Sunday, December 18, 2011

SOS - State of Emergency in Englewood!!

Ok, so now things are getting heavy.  As you I am strong believer that we all have to create the world we want to live in…I have taken the liberty to take on the challenge of changing perceptions and attitudes towards my neighborhood.  I have taken on the challenge to serve in many leadership roles, various councils, boards, taskforces, committees, etc.  I have taken on the challenge to work towards justice for the Englewood residents being displaced by Norfolk Southern Railroad.  I have taken on the challenge to be a sound voice coming from a neighborhood that most take advantage of....All of these efforts are to empower the powerless and connect the unconnected!

These challenges have been stepping stones to thinking strategically, learning the art of empowerment, becoming a master of organizing structures, people and processes.  As you know folks always want you to fit in a box, so of course I have been labeled as this “community organizer” (so boring in my opinion), or better yet a “community activist” (really? what am I really fighting for?)

Now, there is one label that I take with great pride in hearing and that's "Community Leader!" When I looked up the definition of Leader, it read: 1.  a person or thing that leads. (simple enough) 2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.

I am particularly like the 2nd definition....A guiding head of a movement!  Honestly, being coined as a "Leader" in any context works for me, because this is a role that few can master…As I am creating a pathway for rebranding and revitalizing the image and culture of Greater Englewood, I see why so many attempts have failed or why vital projects remain idle.

The leadership of Englewood has its own internal power struggles in addition to the some of the challenges our elected officials have with one another, which has truly prevented some real progress.  Very few groups, agencies, elected officials, etc. is practicing the art of empowerment.  I find that giving individual tools to express themselves and become leaders in their own right is the key to being a GREAT leader. As I do this work I am learning the true dynamics of this difficult challenge...People fail because they are not grasping the fact that true leadership has absolutely nothing to do with POWER and all to do with the ability to EMPOWER!

That is why I am utterly in love with the Resident Association of Greater Englewood...infamously known as R.A.G.E…We respect, trust and empower one another. We compliment and recognize our gifts within and then share those gifts with the community at large…How empowering is that? Just recently, our Education & Youth Development Workgroup connected with the students of Wentworth Elementary for a Docs & Dialogue session then a town hall that focused on safety, learning environments and bullying.  Our economic development work group is finding ways to support some of the businesses in the community in order to establish better resident/business connections.  So as we build this Englewood Enterprise, or Empire if you will…These are the type of leaders we need to carry out the task! 

As residents, we have to reclaim our community and think of its current state as an almost an emergency site that needs our immediate attention....It's like we had our own Hurricane Katrina that has wipe us out and now we are like a designated disaster zone that needs strong collaborative support from all key stakeholders.  We have to be our own RED CROSS or EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM...So, for all my blog readers and for the folks who work, live, eat, breathe and sleep here we need to respond accordingly to the SOS call to REBUILD & INVEST IN THE ENGLEWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD…It's a CODE-RED for real!

Over the last month as things continue to heat up, we are finding that more folks have RAGE! Now we are faced with "proposed" School Actions (Guggenheim slated to be closed, and Stagg slated to go through a “turnaround”process...Really?)  Side note: If we want to speak on a turnaround, we need to look at the entire Education System of the nation, then locally at CPS!  I will reframe from saying anything else on that topic, however, you have to check out the video below which was captured during the last Board of Education Meeting....It was Occupy Chicago -  The Board of Education Edition!! And honestly, I am not upset with this rebellious cause because we do need to REBUILD OUR SCHOOLS! FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR STUDENTS! In my opinion, it would be better if more parents and community members could "Occupy our Schools" before these actions are even proposed. That way if students are under performing, we can work to develop our own community driven "turnaround" plan that does not require any outside contracts!

A few weeks ago the Englewood Community Action scheduled a special meeting and I must say it was exciting to hear and see folks committed to collaborate around these educational issues in Englewood.  We are working on solidifying an effective action plan that will support these families, teachers and staff through this crisis and beyond...Stay tuned for more details about these efforts!

Ok in other areas of the "Englewood Disaster Zone"....We got Norfolk Railroad still harassing residents to sell their properties and knocking down the homes for some intermodal freight yard, there is a remapping war that can potential decrease the number of black wards which could ultimately decrease the wards in Greater Englewood, this is reflective of the lost of black population in Chicago...Side note again: Englewood still doesn’t have that “satellite ward office” which we were promised during election time back in February, but let’s move on….

Another trend I am observing is all the homes being knocked down left and right specifically in my block radius, which I have mixed emotions about..I am wondering to myself...
Is this the set-up for others to rebuild? Or is this an opportunity to start on a clean slate for some new developments?  It’s quite interesting to see these changes happening, so I am sitting tight and just observing the process...As I continue to plan with my dream team of residents and stakeholders, we are hard at work, researching and learning as much as we can in order to create our own vision of what we would like to see in the Greater Englewood neighborhood…If we don't this designated "disaster" area will be rescued by the wrong folks who I am sure does not have the best interest of the community at hand....

Huge vacant lot at 65th & Union
Instead of complaining about Englewood problems we have to start having those discussions about what it can be or we will loose this valuable landscape of the city...I envision my neighborhood becoming GREAT, which inspires me to keep pressing on to make the necessary adjustments to see Englewood vibrant again...We just have to be patience and continue on our pathway of small victories block by block! As long as we keep focused and dedicated, I am confident that 2012 will be the year of connecting true leaders with common goals to REBRAND, REBUILD, and REVITALIZE this GREAT neighborhood...I'll leave it at that for now...

Until next time, TAKE ACTION to CREATE the COMMUNITY you wish to see and truly desire!! Happy Holidays and stay tuned for more exciting & positive news coming from Englewood in the New Year...2012 will be Englewood's year to shine bright, watch & see!!

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