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Black Youth in Boystown

By Tony Peregrin in News on Dec 1, 2009 8:00PM

Photo by josephp
It’s no secret that black gay youth from the South and West sides orbit around Boystown, particularly around the Center on Halsted, but some Lakeview residents say they feel threatened or intimated by these teens who they often describe as unruly and rowdy.

According to Chicago Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice, these young gay men are drawn to Boystown and to the Center—which sponsors programming for gay youth—because the area makes them feel “safe, affirmed and valued.” The column titled “Some black youth feel more at home in Boystown, but get chilly reception” addresses the tension that has been brewing between residents and these young men who are too young to get into the gay bars, but old enough to be able to hang out late at night. In an effort to appease residents, the center pulled back its programming hours from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m. and hired additional security for peak loitering hours (4 to 8 p.m.)

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new issue for Boystown, a vibrant, popular part of Lakeview with over 30 different gay and lesbian bars, nightclubs and restaurants. In the summer of 2008, the Coalition for Justice and Respect organized a Unity March Against Racism and Harassment specifically to address the tensions between youth of color and condo dwellers, business owners, and police. And this past summer Lakeview residents flocked to CAPS meetings to express their fear and frustration regarding the spike in crime and harassment from loiterers.

The column has inspired lively feedback and chatter on various social networking sites. On the Boystown Chicago Facebook page, gay men seemed to agree with the column, and issued comments such as “Boystown is supposed to be our safe haven,” while others called for a more inclusive approach. “It's not a race thing, it's a cultural adaptation thing," said Jim Ludwig, owner of Roscoe’s Tavern, a popular gay pub on Halsted, and a board member of the Northalsted Business Alliance in the column. "It's a youth rebellion thing. We're at a loss in trying to figure out what's a good thing for these kids to be doing other than congregating on the corner. Sometimes there are 50 kids. But it's only a handful that doesn't have the social skills regarding sidewalk etiquette, so it intimidates customers and residents."