crew walking and talking about the next scene. No video.

0:56Copy video clip URL Mark Pratt standing in a field. The camera zooms into Pratt’s body so as to adjust the focus of the lens. The crew prepares a sound test: “My name is Mark Pratt and I live 939 N. Hudson Ave., Apartment 4, Chicago, Illinois. The date is December 17, 1995. Christmas is coming and I’m broke, and everyone keeps calling me early in the morning.”

1:44Copy video clip URL Close up of Pratt’s face. Zoom out to show Cabrini Green.

1:57Copy video clip URL Pratt and cameraman walk away from the buildings. Pratt talks about how early he’s awake, because his children won’t let him sleep. He describes his morning routine: “[I gotta] be prepared to watch Power Rangers and a few cartoons, and then it’s football time. And when football season isn’t on I usually go out to the flea markets to look for film equipment.”

2:40Copy video clip URL Pratt describes his interest in Super 8 film and editing equipment. He plans to trade it all in for 16mm film equipment. Camera pans to a shot of a housing project in the process of being demolished.

3:03Copy video clip URL Pratt mentions that he has been teaching at Richard E. Byrd Academy in Cabrini for two years. Director Ronit Bezalel asks him about how the kids have reacted to the demolition process: “It’s been sort of an up-and-down situation. At first they were kind of in awe of the magnificence of the demolition, but now it’s started to seep in that it’s their home that’s being destroyed, and not just some building. And most kids are not taking it too good…A lot of them have been acting out…and they know eventually that they’ll be moving.”

4:02Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt whether there are students who used to live in the now-demolished building, but still attend Byrd Academy. Pratt: “No. Those kids primarily have moved on to another location and attended another school.” Pratt notes that most of the discipline problems in the school center on kids living in buildings that are scheduled to be demolished next: “I truly believe it’s [behavior problems] because of the demolition and that they’ll be moving soon.”

4:41Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt for an anecdote about the first stage of demolition. Pratt: “The first day of demolition was really funny, because you had all the newsmen–you had about 40 cameras out here and, like, three residents, y’know, and the kids were coming to school and they stopped–and, y’know, of course, you see the cameras and you run and say, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ Then you see the bulldozer and a big crane and a demolition ball and it’s like, ‘wow, they’re going to tear down the building!’ And the kids were really excited. And then each day after that the kids would just stand in front of the school and just stare. Just stare at the building, y’know, almost like they were losing a friend…it moved quickly from amazement and awe to, ‘oh wow, our community really is changing.'”

5:59Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt which building will be torn down next. Pratt: “The next building to be torn down is 1150-1160 N. Sedgwick, or what is commonly referred to as ‘The Palace.'” The demolition was originally scheduled for November 1995, but because of resident protests the date was pushed back to March or April 1996: “CHA and HUD now need to figure out a way to appease them before they can begin their demolition of that building.”

6:35Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt about the kinds of protests going on. Pratt: “…A lot of residents were promised jobs before the demolition was started and they haven’t received them, course. And now people who have lived there a long time are just saying they don’t want to go, they don’t want to move away, and eventually knowing, we were told, that we’d have a chance to move back–we don’t buy that…They want to stay and see them build replacement housing here, in the community where they can move to right away before they move out of the building…”

7:13Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt whether he thinks the protests will work. Pratt: “…At first I was kinda skeptical…but now I think it is working. I saw it happen at Henry Horner, and it worked, but I’m glad to see it’s happening here in Cabrini as well. I think it’s working now: They have been meeting with HUD and CHA officials and are appearing to get some results. Yes, they will tear down the building eventually, but I think the people living in the building will be much more satisfied with the outcome…”

7:53Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt whether there is a strong community network or other people at Cabrini who feel that the protests will work. Pratt: “Unfortunately, no. I think they’re working alone…there’s a strong sense of community here, but when it comes to things like protest or anyone who goes against the grain, and the politics get involved, then you start to see what I like to call ‘small factions’ break off…”

8:37Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks a question that is difficult to hear. Pratt responds with a short history of the protests in The Palace, which started in 1992 when the first plans to demolish the three buildings came to light. Pratt: “Right now, [the protesters] are fighting to make sure their issues stay in the light.”

9:21Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt about his four children and their reactions to the demolition process. Pratt says that they were initially amazed and that they know they will one day have to move, but “I always talk in terms of us moving, because I want to move so that they won’t have the understanding that we’re being forced to move, and that it’s something mom and dad decided to do.” Pratt talks about the range of reactions and knowledge among the children in Cabrini.

