ENGLEWOOD — An Englewood artist and activist is bringing a story of inequity on the South Side directly to neighbors with a new podcast.
Tonika Johnson, in collaboration with the National Public Housing Museum, has launched the “Legally Stolen” podcast. The three-episode audio series offers a deeper dive into Johnson’s latest project, “Inequity for Sale“. The virtual and physical exhibit explores how homes sold through land sale contracts in Englewood in the ’50s and ’60s continue to impact the community.
The first episode of “Legally Stolen” launched Dec. 15. It features Johnson alongside special guests. Two more episodes will drop in coming weeks.
“I really wanted to inundate people with a variety of ways in which they could access and understand the project and, ultimately, the discriminatory housing practice of land sale contracts,” Johnson said. “Sometimes people learn better by hearing or listening.”
A 2018 study from Duke University, “The Plunder of Black Wealth In Chicago,” found 75-95 percent of homes sold to Black families in Chicago during the 1950s and ’60s were sold through land sale contracts.
Speculators would buy a home and sell it on contract at an 84 percent markup on average, the study found, meaning Black families were paying significantly more while never owning the home. More than 100 homes were sold this way in Englewood.
Johnson used the data provided in the study along with boots-on-the-ground interviews to create “Inequity for Sale.”
Once the installation is complete, neighbors will be able to walk down a stretch in Englewood to view 10-15 homes sold through land sale contracts. “Landmarkers” will be displayed in front of each home to teach viewers about the previous homeowners’ history.
Each marker will also contain a QR code that takes neighbors to the “Legally Stolen” podcast. The goal is to completely immerse neighbors in the stories and lives of the families that moved to Chicago, only to be stolen from, Johnson said.
“I want the project to help people understand that when you see a neighborhood riddled with abandoned homes or vacant lots, it has nothing to do with the residents,” Johnson said. “It has everything to do with a systemic discriminatory act. It was important to have this exhibit be immersive so that the people who interact with this project can feel so informed and enlightened that they too can become an advocate.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: