I have been writing the past few weeks about our demanding that the old Brach Candy site become a Black Entertainment District. My idea was in response to 8th State Representative candidate LaShawn Ford’s idea to make it into a school. I have been encouraged to stay on this topic because I have spoken with so many others in the community who have this same vision.
If we look at who will get employed at a school and who can get employed at a Black Entertainment Complex, I’ll let you make up your own mind. I learned a long time ago that Westsiders are smart folks. So I don’t underestimate you all.
If the Brach site were to become a school, how many of you have a degree in education? How many janitors will the school board hire?”security and school personnel? Does the Chicago Board of Education even hire those types of positions anymore or do they privatize them out so that non-city residents (or illegal aliens) can get those jobs? What kind of employment can our young people get at the school? And when I asked one of the wealthiest businessmen in Austin what kind of business he would open up next to a school, he said a “candy store.” What else, I asked, as I told him it would be both a junior and senior high school? “Bigger Candy Store,” he replied and laughed.
Now let’s look at the Black Entertainment District idea. Let’s say we get the casino, hotel with auditorium, banquet facility, water park, roller skating rink, bowling alley, music clubs and shopping mall. How many of you can become dealers, cashiers, pit bosses, security, janitorial help, food service, office personnel, maids, desk clerks, lifeguards, bartenders, sound people, musicians, recreational leaders, valet parkers, store owners, club owners, restaurant owners and so on? In my estimation, with all the components in place and functioning 24 hours a day, we would be looking at over 3,000 permanent full-time jobs! Not many degrees needed to do that kind of work.
And with that many employees, a day care center on the site could offer affordable child care to both the workers and community. Trust me, the first group of folks to not want us to have such a facility would be The Brickyard, North Riverside Plaza and Ford City.
Now let’s look at our community and the type of people we need to get employed. Somehow I don’t think we have a lot of unemployed teachers sitting around in Austin who need a job. But I bet we have a lot of unemployed folks with high school diplomas and GEDs who need employment and can do some of the jobs listed. I am sure we also have some ex-offenders who could fill some positions depending on what their crime was. I know we have teenagers who need to work. The jobs that a Black Entertainment District would offer are the kind where you get “on the job training.” So folks will learn a skill and make money. What better win-win situation is there?
Let’s also look at who would come to our banquet hall and auditorium? We have tons of churches that have anniversary dinners, and they go to the banquet halls in the southern and western suburbs. How many schools would have their proms and luncheons at a hotel in the area? Why even Rainbow PUSH had to go to a hotel in Rosemont for their convention because as black people we don’t have the facilities to host such a function!
At what point do we look at each other and say “enough is enough?” When do we stand up and demand the same economic engines that changed the South Loop from an abandoned factory- and warehouse-filled wasteland into one of the hottest areas in the city? In a city founded by a black man?”Jean Baptist Point DuSable who established the first business here in the city by having a trading post on the edge of the Chicago River?”we look like fools to have so little going for us ever since! And when a politician stands up and can only talk of economic development that comes from your being taxed to pay for it and from which you won’t reap any economic benefit, then you better take a stand and let them know what’s a bad idea and what’s a great idea.
You also have to let those “loud-mouth opinion columnists” (such as me) know when I am right or as loony as can be and whether the men in the white coats should be coming for me. As a community, we must look at the opportunities we are making available to our young people when they return from college and what we are making available to those who don’t go. We must decide what is right for this community that will help keep us as an economically viable community and what is not in our best interest.
Every Sunday at 9 p.m., I host a conference call to hear your opinions. Call 605/772-3200 (this is long distance so use your cell) and enter this Access code: 806598#. For cell phone users, this is just like a local call just using your weekend minutes. Let me know what you think about Brach’s.