11:06Copy video clip URL St. Sebastian church bells ring, making it hard to hear. They pause their interview and the camera pans over the area, giving a 360 degree view. The church bells create a melodramatic scene with Pratt overlooking the demolished building.

15:55Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt whether he attended Byrd Academy. Pratt graduated in 1980 and his mother also graduated. Pratt’s children make three generations at Byrd Academy. Pratt talks about how much fun he used to have and Byrd’s academic prestige. He discusses the difference between Byrd then and now, such as parent involvement and a sense of hope.

18:35Copy video clip URL Pratt: “People here in this community and communities like this feel like they don’t matter, like nobody gives a damn, and after being kicked and put down for so long, y’know, you forget how to pull yourself up. It’s a struggle just to sit up, let alone stand up. And I think here in this community we’ve been put down so much by all the individuals around us and in the city, that people are just starting to give up hope. But there is this small flicker of life…for people who have decided enough is enough…”

19:30Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt about education. Pratt talks about the importance of education and a promising trend of people going back to school and volunteering.

20:48Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt to talk more about Byrd Academy and mention that it’s an elementary school. He notes when it was opened, that students bus into the school from all over the city, that they have a film center and broadcast capability, a learning styles program, and teachers who care.

21:58Copy video clip URL Pratt reiterates the fact that he’s spent his entire life in the neighborhood. Pratt: “It’s just like any other neighborhood in any other Midwestern town or city…this is just my community and I take heart to it a lot…I love this place.”

22:31Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks about playing sports and having fun in the field. Pratt talks about the Cabrini Olympics, Smokey Park, and fishing in the Lincoln Park lagoon.

22:38Copy video clip URL Bezalel mentions that Cabrini is much safer now than when Pratt was growing up. Pratt talks about how the gang truce of 1992 changed things for the better. Pratt: “Prior to 1992, we really would have been crazy standing here, cause this is one of the main arteries where the gun fire happened, because  this was the dividing line between the gangs–where we’re standing.”

24:41Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks more about the truce. Pratt says that the truce was created by the gangs voluntarily after the death of Dantrell Davis on October 13, 1992.

25:39Copy video clip URL Pratt spots his wife, Tracy, and their children, Mark Jr. and Martee, on their way to church. Pratt and the crew walk over to them and introductions go around.

27:56Copy video clip URL Cut to inside of Pratt’s apartment. The living room is decorated for Christmas. The crew sets up for the scene. Bezalel and Pratt talk informally while the camera records, but it is difficult to hear over the sounds of the apartment. Pratt shows Bezalel his old notes from the beginnings of “Voices of Cabrini.”

34:40Copy video clip URL Cut to Pratt sitting on his couch. The crew continues to set up.

36:50Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “How long have you lived at Cabrini Green?” Pratt: “I’ve lived at Cabrini for 23 years. My grandmother moved to the neighborhood in 1970. My mother moved to this apartment in 1973 and we’ve been here since.”

37:22Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “What was it like growing up here as a boy?” Pratt: “A lot of fun. I remember coming downstairs, playing outside…” He discusses playing basketball, taking food from the vegetable garden, and how tight-knit the community was.

38:02Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “How has it changed?” Pratt: “Outside of the violence that’s plagued the community for the last fifteen or twenty years, I really can’t say I know everyone who lives in the apartments…drugs is just rampant throughout this community. That to me is the biggest problem. Not just the gangs, but the drugs…a lot of neglect as far as children and the neighborhood goes. There’s no more gardens, no more green grass…no more upkeep at all in the area.”

38:57Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “Can you tell us about your family?” Pratt: “My family, I’m the father of six. I had a huge extended family throughout the neighborhood…” The response is interrupted, because the crew worries about whether the audio is picking up the television in the background. Pratt continues: “I have a lot of family here in the community…we’re pretty much close-knit, too. My mom lives in the next building adjacent…I have a cousin below me, a cousin above me…sister-in-law two floors up, an auntie in a building across from here, cousins that are in opposing gangs. I just have so much family over here.”

