In the summer of 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved his family into a slum apartment building on Chicago’s West Side to dramatically highlight the inhumane condition of public housing for black people. Two years later on April 4, Dr. King was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis.
Last Tuesday, on the 38th university of King’s death, church leaders and residents converged on the West Side near the site of King’s former home, to commemorate the anniversary of his death. The Keep the Dream Alive Coalition of churches and community organizations hosted a march and rally last Tuesday that began at 1550 S. Hamlin, where King, his wife Coretta and their four children lived in an apartment in a dilapidated three-flat. The building has since been torn down and is now a vacant lot.
The small group, led by pastors from West and South side churches, marched from Hamlin to Stone Temple Church, 3622 W. Douglas Blvd., for a rally concerning the present battle to preserve services at Advocate Bethany Hospital.
The Keep the Dream Alive Coalition includes the advocacy groups ACORN Housing, Cease Fire, Bethel New Life, and Westside Health Authority.
Speakers at the rally addressed health care issues related to Advocate Health Care’s plan to close additional services at the West Garfield hospital, located at Van Buren and Homan. Advocate will turn Bethany into an acute care facility. Speakers also addressed housing, education and crime issues.
The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which oversees hospital conversions, was scheduled to decide on Advocate’s latest application to close its birthing clinic and detox center at its April 25 meeting in Springfield.
The board last Thursday decided to postpone their ruling until its June 6 meeting, scheduled to take place in Chicago.
Following Advocate’s January announcement of Bethany’s conversion, West Side pastors, including representatives from Austin’s New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church and Greater St. John Bible Church, formed the Clergy Coalition Committee to Keep Bethany Open.
West Side activists, and former and current Bethany patients spoke about the service cuts at a public meeting held by the board on West Side on March 24.
Activists who protested against Advocate’s plan see the board’s decision last week as a partial victory.
“We commend the Illinois House Facility Planning Board on their wise and courageous decision to postpone the April 25 date so that our community can finally be heard,” said Greater St. John Pastor Ira Acree in a statement released last Thursday. “As for us, we will continue to fight the ‘David and Goliath Battle’ to the very end.”