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Another Weekend of Suffering in the Garfield Park Community

The Problem Is Disregard for Small Black Owned Businesses Not Loitering

Today our organization had the pleasurable experience of assisting Siri Hibbler Founder and CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, in her efforts to not only save the last Black owned retailer in East Garfield Park, One Eleven Food & Liquors, but to also serve residents who came to accept food.

The level of response demonstrated the need and desire for the reopening of this grocery store. While a representative of the Garfield Park Alliance continues to harp on the ills of a liquor store in the neighborhood, the liquor store itself is not the problem. There are probably many more liquor store establishments on the northside. The problem in East Garfield Park is white supremacy and racist policies that have led to an attack with disinvestment in small Black businesses and the community at large over a very, very, very long period of time.

One difference in the impact of liquor consumption on the west side vs the northern parts of Chicago is income. More people on the northside own businesses, have well paying jobs and are able to take care of themselves and their families. These areas permeate with a sense of privilege and expectation of upward mobility. Nestled in residential areas and lined along commercial strips are lavish liquor stores, exposed brick breweries, nightclubs, bars and outdoor cafes with mega sized flat screen tv’s. You also won’t see we call police signs plastered all over the establishments.

In contrast, the Institute of Housing studies showed that in 2018 half of households in the Garfield Park area make less than $25,000 annually. Many of the people loitering around One Eleven Food & Liquors , have no jobs, no home and few dollars to spend. So where should they go? Mr. Searcy was required to create a barricade and place “We Call Police” signs on his building.

The Garfield Park Alliance, Alderman Burnett of the 27th ward, Alderman Irving and Congressman Danny Davis stood in support of a $34 million dollar development, coming to Garfield Park but did not look out for the small Black owned business man across the street. And for the rest of the individuals and organizations who supported this plan, to what degree were the community and existing small Black owned businesses included in the development of the Hatchery and the Accion? Is it possible that their ideas could have led to the creation of a development that was more innovative, inclusive and reflective of the residents, their needs and desires for the community? Is it possible that a greater outreach into the business community in Garfield Park could have led to a more impactful and cost effective project.? What entities profited from the development? How many Black contractors were hired ? To what extent is Accion, which is a lending institution, committed to providing loans to Black businesses and residents of the community?

I spoke with Mr. Coles who is a Black business owner that has operated on the westside of Chicago for over 55 years. Like Mr. Searcy, Mr. Cole’s businesses have given him an opportunity to take care of his family while creating jobs for many would-be loiterers, and other members of the community. He provided work for his own parents, giving them an opportunity to earn more money than they would have made on a regular job. After 55 years he has a vision for the participation of his children and grandchildren in his business. Mr. Coles has a vision for the community. He stated “ I don’t own the business, the business owns me”. “I am the community”.

From my observation, Black businessmen like Mr. Coles and Mr. Searcy have been circulating dollars, transferring wealth, providing jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities and serving as role models on the westside of Chicago. The community has taken care of them and they have been taking care of the community. However, the disinvestment has made it difficult and the legacy of Mr. Searcy at One Eleven Food & Liquors is being destroyed. He was shut down by capitalist greed. He was shut down by people who think they know what’s best for you more than you do.. He was shut down by people who neither care nor understand what they are looking at when they see residents in a community loitering. Both Mr. Searcy and Mr. Coles have stood strong as Black businessmen holding the community together amongst a 30 plus year onslaught to destroy Black communities on the westside of Chicago.

This also brings to mind my observation of a double standard, where the quantity of liquor bursting out of many immigrant owned stores in Garfield Park is overlooked. The loitering and dirty dealings are overlooked. I have seen many of these establishments, using bottles of liquor and chips as window treatments to entice their purchase. Liquor is available in every nook and cranny of this city.

The real problem is not One Eleven Food and Liquors sale of alcohol. The real problem is Black Businesses along with Black people Do Not Matter!

We at Repair Restore and Grow Black Communities continue to support the reopening of One Eleven Food and Liquors. You can help by sharing this information and contacting the local politicians and organizations who support the closing of this establishment.

Denise Hetherington

Board President

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