TONIKA LEWIS JOHNSON

Social Justice Artist

TONIKA LEWIS JOHNSON

NEW PROJECT: Inequity for Sale

On January 29, 2021, Tonika Lewis Johnson was selected as the National Public Housing Museum’s 2021 Artist-as-Instigator. As a part of her residency, she has set her sights on the living history of Greater Englewood homes sold on Land Sale Contracts (LSCs) during the 50s and 60s and how LSCs directly contributed to the wealth gap and community disinvestment we witness today. Her project, titled "Inequity for Sale," will comprise 10-15 life-sized land markers for LSC homes, a website documenting the stories of this period of plunder, and a walking tour via the Vamonde app that connects this history with present-day conditions in Greater Englewood. For more info click the following link: https://www.nphm.org/inequity-for-sale

Here, Tonika Johnson holds up a landmarker mock up designed by architect and urban planner, Paola Aguirre, for the "Inequity for Sale," project; an exploration of homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in Greater Englewood to demonstrate how legalized theft contributed to present inequity in Black communities.
This year she is the 2021 Artist As Instigator at the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM), an artist residency supporting new work that challenges the status quo around housing, race, and inequality.
As a part of her residency, Johnson has set her sights on the living history of Greater Englewood homes sold on Land Sale Contracts during the 50s and 60s.
“My goal with this project is to map the evidence of historic legalized theft in Greater Englewood and engage the public in action-oriented conversations that ultimately bring this unresolved crime to justice,” said Johnson.
Land Sale Contracts, or LSCs, were an unscrupulous practice wherein would-be homebuyers, locked out of traditional mortgages by racist policies, were offered contracts that enforced excessive monthly payments without ever transferring ownership. The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago (2018) reported between 75-95% of homes sold to Black families during this period were sold via LSCs, and more than 100 of these homes were documented in Englewood alone. Amber Hendley, lead researcher on this report, shared the addresses with a curious Lewis Johnson who quickly discovered many of these homes were still standing.

Inequity for Sale is an artistic, critical exploration of this racist practice in Black neighborhoods, and how LSCs directly contributed to the wealth gap and community disinvestment witnessed today. The project will comprise 10-15 life-sized land markers for LSC homes, a website documenting the stories of this period of plunder, and a walking tour via the Vamonde app that connects this history with present-day conditions in Greater Englewood.

On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, Tonika Lewis Johnson hosted a public hearing to launch her latest project Inequity for Sale, an exploration of homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in Greater, Englewood to demonstrate how legalized theft contributed to present inequity in Black communities.

This excerpt from "The Color Tax," episode of a five-part film series called “The Shame of Chicago” by Chicago native and producer, Bruce Orenstein, demonstrates the devastating impact that Land Sale Contracts had on black wealth-building and racial comity in Chicago, creating a wealth gap that continued to widen as white affluence grew. This predatory system of contract home sales arose after World War II that plundered wealth from black families unable to secure the safe mortgages their white counterparts enjoyed because of redlining that made their neighborhoods ineligible for federally insured loans. Highlighting the contrast between the rapid expansion of a white middle class that benefited from federal policies and home equity and black families who stood to lose everything with a single missed payment.
Additional funding is needed to complete the film however you can learn more at http://www.shameofchicago.org/

This is a map of all the homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in Greater Englewood between 1950-1975.

Black families in Chicago lost an estimated $4 billion due to predatory contract buying, according to the findings of Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity 2019 study, which is the first report to put a dollar amount on the discriminatory practice. You can read download the complete report at the following link: https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Plunder-of-Black-Wealth-in-Chicago.pdf

Paola Aguirre, Tonika's long time project partner and architect/designer, measures the landmarker mock up on a recent site visit to the Land Sale Contract homes included in 'Inequity for Sale."

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Folded Map segment on WBEZ