Bronzeville

In the shadow of U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago, sits a once thriving neighborhood. Louis Armstrong used to sing “What a Wonderful World ” here and the East vs West Negro League All Star Game used to be held every year at the old Comiskey Park here. Once a jazz Mecca of the world, an industrial fueled economy, and a baseball hub, Bronzeville is now a skeleton of its former self. Like the 18th and Vine District in Kansas City, Bronzeville once boasted culture and power throughout Chicago and throughout the United States. Also like the 18th and Vine District, after desegregation, Bronzeville began to lose its culture, jobs, and economy.

At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, I got off of the Green Line at 35th/Bronzeville/IIT and took a right, towards the Dan Ryan Expressway and beyond that, Comiskey Park (U.S. Cellular Field). For those of you not from the area, like myself, the Dan Ryan Expressway is a large freeway which separates Bronzeville from U.S. Cellular Field.

GreenlineBronzeville

By Zol87

Bronzeville Sign

By Zol87

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experience Baseball had a team meeting at 1:30 (I was just a bit early) and then a meeting with the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council (BMC&TC) at the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center at 3:30, so I grabbed a cup of coffee at the “local” Starbucks and waited. The Starbucks is one of a handful of businesses part of what appeared to be a relatively new building development near U.S. Cellular built within the last 10-15 years. Initially, I thought this was a good sign: new buildings and new businesses establishing themselves on the opposite side of the Dan Ryan Expressway; but then after our team meeting, we walked down 35th in the opposite direction of the stadium and learned differently.

By Eric Allix Rogers

By Eric Allix Rogers

We spoke with the President/CEO of BMC&TC and the Director of the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, Harold Lucas, and Al Spearman Jr., the son of Negro league pitcher and Chicago American Giants player Al Spearman Sr. Lucas described the community as lacking the resources necessary reestablish itself, but cut off by the Dan Ryan Expressway. Lucas said the expressway is a “moat.”  It is a “moat” between then and now, here and there, them and us. It is more than just a road, it is a barrier — a barrier which Lucas and Spearman, and now myself, think went up purposefully. The new development on 35th — the one which houses the Starbucks – Lucas said, is not in cooperation with the Bronzeville community, but rather, an attempt to push out the residents of Bronzeville.

 

This leads me to wonder, why don’t baseball organizations support and work with the local community already there, especially one with such a rich baseball history? Wouldn’t an investment into a community with such a rich history be beneficial to both parties? And wouldn’t fans, if they knew about Bronzeville and its history, want to learn its interesting past?

However, I should not be the only one to wonder this. It is up to the fans, history buffs, and teams to create a true baseball community.

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