To Leave Or Not To Leave The City? 

I came home early one day last week to find my neighbor moving. I was stunned. We are not friends, but we are good neighbors. He and his wife are educators, 30 something, and have two darling daughters ages two and four.

I asked, where are you going? He said, I’ve got to get out of Chicago. Why, I asked. He said, my daughters are at the age where they should be playing in the yard. But I can’t let them play in the yard. We should be going to the park, the playground and the beach. I can’t take them because I am scared. I can’t take it anymore, he said.

He is a high school principal and he told me, I am burying my students. I am returning to school on Mondays checking to see if everybody is there. I am going to teenage funerals. That’s not what I am supposed to do.

He said, last week I made a decision. Chicago is a pretty city, but it is not safe. I got a job offer last week from out of town and we will be gone by the Fourth of July weekend to start a new life in a new city where we will be safe. He made a sudden decision, with resources in front of him and living with the fear Chicago citizens are becoming accustomed to.

The conversation bothered me because he is right. If I were in his shoes, I would strongly consider doing the same. My neighbor’s move comes shortly after Father’s Day weekend, when a three-year-old boy was shot in a car while in his father’s arms. The bullet wound leaves the toddler paralyzed for the rest of his life with a severed spine.

My model  neighbor is moving because of the shootings and killings of young people in Chicago. The  out of control violence has become overwhelming – it doesn’t matter if you are driving your car on the expressway, taking public transportation, at the beach, walking down the street, riding your bike, or even just sitting in your living room, living in Chicago is becoming a scary game of Russian Roulette, especially for Black people.


Indeed, the scoreboard crime rate makes you think about your children, your family and your job. Is there a safe place? My neighbor said no, but there are “safer” places.

We the people of the city have become immune. The newscasters, with smiling faces, report the crime statistics with no emotion while the Chicago Sun-Times has become a daily crime sheet. We are registering negativity at too many levels with too much frequency.  People are taking flight from the city with the beautiful skyline, green parks and scenic lakefront. The city that works isn’t working for all.

I became quite philosophical on a very personal level after the conversation with my neighbor. Do you run from it or do you face the devil in the blue dress and dance, trying to solve the problems that plague our city as we face the realities and consequences of poor city management and bad parenting, poor policing  a troubled economy, social engineering and racism.

If I had my way, I would lock all the politicians in a room, similar to what is done when a new Catholic Pope is selected. Solve the problems and you can’t leave the room until we have real solutions.

Balance the damn state budget. Leave the Uber and Lyft drivers alone. They have created a new industry, new jobs and they pick up everybody. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fix what is broken. Don’t let the billion-dollar economic viability of a Lucas Museum leave the city because of 30 elitist people in a group called Friends of the Parks.

Let’s look racism in the eye, heads up. Many of our problems stem from years of racial neglect, as WBEZ writer, Natalie Moore, points out in her new book about the South Side of Chicago. It is racism in too many instances gone disguised.

Traditional long-term businesses are closing, Black businesses. There’s no money for Black entrepreneurs. No loans, no investment money, no philanthropic money – as Black Star Project Executive Director Phil Jackson is on a mission to counter – no seed money for your business to grow in a new economy and a new era, no money to facilitate cash flow for existing businesses.

This is the city where Black business  –  Black Mecca –   once flourished more so than any other city in the nation and now we see the demise of what was a strong vibrant business community in the city that doesn’t work anymore. Change is inevitable. I get that. But damn.

It’s a sad state when the young couples with small children who are productive, contributing citizens feel that they have to leave the city to be safe, afraid to let their children go out and play, too worried about the simple things of life.

I certainly understand my neighbor’s decision, but personally, I choose to stay and fight until it gets right.

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  • Hermene:
    You are all over it and 1000% right ! Your analysis is spot on ! Black people with young children are threatened -BUT where can they go to be safe from the white rage and racism in the US?? If they go to Charieston SC to Emanuel AME church , a crazy white boy can shoot them. If they try to rent a condo via Airbnb in Georgia, the white neighbors will call the police because they look suspicious . In Chicago , you have Black Communitues that have activists , challenges , the upcoming Library of the first Black President and a set of BLACK educational , entrpteneral , political , fraternal, social and spiritual WINNERS that give support and PURPOSE in living here.
    Paul King

    • I discussed with this young man about leaving and safety. I suggested that no place is safe. He said but there are places “safer.” He said with passion, I cannot let my children go outside and play. I cannot bury another teen student.” I’m telling you I was in a funk all day after the conversation, because what can you say to make him stay, with those facts staring at you.

