Riot Fest left Douglass Park. Good riddance.

Some businesses saw a brief boost. Many lost regular customers during the festival because of traffic.

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Festivalgoers walk around Douglass Park, with a Ferris wheel in the background.

A crowd at Riot Fest in Douglass Park, September 2022.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

As a resident of the neighborhood that borders Douglass Park, I appreciate Emmanuel Camarillo’s reporting on Riot Fest’s decision to leave. He interviewed people in the area and presented their comments.

There will always be differences of opinion on any issue, but when objective facts exist they should be consulted. So I would quibble with this sentence, wishing that it had some nuance to indicate Riot Fest’s unsubstantiated claim was not taken at face value: “Supporters of the festival pointed to the benefits of an economic boost to the area from increased foot traffic.”

Riot Fest has never had any facts to back up this claim, whereas community members conducted an in-person survey of businesses surrounding the park (Roosevelt Road, California, Cermak). The survey demonstrated businesses did not benefit from the festival. Many responded like the manager of the Teloloapan Grocery, saying they had actually lost business during the festival (because of traffic that prevented regular customers from coming).

Increases in business for some vendors and a few restaurants were temporary. It would be unfortunate if the economic well-being of businesses and local organizations were dependent on the ephemeral presence of a private entity that swoops into a vulnerable community such as Lawndale, ingratiates itself with those in positions of power, scatters a bit of largesse strategically then leaves when it seems expedient.

Thank you for your responsible reporting.

Rebecca Wolfram, Lawndale

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Businesses soured on Riot Fest

I am writing in response to Emmanuel Camarillo’s article, “West Side residents offer mixed reactions to music festival move,” published last week.

While supporters argue Riot Fest boosts business, local business owners have reported disruptions rather than benefits driven by increased congestion, limited parking and the overwhelming influx of festivalgoers that deterred regular customers.

Neighbors advocating for the festival’s removal from Douglass Park realized claims are not data. To determine the true impact of the festival on local businesses, they conducted a survey of 102 businesses bordering the park in 2022 and a smaller survey in 2023. The results indicated the festival did not benefit local businesses as repeatedly purported by festival supporters.

The claims made by those who profit from occupying public spaces should never be taken at face value.

I am grateful to my neighbors who did the hard work to disclose the facts and who’ve advocated for the removal of large for-profit festivals from Douglass Park for nine years. They worked without any compensation other than the beauty, joy and peace the park offers. It is my sincere hope that we continue to work together to make the Lawndale neighborhood and Douglass Park the jewel of the city.

Susan Mullen, Lawndale

Latest on Riot Fest's move to Bridgeview
The festival will be exiting Douglass Park after a 10-year run that has been plagued by controversy in recent years.
With the move from Chicago to southwest suburban Bridgeview, Michael Petryshyn a.k.a. “Riot Mike” looks forward to “going somewhere where people want you.”
Some residents and business owners are happy to see the traffic and noise leave and for the community to regain access to green space. Others are sorry to lose the excitement and crowds.
The music festival is slated to be held in the Bridgeview stadium the same weekend the soccer team will play a nationally televised match. Team president Karen Leetzow calls it “unfair” and says it’s because they’re a women’s professional sports team. Bridgeview insists its decision has “nothing to do with gender.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, wearing a suit and tie, gestures with his hands while standing at a lectern with the Illinois seal on it.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown here at the Chicago South Side Birth Center in February, is expected to sign legislation requiring private insurance companies to cover maternal services provided by midwives, doulas and lactation consultants.

Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times

South Side Birth Center will improve health outcomes

The nation is facing a maternal and infant health crisis, and Illinois is no different. Since 2019, four hospitals have closed their obstetrics units on the South Side of Chicago, creating a maternal health desert. For Black birthing individuals, who face disproportionately high rates of maternal morbidity, the impact has been particularly devastating. In Chicago, 14% of Black infants are born preterm compared to 8% of white infants.

As medical institutions close in under-resourced areas, Black midwives have stepped up to fill the gaps, providing culturally centered care to improve health equity. As a midwife, I’ve seen the maternal health crisis up close; midwives, doulas, and community resources, particularly community birth centers, are improving health outcomes. Midwives frequently provide prenatal and postnatal care to ensure birthing parents are equipped with the tools needed to secure food and housing, among other resources.

In pursuit of better maternal and infant health outcomes, we are thrilled to bring the Chicago South Side Birth Center to our community. It will open next year and be the first of its kind providing a holistic range of birth-related services, including birthing support, family planning, reproductive health care and wellness services. Our goal is to create a sanctuary for birthing families, supporting them from pre-labor through bringing home their babies.

Building our facility and opening our doors to the community requires significant resources and collaboration. Lasting partnerships with organizations such as Molina Healthcare of Illinois help by providing financial support and hands-on volunteering to ensure the new facility’s success. In addition to support from community partners like Molina, we are grateful to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s commitment to birth equity. Recently, the governor announced an investment in birth equity resource building grants to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce disparities for Black women in Illinois. It’s these relationships with health care organizations and government, alongside partners in philanthropy like Chicago Beyond, that will help us reach our capital goal of $7 million.

I am proud to advocate for expanded access to midwives in communities like Chicago’s South Side. It’s time we changed the narrative around health inequities by supporting culturally centered and evidence-based midwifery care. The lives of Black birthing people and infants are at stake, and together, we can improve health equity for all Illinoisans.

Jeanine Valrie Logan, founder and lead steward, Chicago South Side Birth Center

Kids in Gaza need our help

Recently, I was watching my grandchildren, 20 and 39 months old. They cried inconsolably when their parents left, but they returned in less than three hours. It was hard to watch them crying and not be able to stop their distress. The next morning, I watched the news about atrocities in Gaza. Unfortunately, many children in Gaza will never see their parents again, and even worse, some parents may end up holding a white shroud with the body parts of their children, courtesy of an American-made, Israeli-dropped bomb. I imagine my grandkids that I love so much in those situations.

We cannot allow this to continue. We must end our supply of weapons to Israel to end this slaughter of civilians both in Gaza and the West Bank. Then provide abundant humanitarian aid and bring about negotiations that lead to all the people there living in peace, freedom and prosperity. This is what America is about, not enabling genocide.

Dan Bailey, Wheaton

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