In reversal, rookie alderman signs permit for St. Sabina block party

SHARE In reversal, rookie alderman signs permit for St. Sabina block party

The party will go on.

A rookie alderman who was an outspoken critic of director Spike Lee’s film “Chiraq” and who had vowed to deny the permit for St. Sabina’s annual block party in Auburn-Gresham because it was co-sponsored by Lee and the cast of the movie reversed course Friday.

In a bizarre appearance on a local Fox morning show, Ald. David Moore (17th) said he’s concerned about the title of the movie and that residents haven’t been consulted.

But even as he announced he would sign the permit on the show, Moore insisted, “I’m not changing my mind.”

In an emailed statement, the alderman said he had gone door-to-door Thursday night to talk to the church’s neighbors to see if they support the block party.

“I was told by many of the residents that they support the party but not the name.Many of the residents also shared how much they appreciated me coming to them to seek their opinion,” Moore said in a statement issued Friday.

He also complained that “I was not given the time to talk with residents about the block party before meeting with a representative from St. Sabina and learning fliers had been passed out already.”

Moore is the second alderman to have a problem with the title of Lee’s movie.

Last month, Ald. Will Burns (4th) took the municipal angst over Lee’s working title to a whole new level when he introduced a City Council resolution calling on the Illinois Film Office to deny Lee’s request for a $3 million film production tax credit.

On Friday afternoon, Pfleger reacted to Moore’s about-face and said, ‘I’m just glad that he made the decision and that the block party will go on and bless the people of the community.”

The activist priest added, “I’m still a bit amazed at all these conversations, particularly coming from two of the aldermen regarding the negativity on this name of this movie. I just really wish there was as much outrage about the daily shootings as there is about the name of a movie.

“Seemingly we’re more concerned about the perception of others than we are about the residents right here.”

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, who had planned to host the party with or without the permit, said the party starts at 2 p.m. Saturday between 78th and 79th Streets on Throop. Lee and the cast are expected to attend, Pfleger said.

Moore had said he denied the permit because of the “economic impact” the title “Chiraq” would have on his impoverished and job-starved ward. In his statement issued Friday, he did not seem to back away from that assertion.

“The one-on-one conversations I had with residents were very revealing and productive.The residents share my same concerns about how the name ‘Chiraq’ will paint the Englewood and Auburn Gresham communities once the film is released,” he said. “They also expressed concern about the future of economic development in these communities and what plans supporters of the movie had to bring jobs to the South Side, which is at the root of the our city’s gun violence.”

Before filming the movie in Chicago, Lee visited St. Sabina and interviewed school principals, parents who have lost children to gun violence and members of “Brothers from the Blocks.” And he joined Pfleger at a news conference to urge Chicagoans to see the movie first before jumping to the conclusion that it will malign Chicago and undermine the city’s attempts to attract businesses and tourism.

“They are going to look stupid and be on the wrong side of history,” Lee said of the critics, who have included Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

Rev. Michael Pfleger spoke at a news conference outside St. Sabina last month about Spike Lee’s new movie. Lee is kneeling in front of the lectern at left; actor John Cusack, who is in the film, is standing to Pfleger’s left. | Sun-Times File Photo

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