Close to 300 residents packed a South Side auditorium Wednesday night to demand the promise of jobs, economic development and other benefits of the Obama presidential library center to be put in writing. In the past two years since the announcement of Obama’s center being built on the south side, there have been eight other meetings like Wednesday’s but with over one thousand community members.
“The soul of our city is at stake,” Kenwood Oakland Community Organization’s Jay Travis asks. “Will Chicago be home to all people regardless of race and income or will we sit back and watch city government systematically remove us?”
At the foundation’s community meeting last week, President Barack Obama himself informed residents he would not sign a benefits agreement, which would put into writing the promises the foundation has made so far — which would bring jobs, economic development, and resources to the South Side. Those in attendance on Wednesday evening said promise wouldn’t cut it.
“The actions we take and struggles we wage will answer whether or not Chicago will continue to be home to low-income black families,” said Travis.
The center, which is set to break ground next year, would cause the closure of Cornell – a potentially major blow to the Hyde Park neighborhood. The center could also force residents to move and community organizers worry that the jobs the foundation says it will bring won’t live up to the hype.
“My neighborhood is lacking what it needs — jobs for youth, programs, and resources,” said the Hyde Park Academy student Ling Young, “Without the [agreement] my neighborhood will go into deeper distress. We need one because if people come into our neighborhoods, come push us out of our homes, my neighborhood will be a distant memory.”