On the train-trip from O’Hare Airport into Chicago a young man steps into the train and sit down in front of us. His eyes are covered with shades, he speaks loudly in his phone, holding another, an iphone or perhaps it’s the ipod, in his other hand together with a bottle of apple Snapple drink. As we confused try to figure out where to get off, he overhears or feels, our confusion and turn around to help out. ”So, where are you guys from?”, he asked when our end-station was figured out. ”Sweden”, we reply and he turns a bit more towards us: ”Oh, that is so nice! I hope to be able to travel there one day…”. ”What do you work with?”, I describe that it’s about Art and culture. ”So, you are more driven by passion, than money?” he looks at me, lean back and smiles: ”That’s so amazing!”. And as the train moves to the city he starts talking, telling us his story.

On the fortyfive minute trip a story unfolds of a young boy climbing the fence between USA and Mexico with his family (”Do you know what that does to you, seeing your mother climbing that fence?”). They tried several times, got caught and sent back but finally, when he was the age of 12, managed to get into the States. They moved around a bit, he went to some schools but it didn’t work out. He didn’t know the language and was not treated well, he says. They were illegally in the country and for that reason had no rights, or didn’t dare to pursue their rights. He is still, at the age of around 25, illegally in the US. And the price for this is high, he told us.

”You have no rights. I can’t do anything, but I don’t want to end up where most Mexicans do: doing low-paid jobs at a factory or as cleaning staff with no hopes of ever getting a change. I am not doing that. I have a job, it’s ok, but the personal price I pay is too high, I think. I don’t like it. It’s haaard. I have to go to all these parties, and you drink and there are drugs you have to take…If you don’t, they think you are weak…The drugs I can handle, but the alcohol…mmm…”, he gives a crocked smile, ”It is hard, you know. I really want to get out of this shit, but you have to socialize. You just have to”, he takes a sip of what I now realize is not apple drink, but alcohol hidden in a Snapple bottle. ”Sometimes you just want to cry, but I can’t cry. Never show weakness. Just deal with it. You just don’t talk to anyone. I have never told this to anyone.” and he looks at me through his shades and asks ”What do you think? What should I do?”

On the plane over to Chicago I read a tribune to Barack Obama and the election promises that are now slowly coming true, the magazine proudly presented. Words of Hope. Change. American Dreams come true. The young man on the train had a dream, but no hope and few possibilities for change. The story follows me several days. What could he do to change his situation? He himself saw no ways other than the track he was following. A lot, of course, due to his illegal status.

The other morning we visited the House of Blues and listened to gospel so strongly sung that the rooftop nearly lifted. You could sense the enormous power generated among people in the room, the sense of hope, the strength to change a difficult situation. The power people got from gospel and spirituals played an important role in the change for African Americans in the USA, from slavery to civil rights.

One man without hope. A president urging people to believe in hope. A gospel choir singing their hearts out of hope. How is it related?

Nätverkstan is in Chicago, USA, to be part in the conference ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life”, arranged by Colombia College Chicago and Encatc. More to come about this. Read also this post of the Mexican–American border.


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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

On this blog we would like to explore entrepreneurship from a cultural and social point of view. Or rather put forward entrepreneurial initiatives within these two fields.




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