Welcome to the South Side.

A place where steppers and house-music heads can co-exist at the same lounge, a place where Soul Vegetarian and Lem’s BBQ can share the same block, the place where Rev. Johnnie Colemon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson built separate-but-equal congregations, followings and power.

A place where the largest Irish and African-American parades in America happened annually. Where Frank Lloyd Wright built a house and where Robert Taylor had homes named after him. Where Iceberg Slim was raised and Jesse Owens was laid to rest. Where both Richard J. Daley and Harold Washington made their home. Neither ever leaving.

A place where police officers will tell you that the 2nd District is probably the worst in the city yet refuse to move from the South Side neighborhoods they live in because it’s “perfect.”

It’s where one block away from one another the different worlds of Reggies rock and The Shrine’s soul music don’t collide as much as they bow in respect to one another, proving culturally, via music, that the South Side has no boundaries. It’s where Ryan McCaskey’s Acadia can be found. And where Harold Pierce’s Harold’s Chicken originated.

The South Side is where the true soul of this city breathes. The neighborhoods and the families and people and the family businesses and the churches and schools and parks and liquor stores and corners and alleys and currency exchanges that make up these neighborhoods are the arteries and veins where the blood of Chicago flows.

Where the best, most humane, giving, honorable, funny and caring people you will ever meet in your life come from and live in Roseland and in Englewood. But you’ll never know it because the reputation that precedes these neighborhoods is a small but acutely accurate representation of how we live and what we are forced to live with.