Chicago activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green crashed a news conference on Thursday held by Mayor Lori Lightfoot for not backing his efforts to bring a youth center to Auburn Gresham.
Lightfoot was in the neighborhood to announce a new community investment program.
After the announcement, she was fielding questions from reporters when she was asked about Green’s proposed Morgan All-Stars Youth Center. Green is part of an effort to build the center on the site of a shuttered CPS elementary school. When Lightfoot said she was unfamiliar with the project, Green started shouting.
“Mayor stop the bullcrap! Stop the bull!” Green said, interrupting Lightfoot. “You know exactly about this center. Don’t lie. … You just texted me about it so don’t lie! Learn how to be honest.”
Lightfoot, remaining composed, didn’t engage with Green and waited for police officers to escort him from the news conference.
“The mayor ran against a set of systems where people who screamed the loudest got silenced with payoffs,” a mayor’s office spokesperson said. “Apparently Mr. Green did not get the memo.”
Green told the Sun-Times after the clash that he admits he got “pretty emotional” when she said she was unaware of the project.
“We really just need some real support,” Green said. “We are in a state of emergency right now, our young people are dying at an alarming rate.”
The youth center he is advocating for is a proposed 80,000-square-foot facility that will replace the former Morgan Elementary School, 8407 S. Kerfoot Ave. The $15 million center will offer a wellness center, services for homeless youth, a vertical farm, coding department and other youth-focused programs.
The mayor’s office commented on the center for a story published May 11, in which Green said his involvement in the project had prompted the mayor to oppose it.
Green said then that the project had been moving along until Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Samir Mayekar “told our developer, ‘We’re not moving on this project because Ja’Mal is involved and the mayor doesn’t like it.’ ”
Green said Thursday he is not “asking for a dime from the city” but for the city to either sell or give the property to him.
“They are basically delaying the transfer of the land,” Green said. “We are not asking for any city dollars — they can sell it to us or donate it — but she hates I have criticized her in the past and this is personal for her. … She is just hurting people in our neighborhood.”