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“STRONG FUTURES” BY DAVID OBERMEYER
I first met Father Pfleger while working on Spike Lee’s film Chiraq as the Production Sound Mixer. Just prior to the start of filming the cast and crew was invited to attend a Sunday service at St. Sabina. The sermon was an inspiration and the power of his words stayed with me through the week. I attended service every Sunday that summer while working on the film. His words provided comfort but also made me realize that Chicago is a better city only when it works for everyone, that until the underserved communities on the South and West sides are given the same opportunities and attention as the North side, Chicago will remain a tale of two cities. Months after the film wrapped I was approaching Father Pfleger asking how I could help through my photography. He brought me to the Strong Futures program, which seeks through mentoring and love to help and find employment for the most underserved young adults in our city.
For the past couple of years I have been photographing the Strong Futures program. Each week there is a group meeting. All are invited and encouraged to attend, if you are working you are excused. It is a roundtable discussion of daily struggles, the most common being losing a family member to gun violence, maintaining employment and navigating the pitfalls of the street. Each group meeting starts with same introduction. Each person attending states their name, what brought them to Strong Futures and how their week has been and then the discussion starts. Each meeting ends with the same convocation, we gather round, touch fists and state. “Our thoughts become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our character and our character becomes our destiny.”
My hope is that these portraits expose an invisible part of our city, the part that through racism and neglect remain unseen and forgotten. That this invisible part of our city is able to attain what all strive for; food, shelter, work that is rewarding and a chance to provide for our families.
WESTERN BLUE LINE!