The Fight To Save Brown Memorial Park: Is Race a Factor

The Fight To Save Brown Memorial Park: Is Race a Factor

sidney brown

Last week I wrote a post on saving Brown Park, here is my post:

Last year I wrote a blog post about the parks in the 6th ward and one was Brown Memorial Park. Brown Memorial Park was established as the last parcel of a large lot of land formerly owned by the Nation of Islam. The land was foreclosed and sold in parcels.

The Chicago Park District purchased nearly 7 acres of a 14 acre for the playground in 1967. When park development began the following year, the site was picketed by angry residents, who had expected a park double the size. Though the park district was unable to acquire the additional land, improvements went forward. In 1990, the park district named the site for Sidney Brown (1951-1983), the first African-American firefighter to die in the line of duty in Chicago. Brown, who began his career as a firefighter in 1978, served with Engine Company 75 on the city's south side. As a "hydrant man" who connected hoses to fire hydrants, he was often the last firefighter to enter an engulfed building. Brown died on August 9, 1983, when he rushed into a burning house, hoping to save three children believed to be trapped there.

Brown Memorial Park(636 E. 86th St) has been in a state of disrepair, the basketball courts were removed, the tennis courts are beat and the only major improvement the Chicago Park District has planned is to build a playlot that is fully funded at this point. The playlot is woefully insufficient as the park has no fieldhouse and no bathroom facilities.

This week the plot thickens. The developers of the Chatham Market mall, Crown Commercial Properties stated that they are going to pursue a land swap with the Chicago Park District for a portion of Brown Memorial Park. The developer, Crown Commercial Properties states that they are getting limited interest in the land that once was the home of the Chatham Pancake House. In an article by the Examiner the developer states he is doing all this for the community but this conversation is not new and goes back to several years when the developer Mr. Tadros built the Chatham Market. He asked for park land then and the community said no then and a verbal battle developed that caused ill feelings. The ill feelings continue today as the community came together at the Brown Memorial Park Advisory Council meeting and reiterated their feeling "not one blade of grass" for development. The developer angered the community by speaking to the media and not addressing the community at large. The community has and continues to push the Chicago Park District to first acknowledge the park and make major improvements. The Chatham Business Association supports the developer but they do not represent the community or many businesses in the community.

The Chicago Park District and the Chicago Firefighters Union were contacted but neither responded to request for comment. Roderick Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th ward stated he is discussing the future of the park with the Chicago Park District. The advocacy group Friends of the Park has not commented, historically they have been opposed to the sale of park land for commercial development.

The one issue that puzzles me is why the Chicago Firefighters Union and other affiliates never stepped up and challenged the Chicago Park District and the community about the neglect of the park. The question that lies in my mind is if Firefighter Sidney Brown had been white would we even have this conversation?


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  • Why, of course it is race. Everything is racist. White blue-eyed devils plotting everywhere and everything. Get real. It's about color all-right -- green, the color of money.

    If the memory of firefighter Brown mattered to the community that much, they would have done some care taking of the park themselves. Or...maybe it is about apathy?

    Or maybe the community did not because THEY are racists? Makes about as much sense.

    Another tiring race post.

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    Um, I have a question Richard.... How many parks in Lakeview, Lincoln Park or even Andersonville are taken care of by "the community"? I live in Rogers Park and I can tell you, I've never seen a citizen mowing a lawn or trimming a tree over at Touhy park. So, am I correct in understanding that the Chatham community should take care of this city park, when others don't? And if so... THEN WHY? Now I completely agree that ALL CITIZENS of this city, and this nation even, have a moral responsibility to care for our communities - I think we can all agree on that. However, I question why the Chatham community members should be HELD RESPONSIBLE for such care of a public park, when it is clear that members of other communities are not? Now I would also question why the Alderman of the 6th ward has not used any of his/her authority to provide better care for the facility as well.

  • Jai,
    It's always racial when it's anything black or white in the City of Chicago. How long have you lived here? I am just sick and tired of black people pulling the card. The only reason why they continue to do so is because that's all they have! No accountability, it's because I'm black. No one steps up like an adult and holds themselves responsible. The blogger in question is no doubt a closet racist. You could not get any more blatant than this article. The family doesn't care since they never made an issue regarding the park. So, once again it's the white man's fault. Has the family reached out to the union? I am not sure if you have looked around but this city is falling apart except for select areas. Most black folks I have spoken to have more interest in the car they drive as opposed to the house they live in! The common theme amongst most is "I can't pimp my house but I can pimp my car." That is why neighborhoods in the black community continue to fail!! The Marquette Park neighborhood has been destroyed by the African American Community in as little as 15 years!

  • Why should the Firefighters union have to take care of it? Why don't these people go to the AAFPL(African American Firefighter & Paramedic League)? And by the way to the earlier poster, Brown is probably the ONLY firefighter to have a parked named after him. I was there on August 8, 1983 and knew Sidney quite well. I do agree that it is a shame that the park has fallen into disaray but why is it "racist" and why is it the FF Union who is at fault?

    Probably so people would read the story because the race card was played in the title.

    By the way I live in an area where the comunity does help take of public ways. I know in my neighborhood we fix up the local metra station every spring. We don't wait for them. I have also mowed the lawn there if the grass gets too high after a lot of rain when they people that should cut it get behind schedule due to the weather.

    Maybe YOU should gather people together to help get people to volunteer to help make it look better.

  • In reply to chicagoduc:

    For disclosure purposes the AAFPL was contacted as well and they did not espond to my request for a comment.

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