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A Response to Mary Mitchell

A neighbor’s response to Mary Mitchell’s “South Shore residents should stop begging for a Mariano’s”.

Ms. Mitchell,

We want to first say thank you for covering this issue in South Shore. However we took exception with the characterization of South Shore residents as ‘beggars’.

As a fellow neighborhood resident, you are aware, that South Shore is comprised of a wealth of active and principled citizens with a long tradition of standing up for social justice issues. We worked to preserve and transform The South Shore Country Club and made it a place where all are welcomed, despite its history of racism and exclusion. The South Shore Cultural Center stands as a beacon for community engagement and solutions.

You are also aware, our community has undergone massive changes, since the Daley administration and continues under the Emanuel regime.

A starting point was the Plan for Transformation(or the Fail of Transformation)  which has impacted working-class/ working poor communities on the south side, already enduring economic hardships before the influx of public-housing residents. Again, we ask you to notice that the current challenges are not solely due to new residents coming into the area, but the lack of wrap-around and transitional support services;  compounded by many owners of the large courtyards, namely Wolin-Levin, profited immensely from the influx of public housing residents.

Then the national collapse of the housing market, which left countless of working and newly retired African-American home-owners under water. South Shore happens to still be slowly recovering from the injustice of predatory-lending and sub-prime mortgages that were the backbone for global fraud.

These are the economic undercurrents that impacted South Shore and further destabilized what was once a desired community for many black working and middle class families.

Many in the community, complained and notified Dominick’s of the deteriorating offerings in the store. Many fought to bring Dominick’s to South Shore in the 90’s and were steadfast about the quality, it was Safeway’s ownership that lead to the decline.

So saying the following
“Frankly, a lot of people who are now blaming the alderman or City Hall and even the business owners that have pulled up stakes ought to look in the mirror and ask a few questions.

Did you shop at the now defunct Dominick’s?

Did you support the Urban Partnership Bank?

Do you make most of your purchases at stores or businesses located in the community where you rent or where you are paying the mortgage?

I suspect most people in South Shore aren’t very supportive of neighborhood businesses.”

What you must know is that since the closing(both Dominick’s and UPB) South Shore residents have begun to further organize and plan, bringing the diverse sections of South Shore together; a cross section- The Jackson Park Highlands, Parkside and Bryn Mawr sections.

We are demanding, strategizing and planning.

  • TPC has produced a Summary from the survey and community input about what the new store should offer.
  • TPC coalition has meet with Mayor’s Emanuel’s team with the Alderman Hairston back in March, which we voiced the need for the city to support a grocer that met the needs of South Shore and that would further help serve as a catalyst the economic development that residents want to see.
  • We have actively identified African-American grocers to fill the void: Two of which are the Fresh Markets by local entrepreneur Kareem Byehiah and also we have had several meeting with Wendell Pierce of  HBO’s ‘The Wire’  fame about bringing his store model (Sterling Farms) to South Shore.
  • We have advocated for the city and our Alderman to consider these models as viable solutions to meet our needs.
  • TPC has worked to make sure that the 5th Ward Alderman and our coalition are on the same page, working collectively to address the divestment in South Shore.

As a South Shore resident, and one of the few media voices in the Black community, I appeal to you to recognize that our neighbors are far from beggars. We would like you to write another piece about your neighbors and our efforts to improve and engage our fellow neighbors.

Thank you in advance

LA Seals Jr. – South Shore resident and The Planning Coalition Member