“We have racism in America. We have racism in Chicago. So it stands to reason we would have some racism within our agency. My goal is to root that out.”–Rahm Emmanuel, reacting to his Police Accountability Task Force Report
he cover of Brother Cornell West’s groundbreaking, national bestselling 1994 book contains a photo of what appears to be an out-of-focus glimpse of a housing project in the distance. Discriminatory housing practices are indeed a huge part of Chicago’s storied racial history and as Endeleo endeavors to revitalize the 95th Street Corridor, a bit of research puts our work in context.
The history behind Lowden Homes, the Chicago Housing Authority public housing development just next door to Trinity UCC was the backdrop for an extremely contentious undertaking with regards to site selection.
Built in the 1950s, the Chicago Tribune reported how white alderman and the city council vehemently opposed construction of housing for a predominantly black population in their neighborhoods and instead, amidst controversy approved an 11-acre site in an existing African-American Princeton Park neighborhood at the corner of 95th Street at Wentworth.
To this day, the city remains highly polarized and segregated and the Washington Heights community is emblematic of the powerlessness and immorality Dr. West talks about in his book. Case in point: Crumbling public library, food desert, vacant residential lots, deteriorating housing, blighted commercial corridors, economic disinvestment, low achieving schools, poor health, high mortality rates and violence. From policing to planning, racial undertones persist but we must be diligent in this decades-old reality.
Restoration of the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library is just one example and illustrative of the power of people to change things. All of it should matter.