"You Didn't See Nothin," a seven-part series narrated by reporter Yohance Lacour, revisits the near-fatal beating of Lenard Clark in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood in 1997. Clark was a Black 13-year-old who was beaten into a coma by a group of teenagers who later bragged about how they had kept their neighborhood white. The case made national news headlines, along with public protests, sermons, and celebrity well-wishes—and then seemed to disappear.
The Invisible Institute, a Hyde Park-based journalism production company, wanted to know why. “You Didn’t See Nothin,” which was released this spring after two years of production, unravels the tale of crime, reconciliation, and the rippling effects of violence that connect the story to the present day.
Lacour had covered the case for the community newspaper South Street Journal in the late 1990s and explores the context of the attack and reveals for the first time how the family of one of the assailants, 19-year old Frankie Caruso, shaped the story behind the scenes.
"You Didn't See Nothin" follows the Invisible Institute's 2020 podcast series "Somebody," which was downloaded more than 1.7 million times and was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Andrew Fan is the Invisible Institute’s interim executive director and former chief operating officer. Fan won a 2021 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Investigative Reporting as part of a City Bureau-WBEZ investigation into bank lending practices in Chicago.
Why was "You Didn't See Nothin" specifically the project the Invisible Institute wanted to spend two years to tell the world?
AF: This kind of collaborative storytelling, where the narrator is the individual directly involved, produces rich and complex narratives and expands the possibilities of public conversation. The vulnerability and honesty involved in complex explorations of race, reconciliation, and systems of oppression, is exactly what our public discourse lacks. Yohance’s writing, storytelling, and life experience, the time and care we took in producing the work conceptually and interpersonally, along with the reporting and storytelling skills of our audio team, allowed us to tell a complicated and nuanced story about the way power works in Chicago, and to lift up the Lenard Clark incident to tap into conversations around racial reconciliation, healing, and justice nationally and locally.
Yohance also said this about the podcast:
“The Lenard Clark case in Chicago may feel like an old story, but investigating it for this podcast unraveled so many fresh ones. I was three years out of prison when I started working on this project and didn’t even know what a podcast was. Three years later, it was complete. And while I learned so much about the ins and outs of producing a podcast, the most valuable lessons I learned were about myself, the world, and how I engage it.”
How much of the recording for the series did you end up using the former StoryCorps booth for?
AF: We used the former StoryCorps booth to record all of Yohance’s narration. Getting Yohance’s voice/tone/style right was one of the most crucial elements of the project, and it was so important to have our own dedicated space for Yohance and the producers to experiment with writing styles and improvisation. We're hoping to use the space more in coming months, including to support other people on the South Side who want to dive into audio reporting.
What has been the response so far?
AF: The response to the podcast so far has been really encouraging—and we are appreciative it’s struck a chord, including with people who are not regular podcast listeners. We were initially very surprised by how much comic relief listeners found in Yohance's light-hearted moments. We are grateful for the warm reception of the work. Vulture named it one of 2023’s Best Podcasts.
In addition to getting the podcast out nationally, it was important to us for the podcast to reach the Chicago communities it covered. To this end, we partnered with the South Side Weekly and the Chicago Street Journal to create print inserts with excerpts from the podcast as well as Yohance’s initial reporting. We’re excited for these papers to reach local readers this month. In late April we also hosted a community podcast talk-back event at the Experimental Station. We heard from multiple attendees that this was the first podcast that they listened to!