great-northern-migration-monument-chicago

In Chicago in the south loop there is a statue commemorating the African American migration northward.

The traveler is carrying a tattered suitcase in one hand and waving to the distance with the other hand. I would like to think that he is waving to his southern kinfolk with promises that he will either send for them or send them money once he finds a good job in the “Promised land” of Chicago.

In my mind’s eye I can picture this traveler apprehensively approaching the white ticket agent in some southern town and having to adopt a subservient demeanor for fear of violence.

However, to the traveler it is worth it because soon he will be on his way to Chicago where the Defender has promised that jobs for African American men and women are plentiful. The traveler isn’t even put out when he is shown to the Jim Crow area. Visions of riches up north sustain him as he thinks that he has suffered these indignities for the last time.

The traveler is still feeling optimistic about his future when the train pulls into a station on the south or west sides. They both look bleak and desolate however. Maybe he is still upbeat when he arrives by cab to one of the many kitchenette buildings that dot Bronzeville.

Maybe his zeal starts to fade as he labors hard in some factory in the worst of jobs and is the last hired and the first fired.

Maybe he realizes that although Chicago isn’t a promised land as he originally thought, he however remains steadfast in his belief that thrift and hard work will one day result in success.

Or maybe, he has grown cynical by years of dreams deferred and hard living in the barren north and has decided that vice is the way to the American dream.

Either scenario leads to a divergent path for the current state of African Americans in Chicago.

On one hand you have the success stories of Carol Mosley Braun, Emil Jones, Jessie Jackson, etc.

On the other hand you have the nightmare stories of Jeff Fort, Bishop Don Juan, etc.

Gun and gang violence among Black youth in the city is so high that it has attracted national and international attention. Maybe it is one of the reasons that are fueling a reverse migration south.

I myself a southern migrant am deathly afraid to venture to the west and south side neighborhoods of the city.

While I weep for the questionable future of African Americans in this city, I weep for our ancestors who sometimes risked life and limb to come to the Chicago metropolis and eke out a living for themselves and their families.

If this rate of violence continues, our legacy to this city will be a horrifying prospect to consider. Sometimes I think the powers that be want this violence to continue as long as it is contained in areas that is predominately African American.

It is time that death and violence among our Black youth in this city and other urban areas become our focus and priority and not just given lip service in an election year.

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