Many African Americans are simply finding Chicago a less attractive place to live.Even though Blacks are moving to the suburbs or moving back to Jackson, MS; Memphis, TN; Atlanta, GA; or even Birmingham, AL there is something to consider:
Unemployment among the city's black population is a staggering 21.4 percent. Horrific tragedies like the beating death of Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old, in front of a high school, are only the most visible failings of a city where the promise offered during the Great Migration has long since waned.
Andrea Zopp, the president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, said she believes the city has much more work to do to reinvest in its black community. Despite the population drop, which affected the Bronzeville neighborhood (where the Urban League has its headquarters), classes for job training there are always full, just as they always have been.
In an article on Chicago's "Census shellacking," Aaron Renn, an urban affairs analyst who runs the blog The Urbanophile, teased through IRS data on migration from city to city and found that many of the people who are leaving greater Chicago altogether -- which includes many African Americans -- are heading to places like Atlanta.
Renn said he's still waiting for a thorough analysis of the dramatic loss of public housing in Chicago -- the elephant in the room of discussions about the city's black population loss. In 1999, the city Housing Authority announced a "Plan for Transformation" that would replace or rehabilitate 25,000 housing units. That included notorious high-rises like the Cabrini-Green projects, the setting of 1992 horror flick "Candyman."
Determining how many of the people who were kicked out of their homes under that plan have stayed in Chicago is not an easy task. Many of those residents were given vouchers that might allow them to leave the city for anywhere they chose, leading to speculation that the city-driven plan might be behind the drop in the African American population. Many of the predominantly African-American neighborhoods where populations have dwindled the most since 2000 were targeted under the plan.
According to an analysis by reporter Megan Cottrell in the blog Chicago Muckrakers, about a third of the black people who left the city between 2000 and 2009 "were from public housing areas."
Many are quick to note that Chicago's black population, while diminished, is still quite strong; the black population for the region in 2010 was 1,645,993 people.What do you think the city has to offer to Blacks?
Mayor Emanuel has announced an initiative to get more young people to come to the city for tech jobs, citing Chicago-based company Groupon and other success stories.
[Charles] Leeks, of Neighborhood Housing Services, said he hopes the city and businesses will begin aiming such efforts at black people. Regardless of the most recent Census numbers, he said he is optimistic.
"It really is about working with your human capital," he said. "I certainly don't see Chicago as a lost cause. And certainly, with a leadership [in] position to take advantage of its opportunities, it can reinvent itself in some ways."
[Quraysh Ali] Lansana, the poet [who teaches at Chicago State University], said he thinks Chicago still has something to it. Some people may leave, but the culture that grew to such great heights during the 20th century -- the culture that pulled him here to study under Gwendolyn Brooks -- remains.
"I think Chicago is the black capital of the United States," he said. "D.C. is Chocolate City, it will always be Chocolate, but Barack Obama could not have evolved from any other place in this country."