Festive Call for Humane Budgets!
On the first sunny day in what seemed to be months, hundreds of Uptown residents joined together in a community march to highlight services that provide stability to our communities. Beginning at Chinese Mutual Aid, the group visited multiple sites that will be severely impacted by cuts threatened at a state and federal level. The march ended at Truman College with a rally against the decimation of the community safety net.
Over 200 ONE members came out with painted signs, drums and other instruments. More and more people joined in when they passed by youth service providers, immigrant aid agencies, healthcare providers and other pillars of stability in the community. Street theatre actors dramatized the tension around budgeting decisions through an ongoing feud between a Fat Cat tea party politician and the Humane Budget Avenger. Laughing maniacally, the Fat Cat would attempt to shut down community agencies while the Human Budget Avenger worked to thwart his efforts.
Pounding on drums, the marchers countered the sentiment of the Fat Cat with joyous chants and songs. One song was sung to the familiar Oscar Meyer Weiner tune: “Oh I wish I were a big time corporation – That is what I’d really like to be – Cause if I were a big time corporation – I’d keep the people’s money just for me!” Other chants were more focused on the value of investing in the people of our community – “Schools, Not Jails!” and “Prevention, Not Detention!” At the end of the march, hundreds of assembled neighbors gathered in the plaza outside of Truman College to hear from people who will be directly impacted by the cuts.
Sandra Falcon has changed her life through treatment services funded by the State of Illinois. She said, “I’m here today because the Governor has proposed to cut treatment for alcoholics and addicts out of the state budget. You see, I was hooked on drugs for 25 years with no hope of ever quitting, but because of treatment, I have become a productive member to society.”
Falcon continued, “I had lost my family, friends and self respect. I hated seeing myself in the mirror many days. But treatment has helped me put my life back together, and I’m in a position where I can help other alcoholics and addicts like myself.”
Other speakers included Mary Burns of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus who has fought for many years to protect the dignity of senior citizens; Wilma Gibson, a resident of HUD housing that had previously been homeless in a system that was so underfunded they told her that her son could not stay with her; and youth from Alternatives Inc. who spoke about the how afterschool programs have kept them focused and safe.
Community leaders signed letters to elected officials while local state Representative Greg Harris and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Chief of Staff joined the marchers at Truman College for the rally. All elected officials that represent the north lakefront communities of Chicago were invited to participate in the action.