South Shore block club shows power in numbers; fights for services and amenities

CHICAGO (CBS) – Block clubs have long been a bedrock in Chicago: Neighbors coming together for mutual support, friendship, and to make their voices heard for community improvements. Perhaps they’ve never been more important than now as the city grapples with serious problems.

We visited the Ridgeland-Cregier block club in South Shore and found they are as committed as ever. 

The signs of commitment are clear the moment you step onto the 7800 block of South Ridgeland — the lawns, the homes, the way William Harper cares for his property, and the street, and the sidewalk.

“They see me out here cleaning, picking up paper.”

The commitment to South Shore and to Chicago. Amid crime and disinvestment, the city has lost 10 percent of its Black population in the last decade. But Harper is staying in the home he bought 30 years ago.

Williams: Why have you stayed here?

Harper: I love Chicago. Chicago is a beautiful city. Despite of things, I still have family here, I have friends here, and I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is my soil.”

The soil of neighbors, parents, and grandparents who sacrificed to buy homes up and down the block.

“My family has been over here for 60 years,” said Sean Jefferson.

On the morning we talked to Harper, his fellow members of the Ridgeland-Cregier Block Club stopped by.

“Where there are numbers, there’s power,” said Linda Ford.

Power to demand city services.

“Potholes, we had a whole two blocks full of potholes. And as you can we here, they’ve been patched up,” said Shanita Peaks.

Power to insist the city help a homeless woman living on the street here. The city listened. Tuesday morning, sanitation crews cleaned up this intersection, and workers from the Department of Family Support and Services came to the woman’s aid.

“You have a number of people making a difference and speaking out about it. Not just sitting, accepting anything,” Harper said.

The Ridgeland-Cregier Block Club has no appetite for despair – nor bleak predictions about Chicago’s future.

“Just because we are older doesn’t mean we still don’t have the fight in us,” Ford said.

The fight now for investment and amenities.

“Why can’t we have a Walmart here? why can’t we have a Home Depot here? Why can’t we have a decent restaurant here where we can take our families and sit down and eat?” Harper said.

William Harper and his neighbors want you to know the fight is worth it.

“I want them to know we exist. We’re going to maintain because this is where we live,” he said.

The Chicago Police Department has some tips on starting and maintaining a block club. You can view those tips here

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