Friday, July 27, 2007

Has Chicago neighborhood reached a racial tipping point?

In the July 27th Chicago SunTimes a feature article is titled, "Has Scottsdale reached the Tipping Point? After recent violence residents from different backgrounds are wondering if the neighborhood will change forever", writes Mark Konkol of the SunTimes.

Scottsdale is a neighborhood on the far Southwest side of Chicago that is beginning to feel the affect of the migration of lower income minority residents from inner city neighborhoods impacted by gentrification. In January 2007 I wrote about a report released by the Chapin Hall for Children at the University of Chicago highlighted this movement in the city and suburbs.

In Friday's article residents talked about the racial tension that the integration of this previously mostly-white neighborhood has caused, and the potential of "White-flight" similar to that of the 1960's which left many Chicago neighborhoods mostly segregated.

I did a search of the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator to see if there were any volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in the 60652 zip code. While there are three park district sites in the area, there are no comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs listed in our database.

In the SunTimes article, one person was quoted as saying "If we continue to have gang problems up here and property damage and drugs, people will move."

Why wait to let that happen? Why not create a community/business task force and develop a variety of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs to provide non-school learning, mentoring and engagement opportunities for the youth in the neighborhood? Such programs can connect youth and adults from diverse backgrounds and head off further racial divisions.

You don't need to start from scratch. Look at the web sites of tutor/mentor programs operating in the Central part of Chicago. Borrow ideas from them? Invite them to duplicate their programs in Scottsdale.

I did a search on Google to get a map of the Scottsdale neighborhood. The Google map shows a list of local businesses who could provide financial support and leadership for comprehensive tutor/mentor programs. They're in the neighborhood. An investment in prevention and workforce development would benefit these businesses.

If the alderman, or a business leader, or faith leader would take the lead, a community group could form and build programs that support the integration of this neighborhood and make it a great place for people of all different backgrounds to live and raise families.

The story of this neighborhood is repeating all over the Chicago region. Many communities are experiencing a growth of low-income residents but have few or no social services in place to help those new residents climb the social economic ladder. Thus their kids become isolated and are willing recruits for gangs who feed on this isolation.

Do something about it. Act now. Change the script. Don't let the 60's repeat.

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