As our city slowly reopens from the pandemic shutdown and Chicagoans begin to enjoy its beautiful parks, breathtaking lakefront, communal bike rides, and my favorite, our porches, the “new normal” must include reviewing infrastructure investments that too often leave black communities with a different neighborhood experience.
The new normal should be equal and provide local access to healthy food, jobs, health care facilities, well-maintained parks and safe train stops. The new normal should be reliable transportation so that when amenities aren’t locally accessible, residents can access our city’s fundamental public goods and opportunities. Our new normal should be deeper coordination with city, state, and federal governments to implement equity-focused infrastructure improvements, especially if we want to “build back better” in Chicago and throughout the country.
Chicago’s civic infrastructure is strong, but without adequate investments in physical infrastructure, neighborhoods like Englewood remain difficult. Commitment to fair infrastructure principles and practices must be co-designed with and for the benefit of the community that has been ignored.
With initiatives in Englewood led by organizations such as the Go Green on Racine Development Team, which includes Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE), EG Woode and Teamwork Englewood, and the most recent Re-Up (RAGE Economic Upliftment Program) – the opportunities to use this moment to reconcile and co-design these principles will support current and future generations. The Go Green on Racine development team recently celebrated the opening of the Go Green Community Fresh Market at 63rd & Racine, which is a short walk from the closed CTA Green Line stop that closed in 1994. If we are committed to equitable access, these types of investments should be given priority as federal dollars flow into our city.
Our new standard should provide equitable access to services and opportunities that will improve the quality of life for city residents, no matter which side of town you live. Our new normal should be to rewrite our two-city story and create a one-city story — a Chicago committed to fair practices that make neighborhoods like mine whole again.
Asiaha Butler is co-founder and CEO of Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE).