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“You could see a little fire light up in people…we have more power now. And we’re expecting more,” says one rider.

Photo: Bus tour participants in front of bus with Grassroots Collaborative banners hash tag Reimagine Chicago

#ReimagineChicago bus tour participants. [Photo: Aaron Cynic]

On Nov. 13, community leaders and union members launched a bold new campaign called Reimagine Chicago (Twitter hashtag #ReimagineChicago), taking aim at the decades of disinvestment in our communities, and the massive displacement of Black and Brown families taking place in Chicago. Reimagine Chicago is bringing together people and organizations from across the city to create a platform of bold ideas and demands that they will make to Chicago’s next mayor. 

Reimagine Chicago kicked off with a bus tour that traveled to five different city neighborhoods, where more than a dozen Chicago residents told stories of the challenges facing their communities and described what needed to be done differently by the next mayor of Chicago.  

CTU retirees Georgia Waller and Willie Williamson were on the bus. At the end of the tour, Waller had this to say: 

It gave us a chance to come together on issues that are not foreign to our communities. Most of the communities look the same. They are in need…like, they’re starving. Brighton Park looks no different than Roseland. 

The tour began at the site of the proposed Lincoln Yards project, where the city is planning to spend $800 million to create this new neighborhood—a clear example of why we have a tale of two cities here in Chicago.  

From there, they traveled to Logan Square, Austin, Brighton Park, Roseland and Woodlawn.  Bus tour participants shared tales of the housing crisis that is pushing families out of their homes and children out of their schools. They described organizing fights to stop new charter schools and get Chicago Public Schools to build new neighborhood schools.   

Participants heard from community members who described the impact of surveillance programs like the Chicago Police Department gang database, which unjustly labels tens of thousands of Black and Latinx young people. At Roseland Hospital on the South Side, residents explained about the health deserts that many Chicagoans live in, and how important it is to invest in resources like Roseland. Finally, the tour ended at the future site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), where residents are organizing to win a Community Benefits Agreement to stop displacement from their beloved neighborhood. 

On the impact of the tour, Waller said, “You could see a little fire light up in people…we have more power now. 

“And we’re expecting more… It got us thinking, ‘Alright, we gotta do something about this.’” 

The message to Chicago’s next mayor was clear: Chicago can do better. We must do better. And the Reimagine Chicago platform is the roadmap forward.  

The Grassroots Collaborative is a coalition of community and labor power organizations representing a broad and diverse set of communities, working to build a movement for economic and racial justice in the city of Chicago, its metropolitan region and the state of Illinois. To find out more about Reimagine Chicago, visit the group on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This article appears in the January 2019 issue of the Chicago Union Teacher.