By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Beverly/Morgan Park. Each passing day that I have the privilege of working for this community, I grow more and more in awe of our neighborhood and neighbors. I have developed an appetite for understanding how we got where we are today, what we’ve done right, and how we can do more of it.
History provides us a valuable lens for organizational and individual reflection. The passing of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968 changed the trajectory of Beverly/Morgan Park’s history.
Starting on page 1 of this issue of The Villager we are sharing “How to Integrate a Neighborhood in three (not so easy) steps,” an article about that time of our history written by neighborhood resident and BAPA Board member Scott Smith and published in Belt Magazine. The essay details how our neighborhood navigated racial change in the late 1960s and 1970s, when the phrase “white flight” became an infamous part of Chicago’s vocabulary.
Smith interviewed three longtime residents who played pivotal roles in how racial integration transformed our community – each of these neighbors sees this time through a personal lens of experience. This topic comes up frequently when the history of BAPA is discussed, and It’s not at all surprising that the story is often as unique as the person telling it. To engage in the re-telling of this important part of our history is to reveal our own lens. It feels risky. But, for me, choosing not to tell the story is the wrong choice.
I know I am not alone in this belief.
Today, I see conversations about diversity, integration, acceptance of all people actively sought out in our community. These dialogues are organized through groups like Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative, Unity in Diversity, You Are My Neighbor forums, and the new Beverly Arts Center’s Diversity Committee, to name a few. These conversations provide new lenses for consideration. Reading Smith’s article, we can look at facts, actions and words that were captured in our community’s history 50 years ago and hear from three people who were involved about how it felt at the time to take a step into something that was new – and often volatile — territory.
Like all of us, I can only speak from my own personal lens. This article provides a way to acknowledge BAPA’s role in reflecting Beverly/Morgan Park as it was in the 1970s and the organization’s intention to do what was right at the time. That lens, for me, provides an even sharper focus on what we’re doing right in our community today.