Early this morning I heard the official news that the Barack Obama Foundation has selected Chicago’s south side, specifically Hyde Park.
For me growing up (and to this day), as a native south sider, Hyde Park is a special place. It’s the crown jewel of the south side. It’s where you took people from out of town, it’s where you went on dates, and it’s the best lakefront spot. It was “The Spot” not to mention the ever expanding University of Chicago where I was born.
To this day Mellow Yellow on 53rd Street is one of my favorites restaurants (been eating there over 30 years), and I miss the past eating spots, Dixie Kitchen (yes I’ve been to their Evanston and Lansing locations but it’s not the same), its sister bar, Calypso and prior to that Chances R. Not to mention I miss the old Harper Court, I grew up at Toys Etc, later going to Dr. Wax and watching the old guys play chess in the square.
But Hyde Park has evolved, “The Point” is cleaned up, the pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive (LSD), at 57th is improved. And speaking of 57th, have you ever seen the sun rise in the spring as you face east on 57th at LSD? One of the best views in the world.
And now “our president”, who made his name in Hyde Park will leave his legacy there with the Barack Obama Library. Yes its controversial using public land for this and federal funds (it will be part of the National Archives), will be involved along with fundraising from his foundation.
But I’m a child of the south side, this is monumental that “we” get our due. With all the negativity about the south side (my old neighborhood is referred to as the “Wild Hundreds”), and the violence, there will be this sanctuary for “our guy”.
This is the man that made Pullman a national park (and I’m from just west of there in “West Pullman), and putting the south side on the map. We haven’t been this happy since 10 years ago when the White Sox won the World Series (and yes President Barack Obama is a Sox fan), so we take out neighborhood seriously and wear our pride on our sleeve.
I admit I had trepidation about the library and that maybe it was “over hyped” or people expect this museum to create such a financial boom be a catalyst for so much more. But I get it, once I watched the foundation’s video this morning, heard Our Presidents voice about his history about the south side and his story mirrors, so many of our stories.
That the south side “made” us, we grew up here, not just from childhood but that we became “grown folks” here. We met our spouses here, went on dates, walked down the lakefront, drove down LSD, fell in love and became professionals. Right here in what my mother (a lifelong south sider), calls “The Mighty South Side”.
And this morning upon hearing this news about what is about to come, how mighty indeed.
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