CHICAGO, August 3, 2012 — Today was supposed to be the Chick-fil-A kiss in. Members of the gay community in Chicago were to meet at Chick-fil-A and protest outside the restaurant.
The Chicago Chick-fil-A on the Near North Side was packed with people waiting in line and dining during the lunch hour. There were only a few activists on the street corner. Most were asking passers-by to fill out post cards to be sent to legislators demanding that same-sex marriage be legalized in Illinois.
Media presence was sparse. Three couples, the women in wedding dresses, two of the men in suits and one in a tuxedo, arrived and entered the restaurant. One of the “brides” was Jennifer Cruz, Mrs. Illinois. All claimed they were there to lend their support to Chick-fil-A and traditional marriage.
Some of the gay activists interviewed asserted that Chick-fil-A has every right to open restaurants in Chicago; they disagreed with Alderman Proco Joe Moreno’s hard-line and possibly illegal stance against the company. They did welcome his support for the gay community.
The activists also felt they have a right, duty and responsibility to take a stand for equality by not patronizing the restaurant chain, and publicizing what they perceive as discriminatory and hateful attitudes.
Passers-by and customers exiting the restaurant were generally apathetic to either side of the issue. Most were more concerned that Chicago aldermen were getting involved at all. There is a level of disgust and anger at local politicians. The public perception is that Chicago politicians are really useless.
One elderly gentleman, a life-long Chicago resident, summed it up by saying Chicago could probably get along much better without aldermen.
Yesterday at a “jobs and economic rally” in the impoverished African American Lawndale neighborhood, a world apart from the neighborhood where Chick-fil-A is located, local activists took a very different view of the Chick-fil-A issue than Moreno. They would welcome a restaurant in the neighborhood, as it would bring much needed construction and entry level jobs.
These activists were sharply critical of Mayor Emanuel’s comments regarding Chicago values. They questioned the municipal values keeping people in multi-generational poverty and living in slums. What they said about Alderman Proco Joe Moreno and the some other aldermen is unprintable.
The people of Lawndale are furious with the mayor and aldermen. While politicians are tripping over each other’s tongues to posture for the gay community, the Lawndale community is suffering.
While people line up on traffic congested Chicago Avenue near the wealthy Gold Coast to buy or protest chicken sandwiches, you could shoot a cannon down 16th Street and not hit anything for two miles in either direction.
While people are hyping their family values or civil rights, people in Lawndale just want human rights. Civil rights on pieces of paper do not feed their families or pay the rent.
There are defintely two Chicagos: working and wealthy Chicago, and poor Chicago. Politicians, especially black politicians, rarely visit poor Chicago except during election time. They stay just long enough to beg for votes. They more often frequent wealthy and White Chicago, where the campaign money is.
Blacks were promised that if black politicians were elected to represent them, their lives would change for the better. Chicago’s black elected officials on every level - city, state, and federal - have done next to nothing for the communities they allegedly serve and supposedly represent. They willfully and cheerfully ignore the very people they promised to help.
Once they are elected to City Hall, Springfield, or Washington D.C., they forget where they came from, why they were put there, and who fought to put them there. They turn their backs on the most vulnerable and needy. Better to keep them needy and vulnerable; better that people stay victims. And when the people complain, our black politicians cry racism. That is the politics of poverty.
Lawndale and communities like it have been taken for granted, used and abused by the very people who promised to be different. The politics of poverty dictates that keeping people poor and dependent on the largesse of government guarantees reelection. Take away the dependency and people will scream. Threaten to cut it off and people will scream. The politics of poverty dictates, always make the baby cry, and remember to blame racism and racists.
The activists in Lawndale assert they are not Democrats or Republicans. They are the “Broke Party.” The Broke Party message to the so-called “black leadership” is, “if you can’t feed us, you can’t lead us.” They do not mean more food stamps.
According to activist and Broke Party “Chairman” Mark Carter, young and near middle-aged blacks are tired of broken promises and shattered dreams. They are working for strong communities, housing, education, churches, and support for what he calls “dying youth”; young people who are victims of violence or turn to drugs and violence.
Mr. Carter is demanding that blacks break away from the incompetent black leadership and only support those who support them, no matter their race, ethnic background, or political affiliation. Paul McKinley, another activist states the obvious. “While white politicians are stealing money, black politicians are stealing money and people’s dreams.”
In front of Chick-fil-A, near the wealthy Gold Coast of Chicago, gay activists are protesting and demanding rights. They are demanding that Chick-fil-A stop discriminating against them even though there is no evidence the chain ever discriminated against anyone.
In Lawndale activists are demanding that black politicians stop discriminating against impoverished blacks. There is plenty of evidence of that.
Gays are demanding civil rights. Blacks, who started the Civil Rights movement, whose parents and grand parents marched, bled, and died for the Civil Rights Movement, who demanded that blacks be elected to leadership positions, and who demanded the creation of racial political wards and districts, are now demanding the human rights they were promised. They believe the rights they have are only on paper.
Their parents and grand parents fought for the dream, but what poor blacks in Chicago have inherited is a nightmare.
While Emanuel and Moreno blather about Chicago values, whatever those are, people are still struggling forty years after they were promised human rights, the rights to work, prosper, and live in safe and economically viable neighborhoods. They want the right to a good education for their children, and the right to earn a paycheck instead of depending on a welfare check.
They just want the simple right to live and prosper like everyone else in Chicago.
The politicians failed and turned their backs on the people of Lawndale and other impoverished communities like it. For over forty years they have kept people in a state of abject poverty with no hope, shattered dreams, and a future as bleak as the past.
Politicians are angrily asserting tasty chicken sandwiches do not share Chicago values.
Chicago has no values, shared or otherwise.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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