Black Chicago residents labeled ‘racist’ for opposing Obama Presidential Center

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As members of the Chicago community oppose some of the Obama Foundation’s plans for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, even black people who voice their concerns are being called racist.

The Chicago Tribune notes one case in which Bronwyn Nichols Lodato, an African-American woman who has lived in Hyde Park for more than a decade, was criticized as being anti-black when she pushed to prevent the Obama Foundation from making a portion of Chicago’s Midway Plaisance into a parking garage.

From the Tribune: “All I wanted to do was make sure my kids could play with no garage in their park,” [Lodato] said. “I have three young children and we live in a condo and the Midway is our yard. My story is simply: How can we keep the park so our kids could play there?”

But soon after taking up her campaign, Lodato, who believes the South Side deserves what she calls “jewels” of open space, found herself under fire by people who believed that the garage would foster business in the area. Some accused her of siding with her well-off white neighbors and taking a stance that hurts the struggling communities around hers.

The report continues: The Obama Foundation’s plans to build the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park have sparked a complicated – and at times emotional – conversation about race, class, segregation, privilege, and power on the South Side.

According to the article, some see the development as an opportunity for “investment and an increase in property values,” while others worry that rents will rise so high, poor African-Americans. will be pushed out.

The report says: Meanwhile, white Hyde Park residents have been accused of being silent about displacement, affordable housing, and unemployment — while using their voices to save birds, butterflies and nature sanctuaries, or to object to longer commute times. And when black residents have voiced their desire to preserve park and green space, they have been told that with all the inequities African-Americans have to deal with, parkland should be the least of their worries.

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