The name “Chiraq” feels like a punch in the gut. It juxtaposes our city with war-torn and beleaguered Iraq. Chiraq connotes resignation — an acceptance of gun violence and death as a norm, and in the hands of gang members and rappers, something to be celebrated.
For those of us who believe in the South Side, who see its potential and promise, attend CAPS’ meetings, mow our lawns, and raise our kids — don’t call where we live Chiraq. We call it home.
Opposition to the name Chiraq does not mean that we ignore the reality of gun violence in our neighborhoods. We know it all too well, and are working everyday with the Chicago Police Department to quell the violence. We refuse, however, to concede our community to the gangbangers, their rapper allies who would destroy it, or movie moguls who stand to profit in the millions by branding our community something that it is not! After thousands left the South Side in the last decade for the suburbs or even other states, we stayed — to invest, build, hope and fight.
As an alderman, I have worked with community development corporations, resident associations, the City of Chicago and developers to bring new residential and retail projects to the 4th Ward. These efforts have resulted in some visible and tangible successes – successes that we are building on a daily basis. Yet, I find that we are always struggling against unjustified perceptions of South Side neighborhoods. We can and have provided reams of data on income, traffic counts and retail leakage to potential retailers, but still lose them because of the fallacious perceptions of our communities.
Using the name Chiraq as the title of a major motion picture will add to the negative perceptions of South Side neighborhoods and the people who live there. In short, many of us fear that it will become a brand name for where we live and work. And, we find it deeply unfair and even harmful – especially to the mental condition of our children.
For those who questioned, hopefully now they can somewhat understand why my colleague, Ald. David Moore, refused to sign off on a permit for a block club party sponsored by Spike Lee to promote the movie. Our constituents expect us to stand up and fight for them – whether it’s against gangbangers or Spike Lee.
Ald. Will Burns represents Chicago’s 4th Ward on the South Side.