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TV shows give Englewood one-sided rap

Updated: January 19, 2012 10:49AM



TV writers have latched onto Englewood, and not in a good way.

First time I noticed was on “Boss,” which is centered around fictional Chicago mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer). In an early scene, a young man, Darius, brings his ailing uncle to a clinic run by Kane’s estranged daughter, Emma. She seeks an address. “Englewood,” is all that’s said, Emma flashes a knowing look and that’s that.

What? Englewood is so troubled it has no street addresses?

Later, Emma gets involved with Darius, who is intriguing, but a drug dealer (a plus — she’s a user). Last I saw she was running down an alley in a heap of trouble. The inference: see what happens to a young white woman who ventures into Englewood.

Then Englewood co-starred on “The Good Wife.” Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) teen daughter, Grace, is missing. Friends saw her getting into a strange man’s car. Her cell phone GPS is examined, showing it has stopped in — take a guess— Englewood. Dramatic silence ensues, giving viewers time to realize danger’s brewing.

I will give these writers half a point because when Grace is found, she’s in a church being baptized. But I suspect as the season progresses I’m going to take it away. I’ve watched enough TV to bet this stranger will draw Grace into some cultlike situation and Englewood again will be cast in a bad light.

Yes, Englewood can be rough, but mainly for its predominantly African-American residents.

I’m irked these writers are sending out the message that nothing good happens in Englewood. That’s why I wanted to meet Dionte Shears, 17. He’s a college-bound senior at the Englewood campus of Urban Prep Academy, an all-male charter high school that’s a sea of positivity, from what I witnessed and heard. Last weekend Shears and fellow teammates on E! Innovators took part in the Illinois Robotics Challenge. (The Tech Challenge is one of four youth robotics programs run by the Manchester, N.H.-based FIRST, which works to increase interest in science and math in grades K-12.)

This was the first year out for E! Innovators, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D.-Ill.), who was on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology to cheer them on. That the Englewood teens made it to last weekend’s competition was an accomplishment in itself, although they were disqualified before advancing to the next phase in St. Louis.

Shears, a quiet yet articulate young man, said he’s “always loved math,” so the excitement of preparing and participating in the robotics challenge (which can lead to scholarships) was an exciting extension of his interests. He and the others on E! Innovators (the program is not part of the school) meet twice a week after school and on Saturdays.

Shears knows there’s negative in Englewood. That’s why he surrounds himself with the positive, his school being a large part of it.

The bad has overshadowed the good in Englewood. But good is out there. Shears and E! Innovators is proof of that.



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