Arionne Nettles Honors Black Chicago With New Book, ‘We Are The Culture’

Born and raised in the Englewood community on the South Side of Chicago, Arionne Nettles shares an unbreakable bond with the city she calls home. A multifaceted individual, she is a journalist, writer, lecturer, professor, poet, and a passionate admirer of all things Chicago.

The Chicago Nettles knows today is a testament to her grandparents’ journey during the Great Migration. Her grandmother, once a cotton picker in the South, wanted a better life outside those treacherous fields. 

Her determination led her to Chicago, where she settled on the South Side. Meanwhile, 

Nettles’ grandfather, a respected war hero, learned the value of respect through his military service and refused to settle for anything less.

Settling on the South Side of Chicago, Nettles’ grandparents later became property owners and established a blues club. Reflecting on her grandmother’s resilience, Nettles asks, “How do you go from picking cotton to owning a blues club?”

Driven by the belief that everyone deserves education and the opportunity to learn, Nettles entered the sphere of education, inspired by the values instilled by her family. This same philosophy motivated her to write her book, “We Are The Culture: Black Chicago’s Influence On Everything.”

Nettles’ book delves into the Great Migration, where over half a million Black Americans migrated from the South to Chicago, bringing with them the vibrant culture of blues music, which would become one of the city’s defining art forms. 

These people, like her grandparents who moved to Chicago, forged their own paths. 

Her aim is to remind some and educate others about the Black perspectives, contributions and sacrifices that have shaped Chicago into what it is today. 

“It’s time Black Chicago receives the accolades, honor and acknowledgment of their contributions to American culture and recognition of their true origins,” she passionately asserts.

While delving into history, Nettles, a former contributing writer for the Chicago Defender, uncovered and extensively explored its archives. 

The Chicago Defender, known for its unbiased storytelling, chronicled the city’s history, offering authentic perspectives on everything from celebrity news to the challenges faced by Black communities. It served as Nettles’ primary source for obtaining the Black perspective on Chicago’s history—a vital aspect often overlooked in mainstream narratives.

For a century, Black Chicago’s influence has transcended the city, shaping modern-day pop culture nationally and internationally. 

Nettles’ book serves as a love letter to Chicago, offering readers a comprehensive exploration of its history, spanning music, politics, literature and more.

Each of the 32 chapters is imbued with wisdom, beginning with quotes that encapsulate the essence of Chicago’s spirit, from Michelle Obama’s reflection on her South Side roots to Oprah Winfrey’s insight on positive energy. These quotes set the tone for an enlightening journey through the city’s cultural heritage.

Nettles’ book not only celebrates Chicago’s rich history but also sheds light on its impact across various industries and through the contributions of notable figures like Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West and Michelle Obama. 

It serves as a testament to Nettles’ love and admiration for her city, inviting readers—whether newcomers or longtime residents—to discover the captivating story of Chicago’s evolution from its earliest days to the present.

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