By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director
I was talking with a local business owner recently and I asked, “How do we get more people to open businesses here alongside you?” He quickly shared his take on this problem: “It’s demographics.”
Demographics are the numbers that describe the number, financial profile and average age of area residents. These numbers are compiled by drawing a radius from a center point of Beverly/Morgan Park and counting population density, average income and other characteristics of the people within that radius. They are the numbers used by marketers and developers when deciding where their investments can be most profitable.
Personally, I’ve never been fond of these broad-stroke labels because they miss out on so much of what’s best about the people they are trying to find out about. Statistics and demographics are tools used to predict behavior. I don’t see that these particular tools provide an accurate picture of the quality of life here in the Village in the City, not today, not ever. Demographics don’t reflect the dynamic lifestyle built by generations of engaged citizens here; they don’t appreciate that we are people, not just numbers populating blocks.
Numbers don’t show the families that draw generations back to our community. They don’t know the feel of a heartfelt handshake between old friends. They don’t show how we celebrate and mourn with our neighbors, helping each other through the many changes in our lives.
Outsiders look at the data and they get an incomplete picture of what they would be investing in if they stopped to look deeper than the lining of their pockets.
Last month, another kind of outsider came to our neighborhood and posted stickers promoting an organization devoted to hating people. Outsiders hoping to take advantage of people who might be looking for financial help by selling their house fill up mailboxes with postcards and slap up billboards on street corners. These kinds of manipulative tools are not unique to our community — all major cities deal with this reality.
The outsiders don’t get that we are so much more than numbers here, we’re neighbors. But we know and we ignore them and we keep telling our story, the real story. There is no place better to call home than Beverly/Morgan Park.