Chicago's projects. It's a dirty sentence that carries a heavy black shroud of weight for me. I've been reticent to think, read about, study, or hear stories of the projects in Chicago, ever since I moved here to Illinois in 1989 and was regaled stories by classmates and our teacher...stories of white bread America's limited suburban perspective wrapped in gossip and rumor.
The conditions the residents of the Chicago projects have to survive rival the worse, third world warzone imaginable.
Not until I was in my twenties did I dare take a look at the movie Candyman. Although a work of fiction, I knew it carried with it the sour soul of real life in the projects--because, after all, the story was one of the urban myths that grew out of one Chicago's most infamous projects, Cabrini Green.
Chicago Housing Authority...authority of what? Warzones? Despair?
Back in 8th grade, in 1989-1990, when the first gossipy, rumor, yellow-journalism story was shared with me in the classroom...I knew that what happens in Chicago's projects is far from isolated and unique. There are projects all across the united states' major cities. These cities are shiny, esteemed jewels in economic, social, and cultural circles and yet have such a raspy coal black evil underbelly that it raises the hackles just to casually think about it.
Why this rant? I have to read There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. There are no children here because they've seen too much, says one of the characters near the beginning of this book.
Regulation and changes at the projects are only part of the cogs and wheels that spin according to the games Chicago's politicians play...as rungs in their long ascent ladders to the top. Community leaders indeed. They use legislation to tuck another colorful feather in their cap.
America has burdened African Americans with an atrocious set of crimes against humanity, beginning with the first slaves being captured in Africa dragged to this continent to perform hard labor...up until the racist acts during integration of the late 60s. More recently, this second round of abuse, where society and politicians shelve poor people away in projects--like forgotten dirty secrets or dried insects under the stairs. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I was in the local government and I didn't at least try to do something to permanently change this landscape.
And I don't think that there is enough apologies, regret, retribution, or reconstitution possible in any amount of lifetimes to make up for what has happened--people who are thrown under society's bus like this remind me of the tortured and annihilated souls that fell during the Holocaust, the children in the sex trade in Asia, or the ethnic cleansing victims in Darfur. It's 2010 and how far have we come in all these years?