In 2012, I interviewed for my first teaching job at Saucedo Elementary on Chicago’s South Lawndale neighborhood. Around the corner from the school is the Cook County Department of Corrections.
I couldn’t help but think about the message that this would send to the kids in the neighborhood: this is where you will go someday. The impact on the psyche of a child can’t be overstated.
As a public school teacher, I’ve become keenly aware of how messages are simultaneously explicitly and implicitly sent to black and brown kids in Chicago. The jail that housed R. Kelly was nearly adjacent to this school.
I didn’t know it at the time, but members of a punk band that I loved as a teenager attended Saucedo. That band was called Non Fiktion Nois.
“Back then the only thing we would think is, ‘Don’t get caught,'" explained their singer, Johnny Delgado.
“We knew we could possibly end up in jail and some of us did spend a few hours locked up, but what happens is that you lose fear of it. We dealt with being harassed, racism, and prejudice, but to be honest that prison right by the school didn’t make us budge. Or maybe it was just my mentality.
Johnny continued: "I think you become numb to that huge building being there. You get used to seeing it all the time, so it’s survival of the fittest.”
Johnny’s brother and their drummer, Haego, aka Junior, expressed similar sentiments about the jail and the neighborhood, “The prison was there and still is to ‘til this day. My dad was in there and we just knew he didn’t want to be back in there.
"Going to school, it was definitely on our route. I’m still trying to avoid prison myself. Growing up in the area I just knew I had to be strong. Our families did have band involvement. We chose to play music. And paint.”
LISTEN TO NON FIKTION NOIS' CONTAMINACIÓN MUNDIAL! EP ON YOUTUBE
Johnny also discussed painting. “Graffiti actually came before punk. Some have dope skills in their letters and color combos. Others like the adrenaline rush you get when you’re taking a risk putting up your name or repping your crew. The respect you get and the sense of belonging.
"Some of our friends and family were into the graffiti scene and others in the gang scene. We chose to paint. Although gangs and graffiti crews have a lot of similarities, the violent edge and turf war part of it was a difference. We were punk graff writers.
"Our music was an expression of how we felt. Though we had fun, without that environment was violence, drugs, being looked down upon, and crime. None of it was forced upon us. It was just something that surrounded us and something we chose.”
Their path to punk wasn’t typical, according to Johnny. “We got into skating and high school actually started playing 'emo,' believe it or not. Junior was always drumming, but I remember Tim (bassist) and Luis, aka Hershey (guitarist), actually ended up getting their guitars and amps for Christmas. Adam ended up stepping up as our guitarist after Luis.
"I remember he also learned quick so he could fill in that spot. We practiced hard and our taste became ever harder as well. We began playing at a coffee shop called The Lighthouse that’s no longer there near Ford City Mall. It wasn’t until we met Benny Hernandez, that things took a turn and we began playing backyard shows and stuff.
"I do believe that because of our age, we did receive a bit of pushback until they let us play. Fun times playing with Los Jodidos, Eske, I-Attack, Tras de Nada, Reaccion, Sin Orden.”
This period described was the first time I saw them, 2002. I thought they were good, but it was when I heard the recording that I became a superfan. Some people compared it to Raw Power, but to me the best reference point was Antidote: fast, pissed vocals, and riffs that were catchy as hell.
There wasn’t any other band in Chicago like them, let alone that were this good and still in high school.
For me, it took about two years of going to terrible ska and street punk shows to find real DIY hardcore punk. Some of the kids got more into the fashion punk aspect, aspiring to play with terrible Warped Tour bands. They also weren’t interested in giving the South Side scene a chance at all.
Juxtapositionally, there was the first Hardcore in the Hood show in Louie from Eske’s backyard on the Southwest Side. Before I had been hearing white streetpunk bands yell about police brutality and “oppression."
Here were kids who had actually experienced police brutality and systemic racism. The contrast could not have been greater to the cheesy street punk garbage.
According to locals, there was a turf war between rival gangs a few blocks away at this show. We heard gunshots throughout the distortion and lots of police sirens. Cops drove by and saw the clearly illegal gig but had bigger problems to worry about.
Before Non Fiktion Nois played, Junior came out to me and several friends, and told me about leaving his extremely religious home. Again, this was real shit, not some boring white kids yelling about things they were clueless about.
Non Fiktion Nois went on at midnight. It was pure chaos. It had been raining on and off throughout the night. Kids went apeshit, and you could still hear the police sirens driving by. I remember thinking, “This is the punkest thing ever, and no one outside Chicago knows about it.”
I remember feeling kind of bitter that we didn’t have the “hype” of other cities. But in the end it didn’t matter. Non Fiktion Nois was our band.
This is very evident in the footage of their last show. You can see the enthusiasm of the punks there, including a shaved head 18 year old version of me. I was crushed when their set ended.
“Playing shows was the best.” Junior emphasized. “Sonya def gave us invites to play shows. Seeing our friends in the crowd. I still get to see them at cool, good shows ‘till this day.”
“Best memories were practicing in my dad’s garage,'' expressed Johnny. “We spent a lot of time in there making a lot of noise... I loved being in those circle pits. My broken nose is a souvenir. Junior cracking the drum pedal in half during one of our sets.
"The best part is knowing that I wasn’t in a band with strangers. We were a family, brothers, playing music that would make people want to fight for something.”
Non Fiktion Nois still makes me want to fight for something.
Personally, I saw becoming a public school teacher as my way to do that. And no, I didn’t get the job at Saucedo. But I can’t help but hope that there are some awkward kids there who don’t fit in and find the punk scene as a solace. And I hope they find Non Fiktion Nois.
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