By Danielle Pasekoff:
We started our first day in Chicago by boarding the bus, which we had dearly missed during our time in San Francisco.
To begin our day, we met with Esme Grant, the Senior Director of Government Relations at the American Network of Community Options and Resources. After telling the group a personal story regarding disability discrimination, Ms. Grant gave us some information on the history of disability legislation and her job as a lobbyist. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 26 years ago, and has changed American society in innumerable ways. The ADA granted people with both developmental and intellectual disabilities equal access to buildings through ramps and other construction, allowed deinstitutionalization, and provided employment opportunities to a large amount of the disabled population. Though much has been done to give those with disabilities rights, Ms. Grant said, there are still many fights to be fought regarding disabled individuals and making their rights equal. This meeting was very informative for the group, as we learned the importance of allowing people to choose what they want to do with their lives, and not deciding it for them.
Next, we walked to Millennium Park, where we enjoyed some deep dish pizza (This was my first time trying it, and I’m a fan). We then had free time to take photos by “The Bean”, and check out the area surrounding Millennium Park.
Soon after, we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. There, we were able to explore the multitude of exhibits the museum had to offer. From ancient buddhist statues to modern and contemporary pieces, there was so much to do and see in a such short period of time. One work that intrigued me was a room in the museum’s modern wing. The space was adorned in pale yellow wallpaper, which featured illustrations of a white man sleeping peacefully in one image, with a black man being hanged in the next. Additionally, a cream-colored wedding dress was placed in the center of the room, while bags of cat litter lined the area’s inner border. The dress and litter were made to represent the fact that while discrimination against blacks was occurring, many people were bystanders who went about their seemingly “pure” daily lives and acted as if racism was nonexistent. On top of that, the juxtaposition between the white and black men on the wallpaper suggest that the white man felt unaffected while the black man suffered, and represented the civil rights struggle in a way we have not yet seen. Throughout this trip, we have been making constant connections in many ways. The fact that I could link my knowledge of history to my appreciation for art was nothing short of amazing. We also checked out works of Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Pablo Picasso, to name a few.
We then got back on the bus, and headed on our way to enjoy some time on Lake Michigan. Chicago welcomed us with beautiful weather, but didn’t spare us with the traffic! After what seemed like hours, we made it to Lakeview. We relaxed and admired the view of Lake Michigan, as well as the Chicago skyline.
Later on, we ventured to the iO Theater. We laughed the night away as we ate our delicious dinners during the show. Each joke left us laughing harder than the one before. It was really impressive seeing how many famous comedians got their start there, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Stephen Colbert. Some comic relief was an excellently entertaining way to end our first day in Chicago!