In Pilsen, leadership and community development is an inside job. In its newest year-long initiative, WTTW/Chicago PBS explores the intricacies, challenges, and voices that make up the community’s rich, historic tapestry. Beginning with a 60-minute documentary and supporting digital initiative, the project gives viewers and readers an intimate look inside the Pilsen community.
The story is one of transformation and perseverance. It touches on themes such as education, faith-based activism, healthcare, housing, immigration, jobs, and the future of the neighborhood’s youth. All topics are addressed head on by those who live, breathe, and work to find solutions for these local and national issues: Pilsen’s own Mexican-American residents.
The documentary will air locally on WTTW11 April 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm CT. It will also be streamed live on wttw.com, and available nationally on demand through the PBS app, on pbs.org, and on PBS station websites throughout the country. The documentary will be followed by a live town hall, produced in collaboration with Univision Chicago.
Getting to Know Pilsen
Located on the city’s lower west side lies Pilsen It’s a community of more than 30,000 proud Latino immigrants, locally-owned small businesses, popular cafes, annual festivals, colorful murals and other public art. For more than a century, Pilsen has been a welcome harbor for immigrants searching for opportunity and a sense of belonging. Though Pilsen has faced many challenges in its 150-year history, this tight knit community remains fiercely committed to its vitality — and has risen to the occasion.
The story of Pilsen is a story of perseverance about a neighborhood that has elevated itself from a gang territory to a cultural hub through the efforts of community groups, church leaders, and local activists. From the beginning, it has been the spirit of these supportive residents that has sparked and led change. Today, the spirit of growth and support is still alive and thriving through the transformational work being done in homes, schools, businesses, and grassroots community organizations across Pilsen.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to tell the story of the dynamic Pilsen neighborhood, not only to the greater Chicago community, but to the nation,” says Dan Schmidt, President and CEO of WTTW. “The stories highlighted in this project are all too familiar for many communities across the country, touching on key challenges such as immigration, community investment, and more. My Neighborhood: Pilsen provides a powerful platform for some of America’s most resilient individuals to share firsthand accounts of trials and triumph. Theirs are stories of inspiration.”
Who You’ll Meet
What makes Pilsen unique is not its location, but its people. United by heritage and grit, each individual you’ll meet in the documentary and through the digital hub has played a critical role in strengthening the fabric of the Pilsen community. As the first leg of the broader project, the documentary reveals an intimate look into these change agents’ lives within the Pilsen community.
You’ll be introduced to a café owner who has lived in Pilsen her entire life. Her business on 18th Street has become a community gathering spot, hosting everything from concerts and art shows to activist gatherings and study groups. Her youngest child recently died of a heroin overdose. In response to this personal tragedy, she has devoted her energies to creating a community response to an epidemic affecting people in Pilsen and beyond.
Later, you’ll be welcomed into the life of a college student employed at the National Museum of Mexican Art. He is a visual artist and budding curator who previously was a high school dropout. His bosses at the museum make his continued enrollment in college a condition of his employment. At one time, he worked at the café on 18th Street and was good friends with the café owner’s son who overdosed, tying the two stories together within the Pilsen web.
Next, you’ll get to know a community organizer who works to inspire residents through her parish. An immigrant and mother of four, she has two daughters born in the United States and two born in Mexico. She works with Latino communities on immigration reform issues, including the preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs. The future for her family is unclear.
While people like those featured in the My Neighborhood: Pilsen project are the catalysts for change in their community, community organizations act as the greater support system. The Resurrection Project is one of these organizations that spans the Pilsen community touching most community members in one way, shape, or form. Founded in the 1990s, TRP’s mission is to build relationships and challenge individuals to act on their values by creating community ownership, building community wealth and serving as stewards to community assets. As seen through the stories in the documentary and digital hub, TRP plays an integral part in elevating Pilsen into its next phase of prosperity.
As you journey through the program, you’ll take a visual walking tour of key neighborhood locations, including Benito Juarez Community Academy, La Catrina Café and gallery spaces, Mujeres Latinas en Accion Youth Center, National Museum of Mexican Art, and Pilsen Senior Center, to get a closer look at local empowerment and change-making at its core.
Digital Hub: A Community, United
Beyond the documentary, the project continues in digital format at wttw.com/myneighborhood. The online platform will dive deeper into the history of Pilsen’s tight knit community and how the neighborhood has changed over the years, from the shipping era propelled by the devastating Chicago Fire and convenient access to the river, to the bustling and vibrant Pilsen of today.
The website weaves together narratives from key individuals who overcame challenge and adversity to improve Pilsen’s schools, its environment, its educational and job opportunities, and the safety and well-being of its residents. The site gives visitors an intimate view into the lives of the people who drove these changes, highlighting the strategies and resources they used to make it happen.
Community Screenings, Conversation and Events
WTTW will host a community and partnership event in Pilsen on Thursday, April 20 at 5:30 pm CT at Benito Juarez Community Academy. The event will be a Pilsen community celebration and premiere of the documentary. Following the screening there will be a panel discussion with community leaders, including The Resurrection Project’s founder Raul Raymundo, on revitalizing neighborhoods in Pilsen and across Chicago.
After the premiere night, a series of community conversations and events will be held across Chicago neighborhoods to generate dialogue about community development. In addition, WTTW has partnered with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and buildOn’s Chicago Service Learning Program on a video production workshop created for high school students. The students will produce short documentaries about their neighborhood experiences. The project will culminate in a youth film festival.
The My Neighborhood: Pilsen community engagement initiative is led by WTTW, in partnership with The Resurrection Project.
Daniel Schmidt – President & CEO, WTTW
Daniel Soles – Senior Vice President & Chief Television Content Officer, WTTW
Anne Gleason – Senior Vice President of Marketing & Digital Media, WTTW
Daniel Andries – Documentary Producer, WTTW
Jessica Pupovac – Digital Producer, WTTW
Jessica Lawson – Community Engagement Director, WTTW
WTTW is a premier public media organization committed to creating and presenting unique television and digital media content across four distinct television channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW WORLD, and WTTW PBS Kids – and on wttw.com. Recognized for award-winning local and national productions such as Chicago Tonight, Check, Please!, and MEXICO – One Plate at a Time, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s programming. Visitors to wttw.com can access a full library of local and national video content for kids and adults, immersive web-exclusive stories and features, event and membership opportunities, and more. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
My Neighborhood: Pilsen is made possible through the generosity of the Caerus Foundation, Inc.