Organizers rally for cleaner South Side neighborhoods

Clutching broomsticks, they gathered to spread a simple message: If you look good, you feel good.

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Sel Dunlap, organizer of the War on Filth and Fear Campaign, speaks at the Daley Plaza on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.

Sel Dunlap, organizer of the War on Filth and Fear Campaign, speaks at the Daley Plaza on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Organizers with the War on Filth and Fear Campaign and the Black Star Project rallied in Daley Plaza Monday to voice concerns about trash, dirt and graffiti in their neighborhoods.

Clutching broomsticks, they gathered to spread a simple message: If you look good, you feel good.

Sel Dunlap, an organizer with the Black Star Project, a nonprofit that works to advocate for Black and Latino communities in Chicago, said clean neighborhoods are critical to citizens’ mental and physical well-being.

“Our mission is to encourage us not to throw the trash down in the first place,” Dunlap said. “...We all win as a result of cleaning up.”

Yaa Simpson, a community epidemiologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks towards City Hall on Monday.

Yaa Simpson, a community epidemiologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at Daley Plaza on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Yaa Simpson, a community epidemiologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health, said neighborhood cleanliness is important in addressing life expectancy disparities in the city.

The lifespan of Black Chicagoans are, on average, nearly 10 years shorter than non-Black Chicagoans, according to a report from the Health Equity Index Committee at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“One of the things we have to talk about is what? Our environments,” Simpson said, speaking towards City Hall, across the street from the plaza. “... If we’re not in a clean environment that allows us to be stronger, better, [have] better health outcomes. Don’t keep telling me what I’m not doing, tell me what I can do. Tell me what you’re gonna do. … We got to have a clean place to live. We got to have better housing standards. We got to have our streets clean. We got to have our garbage taken out.”

Micheal LaFargue, a real estate agent and property manager, said he sees neighborhood cleanliness affecting property values.

“It’s broken window theory when you’re managing properties,” he said.

“You want the property to be clean, safe, secure,” LaFargue said. “Ladies and gentlemen, we want quality of life. It is not just on the citizens, it’s upon the cooperation of our inter-governmental agencies. It affects us; it affects our property values.”

The rally comes ahead of Black Star Project’s Red, Black, Clean and Green annual community clean-up event. Red, Black Clean and Green does pop-up clean-up events every other week, according to the Black Star Project’s website.

“I encourage you all to go into your community,” said Gloria Smith, executive director of the Black Star Project. “Not just once or twice, but all the time.”


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