41:10Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks whether it’s usual for residents to have a lot of family members in the community. Pratt: “Now? Yes. When we were growing up, no. It was odd to find more than one clan of people here. But now, since the neighborhood is much safer…”

41:49Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “How do you feel about your kids growing up here?” Pratt: “As a parent right now I feel probably growing up in Cabrini for a kid is probably not the best time. There is not very much of a future left as far as a community is concerned…”

43:17Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “When the demolition started, did you sit them down and talk to them about it?” Pratt: “When the demolition first started I talked to my kids about what’s going on, what it meant–with the good and the bad, and I told them that in a sense it was good and that it was time to tear down some of the buildings…I tried to get them to understand that our building will be torn down soon…I tried to make sure they were comfortable with understanding what was going on.” Bezalel asks a follow up as to whether it’s a significant issue for Pratt’s children. Pratt says that at the moment it’s not a serious issue: “They’ve pretty much put it behind them. They tend to talk a lot about what they’re going to do in the future…and maybe the demolition has a lot to do with that, but then again maybe that’s good parenting.”

45:19Copy video clip URL Bezalel asks Pratt to elaborate on an earlier point he made with respect to the difference between home and community. Pratt: “To me, a home is a place where family is. You can be homeless and live in a shelter or cardboard box, but that’s your home. It’s where you feel safe and carry out your daily family type business. You can have a huge home…But when we talk about community we talk about a sense of belonging, groups of people coming together, sharing things, doing things together, being united in a sense, and to me this is what we have here…To me community is everything…” A car horn honks during his reflections and they have to redo the take.

49:50Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “What’s the glue that holds the community together?” Pratt: “In my opinion, I think some of the glue that holds this community together actually has a lot to do with the media and what the media makes Cabrini out of. People here, including myself, especially myself, don’t like to hear a lot of bad things about Cabrini when we know there’s some good going on as well. We’ve never heard anything good until the last few years, and because there’s so much bad and so much stigma attached to individuals who come out of Cabrini…you really have no choice but…to stick together.”

51:13Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “That sort of brings us to the Voices paper. Can you talk a little bit about that?” Pratt: “Voices of Cabrini! Community newspaper! The newspaper was founded in 1992 by Henrietta Thompson.  She wanted to do something to try to reach out to all the people in the community and to give all the people in the community to voice their opinions and share their stories, because, again, she didn’t like what she was hearing in the news or seeing on television. She came to Byrd Academy–I was not working there, I was volunteering as a parent there–and she pitched the idea to the parent group…and I thought, ‘Hey, cool, I like to write. I’ll write for the paper.’ I told them immediately, I’d write for the paper…” He discusses obstacles from an older resident who doubted their ability to print a paper. Peter ‘Kaso’ Keller is the current editor of the paper.

53:12Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “Has the paper written articles about the demolition?” Pratt: “Yes. In the past, prior to the demolition, I vehemently attacked CHA and its policies and what it was trying to do not only to Cabrini, but other CHA communities as well…the paper has an on-going theme to remind the community that our community is changing and hopefully it will change for our better, not for the worst, and that if we continue to fight and struggle for what we want we should be able to get it…”

53:57Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “Where can you pick up the paper?” Pratt: “You can stop by any store, youth center, church, or inside any of the buildings in the lobby area and you can usually find papers stacked up there…” Pratt mentions that they started with a circulation of 2,500 and are up to 7,500 now, and the the paper has expanded to the south and west sides.

54:39Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “How many people do you estimate live here?” Pratt: “Now, probably between 4,500 and 5,000.” Pratt notes that that number is down from 7,500 to 8,000 from two years prior (1993) and that the capacity for housing was 14,000 but, after demolition, is at 10,000 or 11,000.

55:43Copy video clip URL Bezalel: “Why do you think they’re tearing the building down?” Pratt: “The demolition is occurring for several reasons, and, one–in my mind it is the most important– is land. Let’s make no bones about it: Cabrini sits on some very, very prime property. This property has been estimated at $175 million. The property that it stands on alone. With retail business and new homes being built any developer or developers or organization…whomever, can gross an annual revenue $1 billion dollars a year on the property alone…”

56:56Copy video clip URL Pratt: “The second reason is upkeep. There is no more money in federal government to keep developments like Cabrini or Robert Taylor up to par…they’re almost like a slum lord….I don’t argue the fact that there are some buildings which need to come down, but there are some buildings you can rehab…” He describes the demographic structure of the buildings and how apartments can readily accommodate large families: “Unfortunately, people are not the main reason or the main care of the individuals who are in charge of the demolition or the rehabbing of the community. So, hopefully some things can work out where people can be accommodated.”

58:30Copy video clip URL Static.

58:34Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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