The following letter is in response to the letter titled, “Is segregation in Oak Park’s future?” [Viewpoints, Oct. 24]:
The work/mission of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center has been very important to the stability and future of Oak Park. Institutional memory, however, compels me to caution against the unfortunate comment of Rob Breymaier that without the Housing Center, Oak Park would segregate within five years [Here’s to the next 40 years, Viewpoints, Oct. 17].
I don’t recall whether urbanologist Pierre DeVise gave Oak Park five or seven years to survive threatened re-segregation back in the ’60s. That thoughtless remark, as well as the outrageous discrimination against a black violinist appearing with a local community musical organization, fueled what indeed “saved” Oak Park as an open, diverse, and vibrant community — the creation of the OP-RF Citizens Committee for Human Rights.
“Hold on,” they proclaimed, “this is not us.” Bravely responding to what was surely a community crisis, the Oak Park village trustees passed one of, if not the most meaningful open housing laws in the nation, and in doing so formed a bond with the many community activists which, more than any other thing, has brought the community to what it is today.
The Housing Center was there after the “second act” so to speak. Led by a number of creative and energetic individuals, the Housing Center’s concept was to ensure then that persons of whatever race, culture, or ethnicity, were not “steered” as had been the real estate practice to certain areas of this or other communities.
In effect it was “reverse steering.” Today the housing center is an important monument of the community, but predictions of what would be if it did not exist are no more helpful than Pierre DeVise’s and substantially sell short the conduct of those who went before and who make up our community now.
Robert K. Downs