33 Chicago

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I changed as a result of that bus trip, in a fundamental way. It was the sort of change that’s important not because it alters your concert circumstances in some ways but because it hints at what might be possible and therefore spurs you on, beyond the immediate exhilaration, beyond any subsequent disappointments, to retrieve that thing that you once, ever so briefly, held in your hand. That bus ride kept me going, I think. Maybe it still does. The publicity was nice, of course. The evening after we got back from the CHA office, Sadie’s face was all over the television. The press, smelling blood, discovered that another South Side project contained piped lined with rotting asbestos. Aldermen began calling for immediate hearings. Lawyers called about a class-action suit. But it was away from all that, as we prepared for our meeting with the CHA director, that I began to see something wonderful happening. The parent began talking about ideas for future campaigns. New parents got involved. The block-by-block canvass we’d planned earlier was put into effect, with Linda and her swollen belly waddling door-to-door to collect complaint forms; Mr.Lucas, unable to read the forms himself, explaining to neighbors how to fill them out properly. Even those who’d opposed our efforts began to come around: Mrs.Reece agreed to co-sponsor the event, and Reverend Johnsons allowed some of his members to make an announcement at Sunday service. It was as though Sadie’s small, honest step had broken into a reservoir of hope, allowing people in Altgeld to reclaim a power they had had all along. -P.242, October 11, 2021

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