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Matt Harvey Spreads Love To Chicago

Written by on November 19, 2021

As a Chicago native and reporter for The Triibe, Matt Harvey has his finger on the pulse of the city.

With his deep connection to the city, Harvey spoke to us on his hopes for Chicago as it battles gentrification and divisiveness.

Where are you from in Chicago? How has being from Chicago shaped you?

I’ve lived all over the city and I’ve experienced a lot of the city. I started writing for my first Chicago publication, Chicago Reader, in 2018 as an intern. I’ve just been all about writing about Chicago, writing for Chicago—specifically Black Chicago—and telling my story.

I grew up in a 24-story high-rise building called Lakeside and it was a really interesting ecosystem. We had elderly Russian and Polish folks living next door to Vietnamese immigrants, next door to Ethiopian and Somalian folks. It was just a very diverse community.

I went from Lakeside, around so many different people of different cultures and backgrounds, to Whitney Young High School, where it was that same diversity times two. The folks there were from all different backgrounds and there were twice as many people.

While at Whitney Young I started traveling to different parts of the city, because we would play basketball games at different places. I was six foot two or something like that … so I had to play basketball! I loved that. It was probably my first love, before I ever started writing I was a hooper for sure.

What attracts to Chicago? What keeps you here?

I appreciate that Chicago feels so much more closely connected than any other big city I’ve been to. You’re never more than two or three degrees of separation from the next person.

For a city of 3 million (9 million in the entire Chicagoland area) it’s amazing to me that we are able to keep so closely connected. Especially in fields like the arts and journalism. I feel like in Chicago people are serious and for real, but they’re not too serious and not too for real. You know, there’s a Midwestern kindness to it but there’s still the city slickers beat.

What are some challenges you’ve noticed facing Chicago today?

Living out South has been definitely different. I definitely appreciate how much more Black it is. I love that, honestly. It was fun in Uptown because there were so many Black folks and now Uptown is getting really aggressively gentrified. I think being around so many Black people again is refreshing.

The segregation is a bit jarring. The gentrification is tough to see. It’s honestly sad to see. Seeing so many Black people leave the city is scary. I do not appreciate gentrification in any way, shape, or form. And I think that we’re very heavily steering in that direction.

What is something the city could do to address these challenges? How can we move forward?

I really feel one of the things we don’t do enough in our lives is spreading positive energy and spreading love to people. I am in a position as a journalist where I need people to trust me with their story, I need people to trust me, in a way, with their lives. And how those lives will be perceived by other folks.

I think there’s a tremendous amount of care and a tremendous amount of love that has to go into that work. You can’t do that empty. I think one of the most distinct things about my journalism is that I’ve stayed connected with a lot of the subjects I speak to. I try to keep in contact with them. I make sure that after every interview they know that my subjects free to email me or text me anytime.

When you’re asking somebody to trust you and tell you their story, then you have to be as open to them as you can. Because you just had them being extremely open to you.

Do you have any words you live by?

“Spread Love.” I plan on that being the first tattoo I get. A lot of situations become more contentious or more divisive and negative because we just don’t come into situations being intentional about spreading love and spreading positive energy.

And I’m guilty of that still. Even if I call it a mantra, it’s something you have to check yourself on pretty regularly to even kind of do well.

Follow Matt Harvey on Twitter

Interview edited for length and clarity by Luis Mejía Ahrens