By MARC MONAGHAN
The Organization for Action’s (OFA) Chicago Metro South branch hosted a panel discussion titled “Southside Gentrification: The Pros and Cons,” last Saturday, at the Blackstone Branch Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. During the lively panel discussion, The conversation ranged from the effect of the Red Line extension on Southside gentrification, to rent control, to the role of churches in the political life of the community.
Panelist and 7th Congressional District candidate Anthony Clark introduced himself and said, “I view gentrification as colonization.”
Clark’s statement caused many in the crowd of just under 50 people to nod their heads or murmur sounds of agreement.
“I don’t see any cons [to gentrification], other than the fact that we don’t lead it,” Panelist Ro Davis, of BOP Project 5000, said. “It ain’t [sic] the people who are making all of the noise who are getting access to the assets, it’s the people who are whispering.”
Resident Sharon Louis asked if anyone was coming up with a model for equitable gentrification.
“We define it [gentrification] in terms of this issue of who is moving in and who is moving out,” said Dr. Janet Smith of the University of Illinois Chicago Voorhees Center. “We understand now that transportation is the number one public investment that leads to gentrification.”
Panelist and 25th District Illinois State Representative candidate Adrienne Irmer said, “There are vast disparities in access [to public transportation on the south and south east side].”
Panelist Rosa Esquivel of the Pilsen Alliance said, “People [in Pilsen] had to fight to get access to the Pink Line.”
Davis commented on the role of churches in the political life of the community
“We have a religious system that keeps us so heavenly bound, that we do no earthly good,” said Davis speaking of churches and pastors that create a community that gives its political agency to church leaders and those they anoint. “It’ a conversation we got to have. It’s uncomfortable.”
Davis said, “We don’t understand the power of politics and its relationship to economics. We want to send a clear message. We want our politicians to get behind a strategy that we create. The community has to get engaged, we can’t just sit still anymore.”
Clark said during the gentrification process the existing community members need support.
“I have to be an ally and a supporter,” Clark said. “You can’t go into someone else’s community and take over. We need to get behind the community and the organizations that have already been there and support them.”
The next OFA Chicago Metro South event “Waging War on Food Deserts – Creating Hunger-Free Zones” will take place at the South Shore Branch Library, 2505 E. 73rd St., from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 10.