As I See It . . . Summer 2001
By Mike Glasser, President, Rogers Park Builders Group
The 2001 U.S. Census Bureau figures contain some astounding,but not surprising, results. Rogers Park is among the most remarkably diverse communities in Chicago, if not in America.
In fact, of all of Chicago’s communities, Rogers Park most closely mirrors the city’s racial and ethnic composition, 30.5 percent African-American or Caribbean; 32 percent White; 26 percent Hispanic; and 6 percent Asian.
Most Rogers Park residents are proud of our diversity. In fact diversity is often cited as a key reason why people are attract-ed to Rogers Park. Most neighborhood residents applaud the fact that our diversity crosses racial, ethnic, sexual and economic boundaries.
Some people claim that diversity is overrated, suggesting that each group still clings desperately to their own, with little interaction among us. According to this view, Whites still cling to the lake front, African-American and Caribbean blacks reside in various pockets and Mexicans and other His-panics straddle Clark Street.
I thought about this as I went for a 0run with my dog the other day, coincidentally the 4th of July. While running, I passed two Mexican boys, probably age 8 or 9, who had a problem. One of them had accidentally thrown their large rubber ball into someone’s enclosed front yard, where it was positioned at least three feet inside of the iron fence. I stopped my run, tried to help, squeezing my sweat soaked arm through the iron posts,but to no avail. I then grabbed an empty plastic bottle that was lying on the sidewalk and the boys looked at me mystified, as I aimed and threw the bottle at the ball, attempting to knock the ball closer to the fence. To no one’s surprise, the bottle sailed far above and beyond the ball. Not wishing to embarrass myself further, I quickly offered the boys my apologies in broken high school Spanish and I continued my run. I can’t speak for my dog, but as we reached the end of the block I know that I felt like we had abandoned the boys. We quickly reversed our course at the corner, but upon returning to the scene, we saw that other neighborhood residents had taken over. An African-American family – a father, mother, and two children – had stopped to offer the boys their assistance. The father reached out his arm inside the gate, but the ball remained at least a foot beyond the reach of his fingers. I snickered. Then the father picked up the lankier of the two boys, placed him over the fence and gently set him down on the other side. The boy triumphantly grabbed the ball and returned to the fence, where the man grabbed him by his shoulder blades and carefully pulled him back. Mission accomplished.
It wasn’t until I had run a couple of blocks that I realized that I had witnessed a simple but uplifting example of community. Neighbors had joined up on a hot summer day to help each other. People may do such deeds everywhere, but in Rogers Park our community has an additional element – our diversity. Irrespective of sexual orientation, ethnic background, tax bracket,or color, many incidents occur daily that demonstrate Rogers Park residents’ commitment to our unique way of life.