I recently raised a question on the segregation of the West Side from the South Side of Chicago’s African-American community. On the South Side it has historically been more conscious and unified. I have been a Westsider for 53 years. I remember the destruction that led to the burning down of mostly white businesses on April 4, 1968 the day of the assassination of Dr. Martin L. King Jr.
This sad event led to the destruction of mostly all black-owned Ma-and-Pop businesses even though through the segregation act most blacks stopped patronizing black businesses just to be able to sit or shop at white businesses. Most blacks still tried to flourish. I know that every year the Kwanzaa festival is held on the West Side its population is mostly black South Side’s.
This I know and feel is the fault of Westsiders who have not taken the time to explore the greatness of our heritage. But mostly it is the fault of non-networking organizations, school authorities, businesses and media.
The West Side has the largest African-American wholesale store featuring conscious art effects and memorabilia. African Arts and Objects, 4918 W. Flournoy. This place seems to be the best kept secret on the West Side. You can count the number of African-American bookstores on one hand that don’t get the business they deserve. Just to name a few, Afri-Ware Inc. and African Accents. There were others such as Africa West and African Expression that were forced to move due to non-support.
As for the community, it seems that there is a great reconstruction of the South Side. You see it in its people, housing, and businesses; the new Grand Ballroom, the new theaters, Bronzeville and Hyde Park alike. The arts have begun to flourish even more to educate the people of their heritage and rich talents, homes are being renovated, businesses owned by African Americans are doing good. And politicians and leaders are taking a positive role in the South Side community.
But on the other hand, the West Side of Chicago seems to be sold right from under those who live there. This betrayal is politicians such as aldermen Mitts, Carothers, Smith and Chandler. Every election period, Chandler brings out the old lie that he is bringing a multimillion-dollar studio to the West Side. But he has brought nothing.
If you look from Woods Street to Western Avenue, you would not be able to recognize the housing along Lake Street, a great eyesore where the projects once stood. Now they are replaced with housing with signs on them that rent for $180,000 to $400.000. This we know will not be for the families that once lived there. Prime real estate is all that the West Side has become?”a national draft for gentrification hidden behind the word “relocation.”
The Lawndale area to Garfield and the largest area of the black population in Chicago, the Austin district is being unnoticed by the city and its leaders.
Now most people will ask what “I” have done to change this. Well in the spring of 2002 there were a high percentage of gang murders. And fights plagued the West Side. I and an associate saw a need for unity. We began to plan a festival on the West Side that would do just that. It was called Juneteenth Chicago, NFP. We asked for support of public officials and only two emerged to give support, Cong. Danny K. Davis and Ald. Ed Smith. The event went great; there were no arrests and no incidents. We had Red, Black and Green Day. Vendors from all over Chicago and other cities came out. And the community had a great time.
But… The politicians on the West Side gave no support, leaving me in a $40,000 debt, which left the organization we started to go bankrupt. But it was for a noble cause and that was to bring consciousness to the West Side.
Now you may say the way to remedy this would be to make a geological change and move to the South Side! But it has been said, “If you strip a man of his culture, he is no longer a man.” The West Side is our culture. When we are forced to give up our land, we will become extinct, as did the Native Americans.
But some may say, “There’s a lot of consciousness on the West Side.” That, brother, is just out of touch. If so, then they that say this should themselves reach out and touch somebody!