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Photographer creates book, short film on South Shore Drill Team: “For the Crib”


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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — A picture’s worth a thousand words, so one local photographer decided to make a whole film.

Lawrence Agyei spent a whole summer with the South Shore Drill Team to tell their post-COVID comeback story.

“I used to see them perform every summer on TV,” Agyei said.

The South Shore Drill Team has been the fan-favorite of the Bud Billiken back-to-school parade on the South Side for decades.

“If you’ve been to the Bud Billiken Parade, you know the response that they get from the people,” Agyei said. “They’re superstars.”

After photographing the drill team for a commissioned project in 2018, Agyei became passionate about their story.

“I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I need to like, go back to them and just, like, get to know them, build some kind of relationship with them,'” Agyei said. “At the time, I wasn’t thinking about a book or even a film. I just wanted to just be around them.”

Then the pandemic hit, and the team had their first-ever summer of no performances.

“But then the year after, 2021, beginning of the year, they announced that the drill team will be back performing at the Bud Billiken parade,” Agyei said.

As the team prepped for the 2021 parade, Agyei said he basically spent that entire summer documenting their preparations for the Bud Billiken Parade.

“In the beginning, they were like, ‘Okay, who is this guy with this camera?’ because, you know, at times they will have photographers that will come around just to, like, take photos for like a few hours, and they would never come back,” Agyei said.

But Agyei was there every day.

“The more I came around, the more they got comfortable with me, the more they wanted to get their photos taken, and after a while I would say l became part of the family,” he said.

Just as important as taking the pictures, was giving them back for the team to see.

“Photographers would come all the time, but they would never see the pictures. Nobody would come back and show them the actual print of the photos. They would just never see them,” he said.

He didn’t just print them.

“I showed them the book, and I was like, ‘Hey, this is the book. This is you guys. This is not for me.’ There’s never been a book done about the drill team, which is kind of like crazy, you know, because they’ve been performing in Chicago for a very long time,” Agyei said.

Agyei’s efforts resulted in the first photobook and short film ever created around the drill team, under the shared title “For the Crib.”

“After that, my job was done. I was like, ‘Yo, this is for y’all. This is the book that I made. And then the film is coming in as well: representing you guys, representing Chicago, representing the parade, and the South Side,'” Agyei said.

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