Long-time Woodlawn resident sees hope for her community

Jeane Clarke, West Woodlawn resident and Northwest Quadrant leader for 1Woodlawn, poses in the 3rd District Police Station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., during a Seniors Holiday Party that she helped organize, Thursday, November 21, 2019.

Contributing writer

Jeane Clark believes Woodlawn can make history.

“Woodlawn can be the only community that’s really gentrified with the same people who live here, and add a few others,” she said.

When the City’s Department of Housing convened a meeting Nov. 19 to discuss strategy for affordable housing around the Obama Presidential Center, Clark was there, representing West Woodlawn Coalition and 1Woodlawn.

Other organizations represented at the meeting that was held at the Akarama Foundation Community Center included WECAN (Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors), The University of Chicago, Emerald South Economic Development Cooperative and STOP (Southside Together Organizing for Power, a member of the CBA Coalition).

Outside, a group of 30 or so people from the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition gathered, carrying protest signs.

According to Danielle Garvey of Black Youth Project 100, a CBA Coalition member, the coalition had gathered at the Center “to pray over the individuals participating in the city meeting.”

“They were not praying,” said Clark, “they were chanting with their signs.”

Clark grew up in Woodlawn; she said she went to Sexton Elementary on South Langley where “we all went to school together.”

She lived on South Rhodes and remembers the Hansberrys who lived across the street. She remembers Rosalyn who lived in a basement apartment; “Her father was a bus driver,” said Clark. She remembers Jessie, whose mother worked in the drug store at 61st and Eberhard.

These memories of West Woodlawn drive Clark’s vision of what Woodlawn could be. “We want to become the community of choice,” she said, “where everybody lives side by side and income doesn’t matter.”

“I moved away when I got married.” Clark continued. “When I came back in ’97, things were different. Everything was different.”

In 2015, Clark became one of the founding co-leaders of the 1Woodlawn organization’s Northwest Quadrant focus group.

Through her involvement with 1Woodlawn and her own research in the neighborhood, Clark has come to the conclusion that the CBA Ordinance, in its current form, would concentrate poverty through its 30% and 60% Area Medium Income (AMI) set-asides, and she does not support it.

“Woodlawn right now has 77% rental and 21% homeowners. How do we balance it?” Clark asked. “This is the discussion we were having. We asked the city to bring us data, and they bring the data back. They put it out there, we look at it. We looked at options.

“What we were doing is looking for a way to engage and incorporate the 60%, the homeowners, and the people who live on subsidies, so we can live as one. “

In the middle of the discussion, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) entered the room.

“We are all at this big round table; we aren’t in groups, we are all around the table,” said Clark. “I was sitting between two STOP people and a lady from WECAN.

“When [the Alderman] came in, she wanted to know why the City had not told her what was illegal about her ordinance.”

Clark said the city offered to bring the attorneys to the next meeting, but those in attendance agreed that those issues should be handled outside of their group.

“After Jeanette came in, the meeting was over,” Clark said. “We never got back to where we were.”