Saturday, December 13, 2014

Will South vs. West sides equal NYC?

The great divide amongst Chicago’s African-American population is the rivalry that exists between residents of South Side neighborhoods, and those who live on the West Side of the city.

Sout’ vs. West. I have heard countless diatribes from black people who live in those parts of Chicago who will insist that their part of the city is the reality that tells you what Chicago is truly all about.

IT IS A dispute that can get more intense than the South vs. North arguments that crop up during baseball season. It also is one that has developed its character into the debate over where a future library and museum for President Barack Obama should be located.

Two of the four sites under consideration are in Chicago, although I wonder if the inability of the city to get behind one site is what will make the New York City proposal the ultimate winner.

Will the South and West side interests wind up dumping all over each other and make it easier for Columbia University to achieve its desire of housing the Obama presidential legacy for decades to come?

Now I know some people are convinced there’s no way Obama, an adopted Chicagoan, and first lady Michelle, a South Shore neighborhood native, could possibly consider a place other than Chicago for his legacy. I’d like to believe that’s true.

BUT THERE ARE those who would like the appeal of New York, and would argue the fact that Obama actually attended Columbia (he transferred from Occidental College in Los Angeles to earn his bachelor’s degree) ought to put that school on top of the heap.

Considering that the Obamas have already indicated they’re not going to hustle back to Chicago immediately once his presidential term ends in January 2017, our city may well be just the place they came from.

For the record, it was the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago that put together the competing bids that were submitted Thursday, and that will be studied between now and mid-January, when the Obamas have indicated a site will be chosen.

Illinois-Chicago says a museum sponsored with their assistance could be at either Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue or Harrison and Halsted streets. A CTA “el” stop on Kostner closed decades ago could be reopened, IF the Roosevelt site is chosen.

WHILE CHICAGO (AS in the university) says a museum could go near the South Shore Cultural Center, near Washington Park on King Drive or on Stony Island Avenue in Jackson Park.

Chicago’s sites would be near (as in a short drive away) the University of Chicago campus, where Obama once served as an instructor in the law school. It would be a boost to the neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park, and theoretically would make the university less of a racial island on the black South Side.

While Illinois-Chicago’s sites could help bolster the North Lawndale neighborhood that many outsiders still think of as incurable ghetto. College officials also stress the fact that, as a public university, they are more likely to get the kinds of students who don’t fit into some academic and cultural elite.

As though implying that Flames students are less elitist than the Maroons who hang out around the Midway!

IT’S AS THOUGH people will be asked to recognize Chicago South or Chicago West as being what the Obama legacy is all about. It could make some think that New York is less of a hassle than the Second City. The ultimate neutral site!

Although I honestly think that if it didn’t wind up in Chicago, the best spot for an Obama museum and library might well be the future president’s birthplace in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The University of Hawaii (of which his parents were alumni) could literally wind up having a beachfront site that might make it a place people make the extra trip to attend.

It certainly would be a more appealing destination than Grand Rapids, Mich., which houses the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.


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