On the South Side of Chicago, people don’t criticize Barack Obama — not in the open, at least.
In this predominantly African-American part of the city, where Obama charted his path to the White House and where his wife, Michelle, was born and raised, residents tend to speak of him with adoration and pride, like loyal subjects praising their king.
Now that Obama is about to build his presidential center in Woodlawn’s Jackson Park, some residents are wary of his ability to transform neighborhoods without doing harm to longtime residents who could end up displaced by gentrification.
A nasty fight over a community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation has exposed an unexpected rift between the former president and some of the South Side residents who helped lift him to prominence.
Not everyone on the South Side, it seems, thinks Obama did enough for black folks during his eight years as president. And as he prepares to build a presidential center that will pay tribute to his legacy, some South Siders are calling him out for what they consider broken promises.
Obama consistently has asked residents to trust that he will do right by them. The presidential center, he insists, will provide a wealth of opportunities specifically designed to meet the needs of Chicagoans who have long been overlooked.
But this time, according to one activist, there will be no “Amen, kiss the ring.”
Obama opened the door to the backlash when he appeared on a video at the foundation’s first public meeting last week and said flat-out that there would be no community benefits agreement.
Such a legal document, he said, would force the foundation to side with certain activist groups and leave others out. And, he added, it would open the door for other groups to step up and start making demands.
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Source: Chicago Tribune