Dreams From My Father

Which path will Obama’s Chicago choose?


When my family moved to Chicago’s South Side, we witnessed the promise of racial progress—and its betrayal. Now, as my old neighborhood sends its favorite son to the White House, it stands at another turning point.

Plans for new development projects on Chicago’s South Side have residents worried that gentrification will price them out.
 

Posing for a picture at the basketball court on 73rd and Woodlawn in the South Oakwood/Brookhave neighorhood, or Pocket Town.
 

By the 1980s, white flight and blockbusting had transformed South Side neighborhoods such as South Shore into almost entirely African American enclaves. View looking Northwest from 73rd Street in the South Shore neighborhood. The South Shore neighborhood was one of the wealthier and more prosperous neighborhoods that at one time had a thriving Jewish population. By the early 1980’s it was almost entirely African-American.
 

An elderly man in the neighborhood known as Pocket Town or the Pocket. The community is still feeling the effects of the collapse of the steel mills and factories that drew many African Americans to the South Side.
 

Mourners pay their respects to Willie Jones Sr., who was born in Mississippi and moved to the South Side in the 1950s. A beloved local figure, he was known for clearing his entire block whenever it snowed.
 

The annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic began in 1929 as an attempt to organize newsboys who sold the Chicago Defender. Held on the second Saturday in August, it’s the nation’s oldest African American parade.
 

A graduation party in Pocket Town.
 

In the mid-1990s, Chicago began tearing down its infamous housing projects to replace them with mixed income developments. Only 30 percent of the new units have been built, yet thousands of families have been forced to leave public housing and find new places to live.
 

Moving into a new apartment in the Pocket.
 

Barack and Michelle Obama at the 2007 Bud Billiken Parade.
 

The Comer Science and Education Foundation sponsors training for construction jobs, but opportunity remains scarce: Fewer than half of adults in the neighborhood have steady work.
 

Two-thirds of children on the South Side are raised by single parents; one-fifth live below the poverty line.
 

Chicago’s murder rate jumped 18 percent in the first seven months of 2008.

 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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