Dear Resident


Dear Resident,
As always, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to each edition of RJ.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you, your family and our community love, peace andhealth in the new year. And with these some measure of happiness, success and well-being cannot be far behind. But wishing alone will not make it so. In addition to wishing, we must be working to become emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially fit within our home and community.

There are three qualities of physical fitness that we must strive to achieve: strength (the quality or condition of being strong), endurance (the power to last and to withstand hard wear without giving out)and flexibility (the capacity to be bent or twisted easily without breaking; adaptable and able to turn easily from one situation or subject to another). These the same qualities are also necessary to achieve any kind of fitness. As individuals, parents, mates and neighbors we must be strong, we must endure and we must be flexible. We must work to show one another the love (As the Bible says, “You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against your neighbor; you must love him as you love yourself”), peace (“If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”) and health (“do not speak thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing”) that we wish each other so freely during the holiday season. Remember, all that we wish and work for begins with each and every man, woman and child.
For me, living in public housing (Cabrini-Green), practically all of my life has been a test and a tool upon which to sharpen these qualities. Only the strong survive public housing as it is today and they survive by pulling themselves up and moving out or by staying and not being pulled down into the public housing abyss; being lost to alcoholism, drugs, gangs – total despair. I believe that strength, like failure, is taught. I do not know how to fail. My mother did not teach me how to fail. She taught me how to be strong.
She taught me how to try and try and try again. Knowing that if I had earnestly done my best, while I may not have succeeded, I had not failed because I tried. It is seldom that I feel a sense of failure and always that I feel the strength that my mother taught me. We must help one another to be strong. We must teach our children to be strong. Individually, many of our families have learned to be strong and fared well in public housing but not enough. Too many of our mothers, fathers and children have fallen into the abyss. We must learn to be strong collectively, as a community, if we are to survive as a community. But if this is not possible, you must learn to be strong and teach your children to be strong no matter where you live. Remember, “survival of the fittest” is the rule everywhere.
Living in public housing tries one’s endurance, to no end, on a daily basis. From a neighbor’s music rocking your world to water dripping through the ceiling, the garbage and pitch black darkness in the stairway, the dogmatic manner in which CHA residents are perceived and treated by CHA and others, drugs, gangs and until recently, CHA’s gross lack of maintenance and management. But the most trying aspect of public housing today has become the politics – internal (CAC/LAC/RMC), external (surrounding communities) city, county, state, federal, yours, mine, ours, theirs…everybody’s.
Most of this can be attributed to the fact that everything in Chicago is political. One definition of politics should read:
politics: n-Chicago: everything, everybody, everywhere.
And with the move to redevelop public housing in Chicago, the internal politics are fierce as residents agree, disagree, lobby, argue, yell and scream out of fear of things changing or fear of things staying the same. But there is no place for politics within a community fighting for survival. Change is inevitable! You can prolong change but you cannot stop it. You can evolve (grow and change to a more highly organized condition) with change or be pushed aside and left behind by it.
Flexibility, no matter who you are or where you live, is probably the most difficult quality to master because it requires constant change. But flexibility is essential if we are to grow as people and live, work and survive together as a community taking advantage of and creating new opportunities to improve the quality of life for ourselves, our children and our future. When flexibility is achieved, it gives you the ability to stretch and reach in new and far greater directions.
Even more importantly, things that are not flexible are eventually broken; you learn to bend or your learn to break. What it comes down to is this: you are either part of what is right with public housing or you are part of what is wrong with public housing – flex yourself accordingly. There is a great deal that we can accomplish together as a community but we must all flex in the same direction lest we tear ourselves apart.
The picture accompanying this article is of the mural, “PEACE in the ‘hood,” which for many years was located on the east wall of the Tranquility-Marksman Memorial Organization building, 440 W. Division St. The mural and the building are gone. The need for peace remains, especially for our children.

Until next time …be strong, endure and f-l-e-x.
– Patricia Johnson-Gordon

PS: I’d like to offer a correction. In my last article, I erred with regard to the anniversary of the Million Man March. It was the March’s second not first anniversary.

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