CHICAGO — Chicagoans who lived through looting and burning in the late 1960s said many of those communities on the South and West sides have yet to recover. And they worry this week’s rioting in Chicago will set those communities back even further.
Pastor Michael Eaddy was a 16-year-old junior at Austin High School in April of 1968 when Chicago’s West Side erupted after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Madison Street was the eye of the storm,” he said.
Congressman Danny Davis was a school teacher at the time. He said he tried to convince people to stop looting and burning, even though he too was hurt and angry.
“I was actually out in the streets on Roosevelt Road,” he said. “Everything that was devastate, is still devastated. It has not been rebuilt.”
Davis said he felt it all over again this weekend as he watched young people loot and set fires, this time over the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer held his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Jim Lowry is an author and highly sought-after business strategist who has taken his experience and connections and funneled it into minority business development. He points to the Kerner Commission report of 1968 that found pent-up frustrations over poverty and institutional racism were driving inner city violence.
“You fast forward to 2020, you have the same feeling of hopelessness in our community and people are acting out,” he said.
Davis, whose Chicago office sits on Madison Street, is still surrounded by vacant lots and abandoned buildings and in spite of the despair. He and other like him, still have hope.
“It will it come back,” he said. “I hope. I pray. I work.”
“You can’t do it with nickels and dimes,” Lowry said. “If people are serious about changing the inner city and changing the crime and giving hope to these young kids, they got to put serious money into it.”
They said it’s going to take an all out effort from government and private businesses alike. But again, the Kerner Commission laid out a lot of these issues 52 years ago. Nothing was done then.