Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tribune: Trouble in Pill Hill

[VIDEO] Above you see a nine minute video of Joe Zekas of YoChicago driving around the Pill Hill neighborhood on the south side of town with a resident in 2007. It's neighborhood that's known for nice houses many of them distinct from each other. And reading an article from the Tribune, it's undergoing changes even the police doesn't understand. The story is more human interesting talking to the family of a woman who was one of the first Black residents to move in and the story of the two later generations of her family:
No one expected gangs to find their way to Pill Hill.

That was one thing that attracted Bernice Mack to the neighborhood more than 40 years ago. More than the quiet streets, though, it was the charming red brick trilevel on South Chappel Avenue that grabbed her attention.

Mack fell in love with the four-bedroom house with a chain-link fence and a rose garden in the front yard the first time she saw it in fall 1970. Here, the registered nurse and her husband, a suburban bus driver, could live among like-minded people, building a prosperous legacy for their budding family that they would pass on through generations.

Their South Side neighborhood was named for the many doctors and pharmacists who once lived there. When whites moved out in the late 1960s, well-to-do African-Americans — entertainers, morticians, lawyers — bought their sprawling Prairie-style homes atop the Stony Island Ridge.

The nurses, police officers and teachers who moved into the bungalows at the bottom of the hill were not as affluent, but an address in Pill Hill firmly established them in Chicago's black middle class. The bottom of the hill was a step up for Mack and her husband, Gordon Dennis, who had previously rented an apartment a few miles north in Chatham.
After she and her husband separated, Mack raised her three children there without worries. Pill Hill was shielded from gangs by an imaginary barrier, built on class and wealth, that relegated violence to impoverished neighborhoods.

But over time, the gangs showed less and less respect for geography. With every generation, families in Pill Hill became more vulnerable.

By the time Mack's daughter, Angela Hongo, 44, an office manager at a Chicago publishing company, bought the beige brick Georgian next door in 1999, gangs had slid in from the outskirts. And by the time Hongo's children, Jarius and Jordonea, entered grade school, gangs had claimed the corner outside their classrooms.

By the time they reached high school, Jarius had fallen into their grips and Jordonea was on the fringes.

The story of teenagers being lured into gangs is a familiar one in Chicago. But not in a neighborhood like this, not in a family like this. Once gangs broke through, even a tenacious grandmother and a committed mother couldn't keep the seductive forces at bay.

Not even the police can explain what happened.

"You normally relate gang issues and gang fighting to war-torn neighborhoods, but that's not the case. The homes are well-kept, the lawns are manicured and when you go there, you feel like you're in a suburban community," said Cmdr. Scott Ruiz, of the Police Department's South Chicago District. "The violence is puzzling when you come into a neighborhood like this."

Mack, who said she is one of only three of the early black settlers still living on the block, believes she knows exactly what happened. Two decades ago, when young men started hanging out late at night at a basketball court across the street from her house, the neighbors got together and forced the city to tear up the cement and replace it with grass and flowers.

But Pill Hill is a different place now, with a new set of people living at the bottom of the hill.
I hope you'll read the whole thing.

This article helps remind why when I first started this blog I avoided doing crime stories here. The communities I hoped to cover didn't need to be saddled with news of crime that could only perpetuate the idea that the south side has nothing but crime. The truth is we have neighborhoods worthy of investment and my thinking was news of crime wouldn't only cause someone to not buy a home.

Still that's not to say this isn't a necessary conversation to have. We have to find a solution such as the one above to keep the gangs at bay from a community who don't want them in the neighborhood. If many of the gang members are young people do we shun them or do we find ways to help them?

Well, I wish there was an easy answer and that we could solve the problem at the push of a button.


  1. I'm in the eighth ward, but I familiar with the 6th ward. This world of social media makes it difficult to determine how to reach the young people. If we could establish community/social centers as they had for myself while growing up, maybe this would help the young people vs hanging on corners or Parking lots... or going to the Mall. We as Black people really need to come up with something to hold the young person attention. We need to keep our children in church as well, helping them to know God makes a huge difference. Be Aware of the kids hanging out with your child. Know the friend and his/her parents. What type of household are they living in. We have to do this because if we don't this senseless violence with continue in our neighborhoods. Gangs we need to contact the Precinct Captain and our Alderman let them know that this is unacceptable and as we are tax payers demand that something is done to remove these criminals. I just feel we need to get together and do more. This Black on Black crime/gangs/drugs and bad behavior must be addressed.As Adults we must make our young people more respectful of their elders..Young Men must be more courteous when in front of our Young Ladies. We must start to demand these actions from our children. Parents need to stop being so defenses when someone is advising them about their child's behavior or manners. We must stand together as Adults and we can overcome these things and have a little more control over our own children/nieces and nephew's.

    1. We have social centers, they are called schools, parks and libraries.The so call ed preceint captains they unofficially exist in the 8th ward have no power or juice to get themselves a job or anyone else. In the 8th ward over $5 mllion taypayer dollars have been spent upgrading recreational facilities. $3.5MM for Jesse Owens fieldhouse, $750M for upgrades to Avalon Park fieldhouse, pool and tennis courts, and the remainder to Lorraine Dixon park. The notion of building $40MM Kroc Centers will decrease crime is false and flawed because crime in Pullman has not decreased and organizations who dealt with some of the issues you speak about lost some or all their funding because of the monies that they used to get was diverted to the Kroc center. Lastly, the park advisory councils of both Owens and Avalon Park are open for residents to help make the parks better and South Central Community Services is always open to volunteer.

