Why no Black Lives Matter rally in Forest Park?

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

About a month ago 700 people showed up at a Black Lives Matter rally in Oak Park, Rev. Shawn Schreiner, the rector of Grace Episcopal Church, started the whole thing off with an email on Monday, word got passed around quickly and six days later a big crowd showed up to protest white cops killing black unarmed males and the failure of grand juries to indict the officers.


            Why didn't a similar event happen in Forest Park?


            In some ways Forest Park and Oak Park are similar.  In 2012, 77% of Forest Parkers voted and 80% of them cast their ballot for President Obama.  In Oak Park the turnout was 79.8% and 82.5% voted for Obama.  The African American portion of the population: Forest Park 32%, Oak Park 21.7%.  The percentage of people living below the poverty level is about the same: Forest Park 7.4% and Oak Park 8.4%.


            Here are some of the differences.


v  Interfaith Cooperation.  Forest Park used to have an active ministerium.  The clergy would meet monthly, and a big event each year was the ecumenical Thanksgiving service.  Not anymore.  Oak Park's Community of Congregations is very active.

v  The Larger View.  I asked a pastor in Maywood to describe the relationship between Forest Park and Maywood.  He replied, "There is none."  In contrast, Oak Parkers frequently cross Austin Blvd. and participate in many programs in the Austin Neighborhood.

v  The High School.  Proviso East High School right now frustrates the development of community leaders in Forest Park.  When I was in the parish, we had a lot of bright energized young leaders leave us when the ages of their kids reached 13 or 14, just at the time when those parents were ready to assume great responsibility.  OPRF High School keeps residents in Oak Park for a long time.

v  Education Level.                     Forest Park                  Oak Park

Bachelors Degree                    41.2%                          66.9%

Professional Degree                  2                                11

Ph.D.                                         2                                  8

v  Median Household Income    $34,756                       $78,384

v  Population                               14,167                         52,015


            What do you make of that?  In many ways we can say that Forest Parkers are just as liberal as our neighbors to the east of Harlem.  We can boast that we have a larger black population percentage wise than Oak Park which boasts that they are so tolerant, plus we seem to have a basically color blind way of dealing with our neighbors, i.e. I don't care what your color or sexual orientation is; if you are a good neighbor, we'll get along fine.

            I think part of what I call "the problem" is lack of leadership.  Right now, my sense of the religious leadership in town is that they are focused on their own congregations, either because they are just starting out and need a lot of attention or because they are old and have been losing membership for decades.


            Lack of an interfaith organization.  Oak Park went from an email on Monday to 700 people in Scoville Park on Sunday in large part because they have a functioning interfaith organization with a strong communication network.


            Lack of opinionated people.  That's not necessarily a negative.  The Wednesday Journal typically has something like six to eight letters to the editor every week.  Oak Parkers love to express their opinions.  The Review often will have none.  I think that is in large part due to the different levels of education in the two towns.  The more education people have, it seems to me, the more opinions they have and the more they need to tell everyone about them.  Blue collar folks talk about their families and sports.  Ph.D.'s discuss the books they are reading, politics and their latest trip to Asia.  People in this town seem to have less of need to "demonstrate" what they think and how they feel.


            Size of the community.  Forest Park is about one-third the size of Oak Park.  Maybe we just don't have the critical mass necessary.


            I'm not sure what the income differential means.


            What do you think?  Why didn't a Black Lives Matter rally happen in Constitution Court?  If you want to be un-Forest-Parkish, express your opinion.



                                                                        FP                    OP                   Ferguson


Population                                                       14,167             52,015             21,135

White                                                              55%                 67.7                 30.6

Black                                                               32%                 21.7                 64.9

Bachelors                                                        41.2%              66.9                 14                   

Veterans                                                          794

Home ownership                                             47.9                 61.9

Median value of owner owned homes            222,400           315,531           109,205

Median income per household                        34,756             78,384             36,121

Ph.D.                                                                2                      8                      1

Professional school                                          2                      11                     1

Murders per 100,000—2012                           0                      0                      2

Persons below poverty level                           7.4                   8.7


Reader Comments

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John Q  

Posted: February 1st, 2015 6:06 PM

Jack Hughes, I am a black male and I approve this message. My grandfather came here from the south and could barely read even till his death. His father was in the home. He was in my father's home. All of his sons were at home with their wives and children and even of his great grandchildren...there is only one whose father wasn't in the home. One. Of all the poverty, illiteracy, all the bad neighborhoods...the men in my family married, had children only inside their marriage and its our normal

Jack Hughes from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: February 1st, 2015 1:12 PM

If black lives mattered, there would be fathers at the dinner table and helping with the homework....

OP Resident #693 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2015 10:10 PM

You're a bit late to that media craze. I won't say this is poorly written, just that I question the intentions of the author (bait much?). Sorry, not taking the bait here.

Winter Skye  

Posted: January 13th, 2015 12:56 PM

If I am not mistaken, the main demographic of that OP Black Lives Matter rally was post-menopausal White women who believe in Ascension and have 2.5 cats at home.

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