63rd House Building – Chicago Reader

On August 5, 1966, near Marquette Park, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was attacked while leading a protest demanding housing desegregation. Several blocks from this location stands 3055 W. 63rd, an abandoned former post office that turned 100 years old in 2020. It is where Blue Tin Production (a worker-run clothing manufacturing cooperative) is currently building 63rd House, a hybrid headquarters for Blue Tin and a community center for the larger Chicago Lawn neighborhoods.

The 63rd House is designed as an inherently versatile space, centered around the seemingly incongruous ideas of work and community. Blue Tin, working with community leaders of color in the Chicago Lawn area, and in partnership with Chicago design firm Studio Gang, envisions a mode of economic organization that does not exclude the community. Blue Tin has entered into a dialogue with its community partners to identify material needs in Chicago Lawn that need to be addressed (including green space, access to computers, and increased accessibility to mental health resources). Additionally, some of the Blue Tin workers were already Chicago Lawn residents and committed to the process, making the 63rd House a tangible representation of a fundamental truth often denied under capitalism: that every person matters.

Blue Tin was founded by Chicago-based community organizer and writer Hoda Katebi in 2019 and remains an anomaly in the fashion industry. The clothing production company stands out from other clothing manufacturers because Blue Tin workers control all aspects of production. Blue Tin’s collective model states that the company only accepts direct partnerships with designers, contractors and customers (no sub-contractors or possibly unscrupulous supply chain links), shares profits among all workers, rotates core workers on all production projects, and uses group consensus. on decisions such as accepting new designers to work with, wages, working hours, and decisions related to Blue Tin’s environmental impact.

A Blue Tin Production worker at the organization’s current North Side location Credit: Courtesy of Blue Tin Production

I use the word “anomaly” here with great deliberation, as the “fast fashion” evolution of the 1990s inextricably changed the fashion industry globally. Trade agreements like NAFTA, APEC, and the FTAA have created new trade flows for apparel manufacturers, and marketing, design, and manufacturing methods have evolved to create and foster a new form of consumer demand. based on the desire for direct-to-consumer clothing; so that iterations of designs previously made just for the track are immediately available for purchase at widely accessible prices and in a range of sizes.

At the heart of this industry-wide shift was an easing of worker protections to meet growing demand. And as the traditional two fashion show seasons a year morphed into 52, working days got longer, violence against workers and environmental damage increased, and today only 2% of fashion workers earn the US minimum wage. These misdeeds are not new, but with the recent acceleration of neoliberal policies, they are sharpened, legitimized and camouflaged in the total social, political and economic saturation of the system. Thus, the fast fashion industry is built on bodies: whose bodies matter, whose bodies have agency, and whose bodies have power under the colonial and prison structures that create capitalism. Women make up the majority of the fashion industry workforce – women of color, immigrant women, refugee women and working class women dominate fast fashion and are not coincidentally among the most vulnerable under the crosshairs of capitalism.

As political, economic and material needs have long been personal, Blue Tin Production’s commitment to workers’ rights is not limited only to the working day. Work, life and community are inextricably linked. Much like the seminal 1977 Black, feminist, queer and socialist Combahee River Collective Collective statement, in which the band asserts, “We also often struggle to separate race and class from sexual oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced concurrently,” Blue Tin has long understood that the opportunities Material and structural opportunities are what foster sustainable, concrete change for their members, their constituencies and the community as a whole.

63rd house
Plans and more info at bluetinproduction.com/63rdhouse/; those interested in providing financial support for the project can do so at zola.com/registry/63rdhouse.

As Blue Tin members and community constituencies mostly live on the south and west sides, 63rd House as the site for their new headquarters was a natural move from their current studio on the north side of town. In addition, their programming for the public consists of community sewing classes taught by Blue Tin members, a commitment to increase access and availability of resources for counseling services, computer access for members and community members, classes, and other skill types share interest classes and economic freedom tools. Blue Tin’s programming speaks directly to a gendered experience, as many of their community members are survivors of domestic violence and immigrant and refugee women, a direct correlation to the industry’s widespread gender-based violence. fashion. Women of color, immigrant, refugee, and working-class women are those whose work and art are both systematically co-opted and culture-centered, but as noted above and in the Combahee River Collective’s Declaration they are also vulnerable to intersecting class, race and gender oppressions.

With the unknowns of Omicron’s push into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule of 63rd The house could change in the coming months, because all of life may have to change again for reasons of security and collective care. Currently, Blue Tin raises funds through social media platforms and chooses not to respond to any politically or financially motivated donors, foundations or investors. Blue Tin is also not interested in loans at this time, with the exception of 63rd House mortgage.

When I spoke with Hoda Katebi, she highlighted Blue Tin’s commitment to financial independence, as it provides the collective freedom to plan public programs and community support efforts in conversation with youth and community members. community without outside interference. There is a two-phase construction plan for 63rd House that Blue Tin and Studio Gang have structured to unfold over the next few years: technical drawings for the space are nearing completion and the goal is for construction to begin later this year. Based on supply chains and pandemic security measures, the plan is structured to hold inaugural public events and trainings in January 2024.

The building’s interior plans include space for coworking and sewing classes Credit: Courtesy of Studio Gang

When I spoke to Katebi and the representatives of Studio Gang, I understood that the story of 63rd House partnership is the kind that can only happen within the support networks and community organization that Chicago, and the broader Midwest, provides. However, this collaboration is not the only thing that makes 63rd Possible house. What needs to be centered in any conversation about workers’ rights and systemic change is the years of work that Black and Brown community, youth organizations, and community organizers have undertaken across South Chicago. The scope and scale of community-led efforts compared to what 63rd House could be for Chicago Lawn neighborhoods, that’s what makes such a site possible. Change happens together; we are stronger together.

Leaders of the Blue Tin and Chicago Lawn communities have long discussed what 63rd House can and should be, and what it should mean for the Chicago Lawn community. Jasmine Serrano, a 63rd Member of the House Advisory Board, told me about their connection to the neighborhood after being members of the community themselves for over 15 years. Serrano explained how the neighborhood changed during this time and that 63rd House provides a site and landmark where Chicago Lawn’s identity can both grow and shine. Serrano envisions a place where working families can have an accessible space to gather, grow and care for each other. Devonta Boston, another 63rd A member of the Chamber’s advisory board and also founder of TGi Movement, a youth and nonprofit center in Chicago Lawn, spoke about this shared commitment to the community – sites such as 63rd House and TGi are investments for the future and steps towards hope. Boston told me about his own experiences as a member of the Chicago Lawn community throughout his life: how the city has long since divested from Chicago Lawn (along with White Flight) and that the resources offered by neighborhood-led organizations, such as 63rd House and TGi, are of utmost importance because they are rooted in the community. They are both made by and for the people of Chicago Lawn.

63rd The house is a space where children can see and create their own community bonds. Still, that’s not to say these spaces of connection and community don’t exist at Chicago Lawn; at present, they can be found in homes, schools, convenience stores, or the park. Without people, without families, working families, young people of the community, without community, 63.rd The house would simply be an old post office. It’s community connection and care that Blue Tin and 63rd The Chamber’s advisory council is invested in its work, which gives the possibility of 63rd Exciting house.

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