I don’t remember living in the Roseland neighborhood in Chicago.
Though the home I was born in remained in my family for years after we left, I was raised in Country Club Hills, Illinois.
Before Saturday morning cartoons, I woke up to the beautiful sounds of the Hillcrest High School band practicing every weekend. I couldn’t wait to go to Hillcrest. Through my bedroom window, I had the perfect view of the school’s south wing, facing 175th street. Back then, the roof of the school was orange, and I would stare out my window daydreaming of the day I would be a student there.
My family moved to Country Club Hills in the fall of 1984, three months before my second birthday. I attended Chateaux Elementary School (Hazel Crest), and met friends that I would grow up with and remember for the rest of my life.
……just to name a few.
I’m told that in the early days, CC Hills had Christmas Carolers. White folks actually went door-to-door singing to neighbors. We were part of the first group of Chicago migrants on our block. In the early 80’s the neighborhood was predominately White.
By the time I began to play outside and recognize my community, it was predominately Black. The white flight had taken place.
I loved my neighborhood.
Playing double dutch, riding bikes, eating sunflower seeds, and my most favorite memory…spending my evenings and summer days at Betty’s house. Mrs. Betty was our neighborhood Shero and she made a difference in every child’s life on our block and beyond.
I finally made it to Hillcrest!
School spirit week (70’s day)
The yellow hallway
Start out the way you can hold out (Mrs. Welch)
These were fun times. In fact, I enjoyed my social life in high school more than college. The feeling of euphoria would take over my soul every time I drove home from Eastern Illinois University and saw the water tower over the expressway.
It was at Eastern that I realized the true dynamic of my community. It never dawned on me that I was raised in a middle-class Black community. It wasn’t until I arrived in central Illinois that I understood that not everyone grew up like me. Of course being called “colored” and hearing terms like “jigaboo pants” definitely served as a wake-up call. I remember my college roommate (who was white) sharing stories of working at the Chicago Board of Trade during her summer months.
I didn’t think you could do such as thing. I worked at Wendy’s in Hazel Crest.
This brings me to my point. By the early 2000’s most of my neighbors were gone. As public housing changed and buildings were being demolished in Chicago, families were displaced and many were moved to the south suburbs.
What was once a White flight, was now a Black flight. Most of us left our beloved community and eventually, the housing crisis took place.
I can’t help but to wonder what could we do to help out more and remain loyal to our community. As a people, how many more times will we leave our communities instead of building them? Now I’m not talking about the movie theatre, concert venue, and the various other businesses that have grown in Country Club Hills. I’m referring to willingness to stay even when times get tough.
Now, I’m a homeowner. And I want my son to experience the joys of growing up in a vibrant community full of people who look like him and are doing great things. Will I leave when the community changes?
It’s hard to say.
It has been so refreshing seeing the great things my former classmates are doing. I hope we can continue to build better communities for our children.
Meanwhile, I still have fun memories of this place. My cousins lived In Hampton Court…..before they were condo’s!
Man those were the days…….
Dr. Lauren Meeks