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North Siders Visit Englewood For First Time : 'Just A Regular Neighborhood'

 Kate O'Brien (l.) and Maggie O'Brien visited Dream Cafe Saturday for the Explore Englewood event.
Kate O'Brien (l.) and Maggie O'Brien visited Dream Cafe Saturday for the Explore Englewood event.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

ENGLEWOOD — Before Saturday, Maggie O’Brien of Bucktown had never been to Englewood.

But after spending the day there as part of the "Explore Englewood" event organized by My Block My Hood My City, she said she was impressed by what she saw.

"I think people just, especially being on the North Side — it's a different world," she said. "You don’t think about the rest of the city, don’t realize there are vibrant communities here, there’s a lot of depth in those communities, richness to them and more to them than the terrifying headlines you see.” 

In addition to O'Brien, dozens of people from all over the city traveled to Englewood over the weekend to experience the food and culture of the neighborhood.

 Barbara Wright visited Dream Cafe for the first time.
Barbara Wright visited Dream Cafe for the first time.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

My Block My Hood My City founder Jahmal Cole said he created the event in an effort to erase the stigma of the area. He said the goal was to help change the neighborhood's narrative. People from Bucktown, Wicker Park and other neighborhoods toured St. Benedict Church and learned more about community resources. Later they ate lunch at Dream Cafe & Grille.

Barbara Wright has lived in Back of the Yards for 30 years and said she wanted to support Cole’s mission.

“It excites me to know there is a group of people within the community who want to do something positive for the people, to let people know Englewood isn’t only the bad place that a lot of people say, or assume it is,” she said.

O’Brien came to Englewood with her sister, Kate, who said she liked what My Block My Hood My City is trying to accomplish.

“This event sounded interesting, so I wanted to check it out,” Kate O'Brien said. “The city is so big, and we don’t travel to other neighborhoods often, especially north to south. People don’t go far.”

Maggie O'Brien said the event accomplished its goals.

“I thought it was so interesting how today was presented," she said. "There’s authenticity around today. It’s not just come and see it as this tourist, it’s more like come and experience it and see that it’s just a regular neighborhood."

Cole said he believes his model of bringing people to other neighborhoods is working toward making the city more connected. He said people see that he’s doing more than just talking — that he’s about action. That has gained him more support.

“I’ve been exploring Chicago for years,” he said. “It has to be authentic, so I’m not just parachuting down into a community. These are my friends, these are movers and shakers that I eat with.”

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