Protestors stage vigil outside Housing commissioner’s meeting with OPC stakeholders

Linda Haywood of STOP leads a group of CBA Coalition protestors in prayer outside the Akarama Foundation Community Center. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Contributing writer

About 30 protestors braved a chilly, drizzling rain as they gathered along the 6200 block of South Ingleside Avenue near the entrance to the Akarama Foundation’s Community Center parking lot Tuesday evening. Some held signs: Obama Yes Displacement No; We Support the CBA; #CBANOW.

The group grew to about 45 and then formed a phalanx that marched into the parking lot. Alex Goldenberg, executive director of Southsiders Together Organizing for Power (STOP), directed the marchers to form two lines, one line on either side of the entrance to the Community Center building.

Almost immediately, a woman came out of the Center and said, “You have to leave, this is AKA property.”

Goldenberg and Danielle Garvey of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) said that Chicago Commissioner for Housing Marisa Novara was inside, convening a meeting of Woodlawn neighborhood ‘stakeholders’ to develop a strategy for affordable housing around the development of the Obama Presidential Center.

Stakeholders invited to the meeting included representatives of the Network of Woodlawn, the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition (CBA Coalition), Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN), The University of Chicago, and others.

As stakeholder representatives arrived for the meeting, the woman who earlier had demanded that the assembly leave, came out again and announced that she was calling the police.

Linda Haywood of STOP and Rev. Finley C. Campbell of the Unitarian Universalist’s Multiracial Unit Action Caucus led the group in prayers.

“We are not here to tell you what to do, or how to do it,” Campbell prayed, “but we ask you to bless us in the power to make those hearts in there soften, like you had to do to Pharaoh.

“They need to know they cannot destroy without destroying themselves. They cannot displace without displacing their own hearts and minds. For what does it profit a man or woman to gain the whole world and lose it.”

The group then dispersed, and individuals started to leave the parking lot. As they were leaving, eight Chicago Police Department vehicles arrived, including one squadrol.

“Our objective was to pray, and to pray over the individuals participating in the city meeting; to pray that they do the right thing and include the housing ordinance as part of their plan for affordable housing,” said Garvey after the vigil, “We are hoping they do the right thing.”

No arrests were made. The whole action took about 35 minutes.