I’ve heard for weeks about the upcoming visit of Rev. Al Sharpton & Martin Luther King III and their temporary stay on the west side of Chicago to highlight the violence here. In fact neither brotha plans to live here full time but is opting to commute here and only be here a few days a week.
Now this extended visit/temporary residence/commuter home, is to follow what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did here in 1966 to highlight the racial housing issues here and conditions in the hood when he moved his family to a west side apartment.
I’ve been writing for over a year about the violence in my old south side neighborhood of West Pullman and there’s no need to spot light it, it makes the national news regularly.
I guess my biggest concern about this is will these men actually make a difference or just be media hounds? Already here in town we have Father Michael Pfleger who actually does both, he works in the community and has made a difference on west 79th Street near his parish of St. Sabina but he also seeks the limelight too.
We also have Pastor Corey Brooks who has had his media stunts, grand plans and media controversies such as donating money to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
And trust me I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just wondering what happens then the cameras stop rolling and Al Sharpton & Martin Luther King III leave town.
I’m in West Pullman personally a couple times a month, I know what’s going on in these communities (or not for that matter), and the biggest thing any of Chicago’s problematic neighborhoods needs is clean up and investment. Once that happens, then educational opportunities can arise, then good jobs will be available, then housing will improve and violence should go down.
The biggest boost for West Pullman was the new Salvation Army Kroc Center that opened recently; it’s a oasis in the hood on 119th & Loomis. That’s what needed in the hood, less talk and more action.
The media spotlight only shows when murders and negative things happen, I’m sure plenty of churches work hard in the hood, we just don’t hear about them.
What Al Sharpton & Martin Luther King III need to do is go block by block and help clean up the west side (some of which is still wrecked from the riots when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968), by cleaning up vacant lots, securing abandoned houses with board up and locks and truly having safe passage for kids to go to and from school.
They also need to meet with Mayor Emmanuel about the public schools issues and making sure there are good educational opportunities for the children in those areas, see about reopening closed schools (and not just as charter schools), and that the libraries in those areas are up to par.
They also need to meet with whatever is left of the Chicago Housing Authority and get good low income housing available (without incredibly long waiting lists or suspect lotteries), and make sure safe parks are available too.
And the visit would not be complete without meeting with Police Chief Gerry McCarthy and work out a real strategy for policing the areas that need it most. Not just stating how bad it is, but actually doing something about it.
Lastly they need to get development going for retail, charity and community centers and not just pie in the sky plans (but real urban planning to make Daniel Burnham proud), and get local businesses involved, have discussions with philanthropists about serious financial investments in the hood. I’m not just talking about a Wal Mart here or there. But check the model of the Lou Malnatis pizza restaurant in Lawndale and see how that was done.
We as Chicagoans can’t keep letting our city be the next Detroit nor just be place where we are seen as everything is wrong with an a large urban city.
And we definitely can’t let outsiders come in and use our city as a "before picture" for urban decay, if you come here work with us to make things better for everyone. We don’t need any “seagull activists”, who will come make a lot of noise, crap over everything and leave.
We have to take the stance in this town that I was taught when I was young, which is to leave things better than you found it.
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