Chicago Defender: The Stories that Defined Chicago in 2023, Part 2

Black people in our city are doing remarkable things and living extraordinary lives. 

In 2023, Chicago Defender writers profiled real Chicagoans who have distinguished themselves in the arts, athletics, business, politics, media and entertainment. 

We even chronicled real celebrities who pulled up to our city, conducting one-on-one interviews with them or capturing events they hosted.  

As for the Defender, we celebrated a birthday and even appeared as a question on a popular game show. 

The following is Part 2 of the stories that defined our Chicago. You can read Part 1 here

The Black Chicago Stories That Moved Us

Jason Weaver, Son of The Chi: An Exclusive Interview: Arika Linton wrote this feature on the beloved, homegrown actor. We get the full scoop on his Chicago loyalties: White Sox versus Cubs, “Footworking” versus “The Percolator.” Plus, he talks about his work on the acclaimed Showtime series “The Chi.”

Englewood Barbie: A Bold Activist With A Bolder VisionA profile on one of Chicago’s most daring advocates for the unhoused.

Chicago is to stand-up comics what Belle Glade, Florida is to NFL football players: the talent pool is overflowing. We had the opportunity to profile Correy Bell, an emerging star mentored by Mo’Nique. And sis is funny without even trying. Our feature, Correy Bell is Chaos and Comedic Genius, was definitely a highlight!

Shoutout to Herb Howard of The Bigs for this interview with Chicago Bears Quarterback Justin Fields, who, at the time of this interview, was about to embark on the most consequential season of his career.  

We wrote about two Chicago muralists making extraordinary contributions to the street art scene: Joe Nelson’s Ode to the Pullman Porters in Vibrant Mural Masterpiece chronicles the stunning mural that greets drivers entering the historic Pullman community via Cottage Grove. 

Former Northwestern University football player turned award-winning artist Dwight White II has an array of art all across Chicago, including a piece at one of the city’s busiest intersections. In 2023, we got to Meet Dwight White II and His Dazzling Murals.

We also wrote about Chef Dominique Leach, the Chicago-raised culinary artist and barbecue pitmaster who owns Lexington Betty Smokehouse on the Far South Side: Chef Dominique Leach: From Humble Beginnings to Culinary Stardom.

Rarely do we get a chance to shine a light on the city’s Black motorcycle clubs, but Cabryl Breotti did with this fascinating profile on the Born Losers MC: Rollin’ the Dice Since ’74: The Westside’s Very Own Born Losers MC.

Proving that our city gives birth to innovators is the story of Chicago’s Moor’s Brewing Co., the Black-owned beer company making sweet, sudsy waves in the craft beer industry. Inez Woody profiled its founders and how their company came to be in Chicago’s Moor’s Brewing Co. Disrupts Craft Beer Industry, Honors Black Culture.

Chicago might very well be the epicenter for Black literature. We spoke to one of its rising stars, a Southsider who wrote her way to international acclaim: Toya Wolfe: From Robert Taylor Homes to Literary Triumph, a Writer’s Journey.

Chicago’s first Poet Laureate is Black, and he was from the West Side. We loved chopping it up with the creative force known as avery r young in Chicago’s First Poet Laureate Celebrated at Harold Washington Library.

The city’s Black business community is thriving. The good news is that entrepreneurs are getting together and collaborating. Contributing writer Nicole Joseph chronicled one such event with her story, Chicago Black Business Leaders Unite at ‘The BlackPRint.’

We also celebrated Robiar Smith, who is making history as a Black woman with her own pest control company.

Speaking of Black women business owners making history, writer Nicole Joseph published this profile of Maya-Camille Broussard, the author, entrepreneur, pie maker and pastry chef standing on business right here on the South Side.

One of the year’s bittersweet moments was Mr. Frank Harris’s retirement. He will forever be known in Chicago as “The Tailor to The Stars.” We talked to him on one of his last days at his Roosevelt Road shop.

During the holidays, a bevy of “Nutcracker” performances occurred. Christa Carter-Williams interviewed the woman behind the unique rendition of that timeless classic in A. Alyce Claerbaut Talks’ Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker’.

We love stories about Black academic excellence. What Dr. Dorothy Jean Tillman accomplished at 17 is nothing short of remarkable. 

The region is also home to some notable Black hockey players who are making their mark, like Paden Taylor of Evanston Township High School. Writer Isi Frankie Ativie profiled him in Paden Taylor: The Black Evanston H.S. Hockey Player Breaks Barriers.

Columnist Toussaint Werner has a penchant for publishing thought-provoking work. His opinion piece on a Lindblom High School principal, Controversy Surrounds Dismissals of Black CPS Principals, Especially This One, was a talker. 

The tradition and pageantry of the Bud Billiken Parade make it one of the best events to cover. Lee Edwards did so in August with Chicago’s 94th Bud Billiken Parade Celebrates Black Joy and Tradition.

The story of Hip-hop could not be written without Chicago. To celebrate the city’s contribution to the culture, we highlighted the 10 most Influential Chicago Hip-Hop albums ever

The story of Chicago Hip-hop could not be written without Chance the Rapper. Portia King reviewed his groundbreaking “Acid Rap” concert at the UC this summer in Chance The Rapper: ‘Acid Rap 10 Year Anniversary Show’ Lights Up Chicago.

Chicago Hip-hop would also not be complete without Jay iLLA, one of eight DJs across the nation who earned major recognition during the 50th anniversary of Hip-hop. We learn this hero’s origin story in Chicago’s Jay iLLA on Staying True Amid National Spotlight

The Celebs Who Pulled Up to the City

It was the story of the Summer: Beyoncé performing at Soldier Field for the Renaissance World Tour. Equally impressive is what she did “off the field” ahead of her concert. Kharyn Beard chronicled the great work Beyoncé does to empower Black businesses in Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD Foundation Empowers Businesses for Prosperity.

You know a show is good when it continues to sell out theaters eight years after its initial release. Ahead of “Hamilton” returning to Chicago, we had the good fortune of interviewing its creator about the musical’s enduring appeal in Lin-Manuel Miranda Talks’ Hamilton’ as the Musical Returns to Chicago

Remember when Jamie Foxx was spotted in Chicago a few months after a mysterious illness? We do. 

It was a privilege to speak with the great Will Downing about music and the tragic loss of his daughter in Parts 1 and 2 of this exclusive interview. 

Tweet performed in Chicago this year and turned it out. Before she took the stage, Arika Linton chopped it up with the sweet singing Missy Elliott collaborator in Tweet: The ‘Southern Hummingbird’ Lands in Chicago.

Goapele brought us one of the most iconic neo-soul anthems of the 21st century. Ahead of a Chicago concert date, she spoke about creating that anthem in Goapele: From ‘Closer’ to ‘COLOURS,’ The Journey of a Neo-Soul Visionary.

Defender Stories

For the Chicago Defender’s birthday, our publisher shed light on what the future holds in this Q&A, As the Defender Turns 118, Publisher Dyanna Lewis Embraces the Future.

Did you know we were a Jeopardy question? Check out  We Have Proof! The Chicago Defender was Featured on Jeopardy.


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