A Protest Success Story

by Alicia Jacobs 

Alicia Jacobs and a fellow resident of the Altgeld Gardens public housing development on the South Side pose during a successful protest of a local food store. Photo by Alicia Jacobs.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

This is a story of a protest that helped a community. Could you imagine being outside for more than nine hours a day in dangerously cold temperatures, standing up and fighting for a change? Could you be a part of a boycott, just like your older relatives have done in the civil rights days?

Occupy Altgeld is a group of concerned residents who live in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development on the far South Side who decided to address problems that many residents saw but couldn’t seem to change on their own. These residents felt the food prices of Rosebud Farm were too high. Rosebud Farm is the only grocery store in the area surrounding Altgeld where residents can purchase food.

At the first few meetings of Occupy Altgeld, the residents voiced their concerns and the prices of Rosebud farm was the main topic. So, Marguerite Jacobs (who also happens to be my mother) and Cheryl Johnson, a community activist and resident, sought to organize a boycott and make Rosebud Farm lower its prices and make other improvements.

Last November, men and women of Occupy Altgeld boycotted Rosebud farms for five effective days for 10 hours a day. Occupy Altgeld turned away 410 cars and 50 people walking in the store. They boycotted Rosebud Farm because the store didn’t accept WIC but does accept Link. Rosebud didn’t support the community programs and didn’t hire locally. They didn’t pay livable income for their workers, didn’t hire residents with CDL licenses and their ATM machine did not accept unemployment benefits debit cards.

Leona Williams, a 35-year-old resident of Altgeld, told me, “For this to be the only store in the community, it seems to be a disadvantage to the community.”

Marguerite Jacobs explained why she helped organize the protest. “I’m tired of the Farm taking our money, gauging there prices, and having no respect. I’m tired of hearing residents talk about it, so I took the liberty to stand up for my community.”

For those five days, Occupy Altgeld took customers to any store of their choice, as long as they didn’t purchase anything from Rosebud Farm. April Fields, a 31-year-old resident of Altgeld, said, “Occupy Altgeld took the liberty to do what the community wanted to do.”

Cheryl Johnson added, “Rosebud Farm has been in the community for 57 years and we helped this business to become one of the largest distributors of poultry in the Midwest. We helped make them what they are today.”

And guess what? The protest worked!

Here is the statement from Carlos Bruce, manager and decision maker at Rosebud Farm: “On November 16, Occupy Altgeld and Rosebud Farm came to a mutual agreement to lowering the prices, accepting WIC, hiring residents with CDL licenses, and to supporting community events and holiday activities.”

Who knew that boycotting for just five days could make a difference that will help the community in the future?

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