I grew up in Bronzeville, the neighborhood where the Cardinal Meyer Center is located. The grammar school I went to is just around the corner, and the building of the Ida B. Wells housing projects where I lived from 1954 to 1967 was only a couple of blocks away. While this neighborhood was where I was raised and nurtured into my mid-teens, it was also an area from which my family hastened to leave at the dawn of open housing in the mid-1960s. Yet, in my adulthood I often reminisce on my childhood among people who cared about each other and where community bonds were strong.
Each time I come to work I feel as though I'm walking on hallowed ground, not just because of reveries of a time gone by, but also because Bronzeville is still a neighborhood with families struggling for quality of life. The Office for Black Catholics has been involved with a grassroots effort to bring an arts and recreation center to this community.
Fact: From the Dan Ryan to Western Avenue and from I-55 to 55th Street there are 108,000 people and eight large Park District field houses. A similar size area, which includes Bronzeville, borders the Dan Ryan on the west, the Lake on the east, and south of the Loop to 55th Street, has 102,000 people and not even one such Park District facility.
Proposed design of the Bronzeville Arts & Recreation Center
at the southwest corner of Cottage Grove Ave. & 35th Street
Another fact: The peak hours of juvenile crime are from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., with the biggest, most dangerous burst coming in the very first hour after school. Having an arts and recreation center in the community would be a proactive approach to addressing juvenile crime.
A great deal of planning has already taken place to design the facility, and a tentative site (35th & Cottage Grove) has been chosen. Funding is estimated at $20 million and is yet to be committed. An open letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Park District General Superintendent and CEO, Michael Kelly, and Housing Authority CEO, Charles Woodyard is being drafted to encourage them to make the Bronzeville Arts & Recreation Center a reality.
For us who work at Meyer, this is an initiative that will uplift the community in which we work. It will serve families who are our neighbors. I encourage us to take an interest in this initiative and support it by signing the open letter when it's completed. Visit and like the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BronzevilleArtsAndRecCenterNow to stay abreast of this initiative.