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Amanda Williams

The cold returned to Chicago on Monday, but the weekend was hot enough for many Chicagoans to get outside for a spell, including 100,000 of the South Side’s newest residents. 

The bunch have had their heads in the dirt since last October, when they were buried there. 

But they’ve since come out. They all stand a little less than a foot off the ground and, dressed in a uniform red, they share a common purpose — to redefine the meaning of redlining on the South Side.

They’re tulips that were planted on vacant lots at the intersection of 53rd Street and Prairie Avenue by local residents and volunteers as part of a public art project by Chicago artist Amanda Williams.

Titled “Redefining Redlining,” the work aims to spark conversation around the disempowerment of Black neighborhoods that resulted from banks refusing to lend to residents.

The $47,000 worth of tulips mainly come from the Netherlands, organizers said.

They were given permission to use the land by its owner, who didn’t want to be named.

“We’re planting the tulips in the shape of houses that should exist,” Williams told the Sun-Times before planting the bulbs last year.

By evoking the buildings that once stood on the empty lots, the work is intended to spark conversation.

“Imagine the block if all this still existed,” said Williams, who was among three Chicagoans named MacArthur fellows last year. “Imagine the families that would have lived here.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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