Harkening on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Albert Einstein, the Leader’s Network met at Chicago’s Columbus Park Refectory Tuesday to discuss the future of Chicago’s West Side and demand more economic investment.
The overwhelming theme of the event was breaking the silence.
Time and again, speakers addressed the nearly 50 people assembled — including several candidates for public office, pastors from around the city and concerned business leaders — urging them to make their voices heard.
The consensus of the group was not enough investment has been made into Chicago’s most-populated neighborhood.
Rev. Marshall Hatch, chairman of the Leader’s Network and an Austin resident, juxtaposed Austin’s claims to “firsts” in Chicago — first in crime, foreclosures and returning offenders into the neighborhood — against the positive firsts — the largest middle-class African-American population in the city as well as being the most-populated neighborhood.
Hatch pointed out the infrastructure is in place for success.
He said there’s ample public transportation, people are ready to work and make use of these assets, but the city has consistently neglected Austin when it comes time to hand out money for community development.
Recently, there was $330 million from the city available to help develop communities; Austin received none of that funding.
“Good stuff don’t just happens,” Hatch said, adding that people are suffering because of the “gross neglect” of resources.
“All of us are stakeholders, in one way or another. All of us have tremendous investment of our lives and the institutions of Austin. And we just have to come together to figure out how to overcome this gross neglect of Austin,” he said.
Rev. Cy Fields, pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, reminded the group that their mission is not only about talking but about bringing action.
To that end, the Leader’s Network has reached out to Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development to invite them to participate in the group’s next meeting Nov. 11.
Also attending the meeting was Forrest Claypool, president of the Chicago Transit Authority.
He told the group about CTA’s plans to dedicate at least 265 jobs in upcoming construction projects for recently released offenders, in addition to the already 10 percent of jobs on all projects going toward disenfranchised workers.