It is no accident that Chicago is now an international symbol of urban violence. Black Chicago has suffered 20 years of neglect, failing schools, economic disinvestment and disconnect from power and decision-making in city government.
Blacks constitute the highest potential voting block, but the political cunning of Daley strategists has systematically handpicked African-American political leaders and kept black business leaders in check for fear of losing access to the meager city contracts allotted to minority businesses. The black community’s natural process of leadership development has been retarded and intentionally squashed by outside interests. The crises in violence and values and the despair in the black community are a direct result of the political and economic exploitation of the black community by the Daley power machine.
As Black Chicago has suffered from undemocratic control, the entire city has ultimately suffered because Daley’s absolute power has corrupted civic life absolutely. Because Chicago is one city, the injustices to the black community have brought grief to the entire city. The loss of the 2016 Olympics, in light of the city’s soiled international image, was really all our loss, but it was also Daley’s just desserts. Make no mistake about it, because of the anger in every community over the corruption and the sold city assets, Daley would have lost even if he had run and won. He had run out of ideas and tricks to cover his tracks. It will be a new day in Chicago.
If all of Chicago has suffered, we on the West Side have been misused in the worst way. Our schools are failing, our streets are dangerous, our houses are devalued, our business community is struggling, our leaders are appointed from city hall, and our youth are in despair. We need a radical political and economic reorientation. We need to take full advantage of upcoming opportunity to turn the corner and offer hope to our people.
Austin, with 118,000 residents, does not have a large, full-service, high-quality high school. We have 14,000 high school students and 7,000 high school seats. There is not a major African-American business shopping district in Austin, Chicago’s largest single community.
Austinites shop in Oak Park, but there are no businesses in Austin that lure Oak Parkers. We have great potential, but with no vision, the people are perishing.
The fact is, we must offer our best and brightest to serve in the new city council, post-Mayor Daley. In 2011, no matter who the new mayor is, that person will not have the absolute power the current mayor has enjoyed. That is a good thing. A bad thing for us will be if we elect an old-style appointee whom Daley had determined useful for his interests before he made his decision not to run. If we send to the new council an old political hack looking for a new master, we will be cut out of any real opportunity to help create a new vision for our community and our city.
We need independent, creative, visionary leadership so we can take our rightful place in the new Chicago. With faith and courage, we can take the lemons we have been left by an outgoing Daley and make lemonade and a brighter future for our children and ourselves.
Come February 2011, it will be time for the people to speak. It is high time, finally, we shape our own future.
Rev. Marshall Hatch is senior pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and chairman of the LEADERS Network.