As I drive around my community, I wonder how long it will take for stores to re-open, boards to come down, life in general to return to normal. On second thought, I question what is normal and was it ever really “
normal”? Decades of what feels like strategic disinvestment has left many communities without basic needs like grocery stores, pharmacies, dining options and other essential resources and that in itself is far from normal.
As I reflect over the last few weeks, I’m filled with emotions. I’m angry and frustrated. First a global pandemic that disproportionately impacted Black communities and now civil unrest. These two epidemics have changed the world. This is more than my professional perspective. This is a tale of my personal feelings as well. While, I rarely mix the two, this time felt different and necessary. I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, I focus on real estate and economic development on the South Side and I’m raising two Black children on Chicago’s South Side.
The killing of George Floyd placed an international spotlight on the institutional racism that continues to plague communities. Powerful protests across the city, opened the eyes of many to centuries of injustice. The pain of many marginalized communities is on full display. The evil truth made headlines across the world. Racism and inequity have a disturbing trickle-down effect. While those raw emotions were hard to bear for many, it is disappointing to see others focused on being slightly inconvenienced by broken glass from looters. I fear that the powerful messages of protesters were lost by the actions of looters. A few days of “inconvenience” doesn’t equate to a lifetime of inequities and discrimination and outright neglect for what’s right and just.
Economic development throughout under-served communities has always been my passion and focus but the last few weeks have reignited my passion and commitment to work in under-resourced communities, authentically engage residents and other stakeholders and support small businesses.
Although many South and West Side businesses remain boarded, the Juneteenth flags on businesses and homes are a reminder that our communities are resilient and powerful. I’m optimistic that together we can do our part to create far more equitable communities, where residents and businesses thrive. I’m hopeful that the powerful protests serve as a wake-up call for many that the old way of “doing business” simply should no longer exist. It is up to each of us, to do our part, the work of inclusion should not fall solely on the excluded.
As Arthur Ashe eloquently stated “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” We’re all in this together.
CIERE BOATRIGHT Vice President, Real Estate & Inclusion | Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives