Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois
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Rush Launches Greater Chatham Initiative, A Historic Neighborhood Development and Economic Growth Program

Jun 29, 2016
Press Release

CHICAGO — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) announced a bold new initiative today — the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) — geared toward the economic advancement and security of his constituents and Chicago’s underrepresented African-American communities.

The Greater Chatham Initiative is a comprehensive neighborhood business plan promoting 21st century economic growth in the predominantly African-American communities of Chatham, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing and Avalon Park. This initiative will strive to strengthen Greater Chatham and ensure that it contributes to the prosperity of the Chicago region as a whole. “Two years ago, I asked key city stakeholders from all sectors of our community that included clergy, elected officials, business men and women, community activists and residents to voice their concerns and create solutions to halt Chicago’s violence,” Rep. Rush said. “I believe that if we create opportunity, give our youth something productive to do, whether it be after-school programs, summer activities or most importantly jobs, then we can bring an end to Chicago’s violence.”

Added Rush: “It is clearly about investment. But for so long, there has been divestment on the South Side. Now is the time to restore our city blocks, build up businesses and invest in our community and especially in our youth.”

Historically and economically, the Greater Chatham communities have always been the home of Chicago’s African-American middle-class. Cultural icons like Mahalia Jackson and Gwendolyn Brooks have called Greater Chatham home, as have African-American businesses like Johnson Products and Seaway National Bank. But today, these communities stand on the edge of deterioration because of larger trends: declining middle-skill jobs, frozen housing markets, and changing demographics. With GCI, partners and programs will take place to invest strategically in the human capital, business development, housing, public safety, support services, and civic capacity of the area.

Local and regional stakeholders, from the community and public and private sectors, are coming together to support this initiative with the goal of strengthening these communities and promoting them as places of opportunity and choice for working- and middle-class African-American families. Over 30 programs — including the Greater Chatham Workforce Center, a targeted housing and commercial redevelopment fund, a demand-side sector-driven workforce program for underemployed adults, expanded youth summer jobs programs, and youth transportation from school to afterschool programs — are currently being developed. These partnerships and programs are established for easy adaptation and replication for surrounding communities facing similar challenges.

With participation and commitment from the stakeholders, partners, and the surrounding community, the Greater Chatham Initiative holds enormous potential. The development of a 21st century economic system in the Greater Chatham area, and the impact it may have on surrounding communities, stands as a key example of how working together for the advancement of our country can successfully improve other diminishing communities within the United States.

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