  • Nice post Hermene. Don’t know your neighbors, but hearing that they are leaving because they are afraid is sad. For the past 5 years or so and counting –there has been an exodus of Black people — professionals, retirees and young people who want to enjoy warmer weather and business opportunities, but also on that list for many is the fear of the violence in this city. I’m not confident that our leaders know what to do. A few more additional police in particularly high crime areas makes for good publicity. It does it not solve the problem (which is not expected), it doesn’t put a dent in the problem. I agree with you to pressure the governor to get resources in the community by balancing the budget. I also agree with Paul King and ask the question, “Where do we go?” Like Paul, love Chicago and its promise for a great future for the next generation. Write on Hermene.

    • Our leadership at every level is failing us, black, white, democratic, republician, male, female. WE are in a dither. Three year olds are not suppose to be shot.

  • Sorry but those are not good reasons to put our young children in danger, Mr. King. They deserve to live to adulthood and an opportunity to pursue their dreams. If I were a parent with young children I would have left Chicago 4 years ago. we owe it to our children to give them a happy and safe life. I came back to Chicago year 2000 from San Francisco because I retired, I feel very frightened being stuck in the middle of flying bullets. I’m now 80 and stuck here.

  • Hermene, as I posted your commentary on my Facebook page, I also said that in hoping that one day Barack and Michelle will return to Chicago, it is my hope that others like myself will consider in doing the same. I for one am excited for Black Chicago’s future, but it is something that we all must be part of to bring to fulfillment. Yes, there are tremendous challenges to overcome, but I have faith that brighter days can be ahead…and we all can work together towards that goal.

    • Gwen. It is not likely that the Obamas will return to this city. You haven’t been here for a long time and the city indeed has changed. I believe in change and hope. But these random shootings are a bit much and are becoming to ordinary. You and I have no children, so we view it differently. To have a child here now and live in the Black community is challenging by all measure. Thanks for sharing my post with your audience. It is a serious question that a lot of people are struggling with. I thought it should be discussed. My neighbor brought me to another reality.

  • I’m sick of Chicago as well. I’m sick of the politicians, the police, etc. My son left Chicago back in the nineties to go to FAMU. He wants to come home to visit and to bring my granddaughter so she can see the beautiful sights and museum. I told my son that he couldn’t come home, although I go every year to see them. It is better that he stay there because of all the innocent people getting shot, etc. Yes, I’m ready to leave Chicago as well, but I won’t let these ignorant people run me out. Some years ago our former Mayor stated that there will be a new Chicago. At this point they will get a new Chicago. I tell people to pay attention to what is happening here and why it is happening. A lot of strange stuff is happening here and you must ask yourself why is it happening? We must vote when the time comes, hold your alderman/woman accountable because a lot of them are not doing what they should be doing. Attend some of the meetings. Take Amtrak and go to some of the meetings in Springfield to see and hear what is going on. I live in Bronzeville and in my opinion they want this area back. They will be redeveloping this area. Pay attention to the increases of rents, property taxes which are some indicators. When they took down the housing projects why is still a lot of vacant land after all these years. Why are certain companies buying up the vacant schools in the Bronzeville area. If we don’t watch it they will be buying Dunbar high school. Also since the CPD know who the gangs are, why not use the “RICO” act to round up everybody. If we need to build another prison to house all of the gangs then so be it. There is a lot more I could say because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of the innocent getting killed. “Stay Focus and Pay attention,” because something worst will be coming. Will we be prepared. When you see something, say something. There are so many ways to tell something with them not knowing who you are. If I see it I’m going to say something. I’m a senior and I want to give some of these young folks a good old fashion *** whooping. Chicago better wake the hell up before it is too late. Trust me on that.

    • I am hearing more and more stories on people with children leaving the city. It is so sad. I agree with you, it is our city and we have to save it. I don’t blame you for not allowing your son to come home. How many stories have we heard of young people coming home to visit and not leaving. Thanks for writing.

    • I am hearing more and more stories on people with children leaving the city. It is so sad. I agree with you, it is our city and we have to save it. I don’t blame you for not allowing your son to come home. How many stories have we heard of young people coming home to visit and an accident occurs. So so sad. Thanks for writing.

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