    2. To decrease crime, our city needs 2 things: more policemen (no overtime) and mandatory parenting classes for CPS parents. Any black alderman, worth his or her paycheck, should be demanding this for our communities.

      Watch which black aldermen vote with our mayor on police overtime instead of pumping up the police presence numbers that criminals need to see. Then use your vote to push these mayoral-lapdog, aldermanic cowards out!

      Today, we have babies raising babies! These new parents started having children at 14 to 16 and never had the parenting they needed as children. So how can we expect them to know how to raise their kids? Mandatory parenting classes means you now know which adults are never going to have, or attempt to develop, "parenting skills," when their child first enters kindergarten and becomes part of the public school system. At that point, the system now knows which children are going to be candidates for high-risk based on their parent's lack of interest. All of this translates to low attention span, low testing scores, truancy, disruptive behavior and lack of interpersonal coping skills in a child. Once we accept where we are, as black people, we can put the real focus on the babies that in all likelihood are destined for failure. Sure, there are always going to be children that beat the odds and make it regardless of failed parental guidance. But too many others will not! So generation after generation of future African-Americans adults and teens will be lost forever.

      Day to day living and its stresses today in an economic free-fall that many blacks are now experiencing make it hard to volunteer. Having community centers, how ever they come about, does help a conscientious parent with less, or strained income find a place of solace and maybe a haven for their kids.

    3. The budget is old news. The city council black, white, Asians and other voted 45-5 to accept the budget. Yes we need more police but we cannot and will not arrest our way out of social ills. The system already knows what kids are at risk but fail to act positively on the data. They gauge demand for jails based on math scores. For the record, there are organizations that offer parenting classes and seminars both in the 6th and 8th wards, but as the saying goes you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink. The bottom line is throwing money at problems alone will not solve the problems that plague our communities.

  2. So the Southside doesn't need more police like the contingency seen in the Loop, South Loop, Michigan Avenue, Gold Coast or the Northside on any day or hour of the week? Maybe you need to leave our neck of the woods sometimes! So, we just keep letting the great white fathers tell us what works in our communities? Nobody is talking about arresting our way out of social ills. And frankly, the Asian community doesn't suffer from the same problems as our communities so referring to them is a worthless reference! Shucks, the Chinese, by far the largest Asian community in Chicago, don't even have an alderman, but black people do, lots of them! We're talking about an everyday police, "fresh" presence that is readily seen on our streets... not policemen who are so burnt out from overtime work that when our black officers return back to their own homes on the Southside they don't even want to come out to play––let alone volunteer to patrol their own "backyard" community.

    And pardon me, if the system already knows what kids are at risk, then why aren't all, and I mean ALL, of our incumbent black aldermen snatching the Board of Education back from the mayor's hands? Why aren't they all insisting on a vote instead of an Alderman like Michelle Harris being the mayor's gatekeeper? Mostly because they live and die on the support of a past and current mayor's hands to feed them i.e. campaign monies at election time and a few, scraps of business bones for their communities so they can keep their jobs, inflated egos and self-centered prestige.

    I'm tired of so-called pundits thinking that community organizations can do it all themselves in an economy that is just another crush on whacking the dents in black communities deeper and wider! Of course, that depends on what day of the week it is, some of the talkers just naturally flip-flop to support an argument because they just want to be seen and heard. I'm tired of platitudes as if they are some sort of special insight! Government is supposed to work for the people, not against them!

    If from day one, the Board of Education would know which kids in kindergarten won't have a parent life-line because their parents refused a mandatory parenting class, then those kids would be placed in special teaching classes. These would be the type of classrooms where you have both a specially trained teacher and sociologist assigned to that classroom to create individual, child plans to give a youngster a societal life-line in an attempt to save a few kids from a life of drudgery, hopelessness and crime. No it won't rescue everyone, but it might save more. And these plans would follow the child at they proceed from grade to grade. Ask any teacher who passionately loves education if they would prefer to cull out of the classroom those children who need above-average support that sucks the motivation out of other children who are more fortunate to have a parental support system? Ask a teacher if they would rather hear a pundit always cynically talk about what is wrong instead of promoting, posting and illuminating those efforts of the many African-American optimists who work, volunteer or financially contribute toward a concerted, innovative or comprehensive education program that has shown success where ever it might be. And you do need money! Whether it comes from a casino, higher property taxes or whatever, we need money. Money that is not tampered with, played with, hidden or shuttled elsewhere by these great, white urban fathers that run our city, but continue to run away from the Southside's problems with so many of our black Alderman skipping merrily along.

    1. Huh? Alderman Harris supports education???? She supported closing schools and didn't support the teachers union.

    2. Ald. Michelle Harris is the mayor's gatekeeper! This means she helps the mayor block the other aldermen asking for a vote on anything that the mayor doesn't want! So where Mr. Worlee did I say that she supports education in my response? I am 100% in agreement with you if you feel that she is one of those suck-ups to the mayor, do-nothing alderman, who has allowed her ward to sink further and decompose into a crime-ridden, over-run section 8 haven and deteriorating infrastructure mess that was once a thriving middle-class and working-class ward! This woman will do anything to further her career so she can get financial backing for election money hand-outs from any mayor who can keep her in office.


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