North Shore Channel

Character of the North Shore Channel

The North Shore Channel personifies the white person who doesn’t understand the concept of privilege. They are someone who doesn’t see the systems at play that allow them to have a clean river to use for recreation and wellbeing, while the people living on that very same river 15 miles south don’t get the same chance. They represent the “liberal racist” archetype, those who might advocate for Black Lives Matter, but would cause a stir if a Black person moved into their neighborhood. They are the type of “ally” who, when confronted with problematic behavior, will make it about themselves instead of listening to the harm that was caused, being humble and taking responsibility.

  • North Shore Foster
    Construction equipment along the river’s pedestrian trail near Foster Avenue. August 2020. Photo by Becky Lyons
About the actor

Sarah Rachel Schol is an actor and voice artist. As someone who loves cities –– Philadelphia raised, Chicago based –– this project was an inspiring dive into the history of the Chicago River and its channels, as well as an exploration of the ways class and privilege have affected its development. She is thrilled to have worked with Anish and Tristen, and hope that this project inspires all those in her city to think critically about its waterways, as well as the citizens they serve.

To see more of Sarah, visit

Transcript of recording

Hey guys it’s me, the North Shore Channel here. You can call me channel but pronounced like Chanel. I was expensive! [laugh] All jokes aside, I’m a beautiful addition to the Chicago River and I help manage waste water from the northern burbs. So I put up with a lot of crap [laugh]! Even though I manage waste water down south to the, uh, city I think. I don’t really know or care where I bring it as long as it’s out of here. I, obviously, don’t brag about moving crap along like the Sanitary and Ship canal. That guy takes way too much pride in his work to say the least. Which I can get behind a little bit because I also take pride in what I do too.  

So, enough about that crap [laugh]. My puns just keep getting better. I want to tell you all about my gorgeous riverfront trails. I think Legion Park in Lincoln Square is by far the best place to experience what I have to offer. My trails are open for bikers and joggers to have pleasant jaunts through my gorgeous natural scenery of woods, wildflowers, and willows. I also have kayakers who get along swimmingly with my waterway. I love how much people enjoy my company. It’s so pleasant to see the neighborhood out enjoying the ambiance I provide, but one thing bothers me to no end. I mean it’s just so disappointing to see when riff raff come to my trails from outside the neighborhood! Like I understand not all the branches have manicured riverfront amenities, and if they do they’re just not as nice as mine. *Those People* come here to barbecue, stinking up the place with their choices in meat and always playing some loud, vulgar music. They act like they don’t have a backyard to do these things in. They drive up here to act all wild instead. This can be a detriment to the development of the land I run alongside, and lead to dropping property values. The community who loves me deserves to have high property values. Though I don’t want to be exclusionary, some things should be preserved and upheld.

Please don’t take what I’m saying out of context. I just want what’s best for my community. You can’t blame me for desiring something so reasonable. Honestly, it’s their own fault that none of the other branches have any of these lovely river attractions amenities. I’ve been here since 1910 and I have worked hard to look this good. The North is starting to turn around and lose all those industrial corridors but sheesh I assume the South Branch has so many they might even enjoy them. They are constantly protesting against the treatment of the branches and their industrial corridors. They never stop to think if their protesting affects us channelized canals. I understand they’re going through a lot. I wish I could help, but I really couldn’t if I tried. I just wish they would stop and just settle down in their community. I don’t know how to help them! Oh well, I can only do what’s best for my community by providing all this lovely scenery.


Written by Tristen Ortiz
Produced by Anish Tailor
Performed by Sarah Rachel Schol 
Story by Tristen Ortiz and Anish Tailor