by Betsy Wilson
When Hip Circle decided to move from our cozy space off Main Street to our spacious new Howard Street home, I was excited about the possibilities that the extra square feet would create: more classes, additional programming, more people. And, holy cow, did the center turn out great!
Since then, I’ve spent lots more time on Howard Street area and have recognized many other wonderful results of our move. Not only our particular real estate, but also how our new neighborhood brings new vibrancy, new challenges, and new excitement.
For me, the Main Street area is comfortable and familiar. I recognize many faces from school drop off, the grocery store, and walking the dog. And even those people whom I didn’t know are familiar because most of us are Evanstonians.
Howard Street is different. It feels more urban, and it carries a sense of constant change and high excitement. The fabulousness of I’m Soul Hungry, Good to Go, and Ward 8 are now familiar favorites. The Theo Ubique theater just opened next door. There are people and traffic and stuff to do at all hours. Things are happening on Howard.
But to stop for a second and be honest, Howard was a bit of a challenge for me. I was raised swimming in the same waters of racial preconceptions that envelop most Americans. And, like those of us who are white, growing up I got inaccurate and problematic messages that the more people of color in a neighborhood there were, the less safe the neighborhood was. And, unfortunately, I bought it.
I now know this is bullshit, the research shows it over and over. I am just as safe on Howard Street as I am on my own block in Northeast Evanston.
So, for all the things that Hip Circle offers, I am also grateful for this opportunity to continue to challenge my biases and work through my discomfort. Moving from what is familiar and comfortable on Main Street allows me the opportunity to grow and expand what is familiar and comfortable. I am just beginning to understand the personal ripple effects of this change.
Of course, the great opportunities that our new community brings to me is only one benefit. What’s most wonderful about our move, and our new neighborhood in a location that is more easily accessible to folks from more neighborhoods, is that it allows Hip Circle Empowerment Center to move further toward the fulfillment of our mission: to empower ALL women. On Howard Street, Hip Circle Empowerment Center is better able to serve women of different incomes, races, assigned genders, and backgrounds. Hip Circle’s commitment to continue on that path is why I am committed to Hip Circle.
Betsy is a mom of two children and a seemingly infinite number of pets and foster cats, the owner of the Sentencing Advocacy Group of Evanston, a yogini, downhill skier, and a mediocre but enthusiastic knitter, and the president of HCEC’s Board.