The McKinley Park neighborhood Boost Mobile store at 3429 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, shares Black Lives Matter messaging on its storefront.

Neighborhood Leaders, Institutions Decry Systemic Injustice, Proclaim Black Lives Matter

Published June 19, 2020

Community organizations in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago, including the McKinley Park Development Council and Amate House, have published statements advocating racial harmony, criminal justice reform and support for the Black Lives Matter movement, joining the neighborhood's elected representatives at municipal, county and state levels speaking out in the wake of national protest and social change. 

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"We acknowledge the platform we have and vow to use it from here on out to speak against systemic violence and oppression so Chicago can be safer for all communities, no matter their race, color, or creed," the council said in its statement, published June 11. "We ... stand against the systems that lead to the tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald, and so many more."

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Action Steps

Amate House, a young adult leadership program from the Archdiocese of Chicago focusing on social justice advocacy and community service, published its "Action Steps to Become Anti-Racist" on its website on June 17. In addition to speaking to the institutional challenges of integrating racial justice considerations within a predominantly white organization, the Amate House statement spells out a six-point plan to change and improve its operations.

"Amate House stands against anti-Black behavior and strives to stand up for racial justice in all aspects of our work," said its statement. "We encourage our community to continue to engage in the self-work alongside us, to find space for difficult conversations, to take action in ways authentic to each of us and to take time to center our wellness and that of those we hold dear."

Neighborhood Advocacy

The development council and Amate House join many of the neighborhood's groups that have advocated for racial awareness and integrated social justice considerations throughout their operations. McKinley Park neighborhood-based Neighbors for Environmental Justice has long pointed out the racial disparities of pollution and its health effects. 

"People who are poor, or Black, or Latinx, were already more likely to have polluting industries in their neighborhoods," the environmental group writes on its website. "Now, that same pollution has made them more likely to die or experience serious complications from COVID-19."

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The 12th Ward Independent Political Organization (IPO), with its advocacy area including most of the McKinley Park neighborhood, has often called for reform through its social media and community messaging. It and its members participated in the United Against Racism & Police Violence march on June 6 in the nearby Brighton Park neighborhood.

Elected Officials Speak Out

Illinois 2nd District State Representative Theresa Mah has authored numerous online missives, including on social media, speaking to issues of race and how the community can support Black Lives Matter. She's written in particular about how those like her from the Asian-American community can become allies on issues of race.

Mah's online essay, "Reflections on Our Current Crisis," details her reaction to the police slaying of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and the public protest and civil unrest that followed. She sadly noted that not enough has changed since the 1968 Kerner Commission report, which stated "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal."

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"Much of our country and our culture devalues Black Lives, in a society where policy brutality is practically sanctioned, where segregation still persists and still affects economic and educational opportunities, and where gaping racial health disparities have been exposed by the current pandemic," Mah wrote in her essay.

BLM Downtown Protest

Cook County 7th District Commissioner Alma Anaya worked with partner organizations to engage residents in a June 5 vigil for George Floyd, as well as writing to share her perspective and advocacy about the need for police reform after marching with Black Lives Matter on May 30 in downtown Chicago. Her essay, "Unrest is the Result of Systemic Racism, Oppression & Disinvestment," details how she and other peaceful protesters were violated by members of the Chicago Police Department, a horrible experience that still does not match the day-to-day reality of African-Americans, she said.

"These types of responses are the reason why communities of color do not trust law enforcement and government," Anaya said in her essay. "The systems give no reason why we should. After all, there have been centuries of institutionalized racist policies that are still upheld today."

District and Ward

In a published statement, Illinois 1st District State Senator Antonio Muñoz said that "George Floyd's murder is not what I stood for as an officer." 

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"Policing is supposed to be about protecting people and creating a better future for our young people," Muñoz said. "I am committed to working with my colleagues to bring about the changes those fighting for our communities want to see."

12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas also released a statement following the civil unrest seen in the area in the wake of protests of the slaying of George Floyd. "We have to address the frustration and rage running so deep," Cardenas said. "We have to loudly denounce the hatred and injustices in our society, and we have to stand together for what we all know is morally right.”

Dearth of Marches

Although many McKinley Park neighborhood groups and elected officials have spoken out in support of criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter, no public-facing march, demonstration or other organized advocacy has taken place in or passed through the McKinley Park neighborhood.

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As previously reported here in the McKinley Park News, no signs of protest or advocacy were present at any of the neighborhood sites where looting occurred during civil unrest starting the weekend of May 30. Likewise, and unlike the adjacent Bridgeport neighborhood, there were no reports of on-the-street vigilantism or harassment in McKinley Park.

No known Black Lives Matter or criminal justice reform advocacy events have yet been scheduled for the McKinley Park neighborhood, according to the best knowledge of this publication: Voice mail messages and website messages sent to Black Lives Matters Chicago had not been replied to as of publication of this article.

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