32 Chicago

Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

Sometimes, listening to such innocent dreams, I would find myself fighting off the urge to gather up these girls and their babies in my arms, to hold them all tight and never let go. The girls would sense that impulse, I think, and Linda, with her dark, striking beauty, would smile at Bernadette and ask me why I wasn’t already married. “Haven’t found the right woman, I guess,” I would say. And Bernadette would slap Linda on the arm, saying, “Stop it! You making Mr.Obama blush.” And they would both start to laugh, and I would realize that in my own way, I must have seemed as innocent to them as they both seemed to me. My plan for the parents was simple. We didn’t yet have the power to change state welfare policy, or create local jobs, or bring substantially more money into the schools. But what we could do was begin to improve basic services in Altgeld-get the toilets fixed, the heaters working, the windows repaired. A few victories there, and I imagined the parents forming the nucleus of a genuinely independent tenants’ organization. With the strategy in mind, I passed out a set of complaint forms at the next full parents’ meeting, asking everyone to canvass the block where they lived. -P.235, October 8, 2021

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