Lens & Context -
Obamaja of Wicker Park

Obamaja of Wicker Park | © Preston Lewis thomas

Monday afternoon, driving north on Milwaukee Ave through Wicker Park:
“Poetry! Poems! Poetry! Poems!”
As happens so often, I am intrigued. I make a u-turn and add yet another traffic violation to my daily meanderings.

“Are you saying Poetry?” I ask.
“Hey Brother, yeah. I write poems. Sometimes people think I’m saying Porn, though”

This gentleman’s name is Obamaja – nothing to do with the former president.
He tells me the name means “possessed by the King’s spirit”.
We talk for a while.

I learn that he was once a choir boy and that he went to school with the famous, and reportedly vicious Chicago mobster, Anthony Spilotro. “Man, they had white shag carpet in the basement! I’d be afraid to come in, but Tony would say ‘don’t worry about that shit’.”

Obamaja believes that demigods, demons, and angels walk the streets regularly. He believes in space travel as a way to understand The Creator. ‘The Creator’ is how Obamaja refers to God. He says that in the song ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, the chariot is actually a spaceship. Then, he says he can tell that I am an angel just for coming back to talk to him. This catches me off guard.

He is not homeless. He and his brother have an apartment. Obamaja writes his poetry because it makes him happy, and makes him a few bucks. People pay whatever. He tells me that his face is part of a mural at Lake Street and Damen. I plan to visit this a bit later.

I buy a couple of poems: One is about the blue sky. The other is about love. He gives me a hug, then I’m off.

A bit of audio in Obamaja's own words: