Chicago Trauma Center Protesters to Camp Outside University of Chicago President’s House Before Obama Library Decision

Before Obama Library decision is finalized – Chicago activists take demand for trauma center to homes of Obama Library Chair Mary Nesbitt and University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer

CHICAGO, IL – On April 23rd, on the eve of the President Obama Library decision, members of the trauma center coalition will hold a press conference and vigil at the homes of Obama Library Chair Marty Nesbitt and University of Chicago President Zimmer, calling for the University of Chicago Hospital to open a trauma center. The press conference at Marty Nesbitt’s home 4820 S. Woodlawn, will start at 4:30pm. The Vigil will start at 6:30pm, at the home of  UofC Pres. Zimmer located at 59th St and University Ave. The Vigil will then continue all night, in front of home President Zimmer until 8:00am the next morning.

The all-night vigil will feature the lighting of 1712 candles, one for each day since the start of the campaign for a south side trauma center, which began in August 2010 after south side youth organizer Damian Turner was shot and died on route to the nearest trauma center which was over 10 miles away.

“We’re taking the message directly to Marty Nesbitt and President Zimmer’s doorsteps because they have the power to make a level one trauma center a priority for the UofC,” explained youth leader Veronica Morris-Moore. “Marty Nesbitt and President Zimmer have the power to save Black lives on the South Side, but choose not to make it a priority.”

The vigil will begin with an interfaith prayer followed by the lighting of the 1712 candles arranged to spell a message to the UofC administration. The next morning (Friday April 24), those who spent the night, along with supporters, will walk across the UofC campus from President Zimmer’s residence to the main administration building to deliver their message as the University opens its doors for the day.

The vigil will come as the Obama Library Foundation prepares to announce its decision on the site of President Obama’s presidential library. Activists say that even if the UofC is designated as the host institution, community concerns about lack of access to trauma care must not be ignored.

“The UofC’s neglect of the lives of Black and brown people on the South Side goes back a lot further than their campaign for the Obama Library and it’s not going to end until they finally open a trauma center,” explained Victoria Crider, who graduated from high school last year just blocks from the Obamas’ Kenwood home.

In addition to the University’s bid for the presidential library, organizers also point out that the University is in the midst of a $4.5-billion capital campaign and is constructing a new $150-million dormitory.

“It’s a little hard to take seriously when they say opening a trauma center is too complicated or expensive when they’re not only trying to host a presidential library, but they’re raising almost 5 billion dollars and spending almost $200 million on dorms,” said UofC student and trauma center activist Emilio Comay del Junco.

Activists are optimistic that the attention they are bringing to the lack of trauma care is bringing results. In December, the University of Chicago agreed to raise the age limit of its pediatric trauma center by two years, a move organizers had long demanded as a stop-gap measure. That decision coincided with increased public attention in the run-up to the deadline for proposals to host the Obama Library.

The community’s demand for trauma care was sparked by the death of Woodlawn youth leader Damian Turner, and is led by the Woodlawn-based Fearless Leading by the Youth, along with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Students for Health Equity at the UofC, National Nurses United and many faith groups including the United Church of Christ.

The South Side is currently a trauma desert for adults, meaning that victims of shootings and other serious injuries must be taken over ten miles away, to the Near North Side or south west suburbs. The call for trauma care is also supported by a new study by the Illinois Department of Public Health which states that longer travel times to a trauma center increases the likelihood of dying, the study also states that the U of C is best positioned to expand access to trauma care, and that the U of C could further raise the age limit of their pediatric trauma center.

Who: Trauma Care Coalition (youth, mothers, doctors, students, nurses, faith leaders)

What: Press Conference and Vigil

Date: Thursday, April 23


Press Conf – 4:30pm, 4820 S. Woodlawn, home of Marty Nesbitt

Vigil- 6:30pm, 59th St and University Ave, home of UofC Pres. Zimmer

Vigil continues – all night, in front of home President Zimmer until 7:30am

Visual: Thousands of candles spelling out “Trauma Center Now;” protesters sleeping on lawn of official residence; banners reading “Yes you CAN open a #Trauma Center Now”

Recent stories on the trauma center campaign:

“Here’s What U of C Should Do for the City” Crain’s Chicago Business

“Protestors link Obama library with #BlackLivesMatter,” Bloomberg

“UofC Wants to Raise Age Limit at Pediatric Trauma Center,” The Chicago Sun-Times

“UofC Aims to Expand Treatment at Children’s Trauma Center,” The Chicago Tribune

“Trauma center protesters target U. of C. capital campaign,” The Chicago Maroon

“Chicago Faith Leaders Sing, Pray For A South Side Trauma Center ,” Progress Illinois

“Religious leaders march for South Side trauma center,” Hyde Park Herald

“South Side Hospital Patients Caught in Trauma Deserts,” (Feature Story), Chicago Tribune

“University of Chicago Alumni: No Donations Until Trauma Center Opened,” Progress Illinois

“Chicago needs help, not Obama Library,” LZ Granderson,

“Activists protest university’s bid for Obama Library,” USA Today