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Bucket Boys Anger Chatham Residents, But Drummers Say They're Staying

By Wendell Hutson | June 26, 2014 8:13am
 Chatham residents are upset that panhandlers continue to operate even though a city ordinance prohibits such action in the South Side neighborhood.
Chatham Street Vendors
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CHATHAM — D'Quan Jackson said he was able to visit Africa in 2012 after raising $17,000 in one year as a street performer.

The 19-year-old Washington Park resident makes a living as a ''bucket boy'' and can be found seven days a week at the intersection of 87th and State streets beating the bottom of a bucket with two drum sticks.

"This is how I make my money and it's an honest living," said Jackson.

Others see Jackson and another 10 to 15 performers at the intersection as a nuisance to the neighborhood. They also point out that it's against city ordinance specifically on 87th Street, between Cottage Grove and Western avenues.

"I was living here before many of these street hustlers were born. How dare they come into my neighborhood, cause disruption and think residents are not going to say anything about it," said Nellie Sanders, 71, who has lived in Chatham for 56 years.

The retired teacher added: "There are plenty of places these guys could go besides clogging up an intersection filled with businesses."

Worlee Glover, a Chatham resident for 25 years, runs Concerned Citizens for Chatham, and has heard many complaints about the bucket boys.

"I don't know how many times you have to cross the intersection of 87th and State Street, but for residents of the 6th and 8th wards we have to pass it on a regular basis,” he said.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes Chatham, said while city ordinance prohibited solicitation and panhandling in the specific area, there was little enforcement of the law.

“We need more uniform police officers on the street to address this issue. So much attention is paid to stopping violent crimes, which I agree is a big problem," Sawyer said. "But that means petty offenses like panhandling and littering has gotten pushed to the side."

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The busy intersection sits off the 87th Street Red Line station in Sawyer's ward and the Chatham Ridge Mall, which is located across the street in Ald. Howard Brookins' (21st) ward.

"For as long as I can remember that intersection has always had panhandlers selling their merchandise. But now, all of a sudden, it's a big deal," Brookins said. "At least they're making an honest living and not selling stolen merchandise. But it is still a petty crime to solicit there, so I was thinking about having the island [in the street] narrowed to prevent panhandlers from standing there."

When DNAinfo Chicago visited the intersection on Wednesday, Benjamin Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam, was selling bean pies and the Final Call newspaper. Don Harper, 60, a panhandler for six years, was also there selling socks and bottled water. Others were selling towels, candy, T-shirts and hats.

While acknowledging the concerns of residents, Darnell Williams, 21, another bucket boy, said residents were sending conflicting messages to young black men like himself.

"If we sell drugs or go out and rob people to make a living, then we're wrong. Now we're doing something legal like banging on buckets and receiving donations and people have a problem with that," said Williams, an Englewood resident. "We can't win for losing. I make $400 a week hustling this corner playing my music. So, if people don't like what we are doing, then they should go somewhere else."

Another Englewood resident, Terrance Taylor, 21, said he was the ring leader of bucket boys because he makes $800 a week and has been at it for six years.

"At least 1,000 cars stop at this corner a day. That adds up to 'mad' money. Even if I get 50 cents for every other car that stops, that's mad money, baby," Taylor said.

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