Mayor Rahm Emanuel holds summit with West/South Side clergy

Ministers worry about “educational deserts”

By Chinta Strausberg

A year before the mayoral election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday met privately with more than a dozen mostly African American religious leaders from the West and South Sides of Chicago at Josephine’s Cooking Restaurant, 436 E. 79th St., where he laid out his economic development plan that included more job creation for youth and what to do with vacant schools.

Dr. Byron T. Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, who organized the meeting, was joined by several ministers including Rev. Clay Evans, founder of the Fellowship MBC, former Illinois Senator Rev. James T. Meeks, Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger, Rev. Dr. Johnny Miller, Mount Vernon MBC, Rev. Michael Eaddy, Peoples’ Church of the Harvest Church of God In Christ, Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim MBC, Dr. Leon Miller, Mt. Ebenezer MBC, health advocate Joyce Washington and others including Josephine Wade, co-owner of the restaurant.

The ministers said the summit and the mayoral/clergy partnership will continue. Meeks was pleased with the meeting describing it as “informative” and “not hostile.” Meeks said the mayor shared his plans for the community including summer jobs and schools.

Also describing the ministerial summit meeting as good was Dr. Hatch who said, “A lot of good stuff is going to come out of it. We’ll continue working together for the community.”

Agreeing was Bishop Gordon who said, “I think the meeting was extremely informative and necessary and the beginning of a great infrastructure that is going to bring not only development, help, but jobs for our community.” Simon said the mayor “was extremely receptive” in talking to the ministers and hearing their concerns.

Besides discussing more jobs for youth, Gordon said they also talked about mandatory sentencing many ministers oppose, what to do with vacant schools that were closed last year, redevelopment plans for the community and “how we’re going to function together in the future as we push toward dropping crime and building up our neighborhoods.”

Asked his opinion about the vacant schools, Gordon said, “It is necessary that there is a clear program designed. We have to have a clear discussion how they are to be maintained, what will it take to maintain them, what should be put in them but at least some initial discussion and not (have) an area of waste, or an eye sore to the community or a place that makes our communities look like a desert.

“The bad thing about a vacant school is that it looks like an educational desert, and we don’t really want that as a picture of what our community looks like. We have to have some activity” if there is going to be “viable building to take place,” Gordon said. “Our kids need places to go, jobs to enter into and program where they can learn vocationally how to be an asset to the community.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: