MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If knowledge from books is power, then the predominantly white status quo doesn't have to worry about young people in Ford Heights, Illinois, empowering themselves at the library anytime soon.
That is because there is no library and no books to be checked out in one of the poorest suburbs (about 95% African American of what's left of a village that once had 5000 residents) in the nation. Ford Heights is like a mini-Detroit with far too many boarded up and foreclosed houses, except Illinois doesn't have a corporatized privatization "emergency manager" such as exists in Michigan, one of whom is now overseeing the imminent selling off of the public commons in Detroit -- and the bankster land grab of foreclosed homes there.
According to an August 4th Chicago Tribune article, "there has been no library service available to residents, even though the Ford Heights Public Library District has collected $61,000 from taxpayers since 2010 [less than $20,000 a year], according to the Cook County treasurer's office":
The district was forced to close its free-standing library about 20 years ago when it couldn't come up with the money to maintain the building, and it was eventually razed. A state-of-the-art library in neighboring Glenwood then offered services for a while.
Ford Heights residents still show up at that library in Glenwood, but librarians there have to turn them away — the Glenwood-Lynwood district ended the arrangement in 2009 after Ford Heights fell behind on payments....
For the last four years, Ford Heights residents have been unable to check out a library book, a fact longtime resident Darron Gray learned when his daughter was at the checkout desk in Glenwood last year.
"In my whole life, I've never known of kids being denied the ability to go to a freaking library," said Gray, who was elected to the Library Board in April. "Imagine having a kid that has a school project and can't get a book? It's an embarrassment."
This is the dystopia occurring now in particularly -- but not only -- black incorporated towns and cities across America as the shriveling up of jobs and predatory loan racket wreaks havoc on local economies, until there is little left as a tax base -- and what is left can only provide such limited funding that the most basic public services are abandoned.
In a 1987 Chicago Reader article, Ford Heights was described as the poorest suburb in the United States by journalist Jack Hayes:
At the City News Bureau, where calling relatives of the recently deceased is an almost daily task, it was not the most unpleasant assignment I had ever been given. Still, breaking the news to the mayor of Ford Heights that his community had just hit the bottom of a list of the country's poorest suburbs was not a task I relished.
"Hello, Mayor Beck, I'm a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago. My editor has just dropped a report on my desk that says Ford Heights is the poorest suburb in the nation."
The City New Bureau no longer exists in Chicago, but Ford Heights is still among the poorest suburbs in the nation -- and it is shriveling up into a scar of impoverishment mixed with hard working holdouts.
The Tribune notes in context:
According to 2011 U.S. Census figures, unemployment hovers at 17 percent, and more than 40 percent of Ford Heights families have household incomes lower than the poverty line.
More than a third of fourth-graders in Ford Heights' schools did not meet state standards for reading in 2012....
Even if a Ford Heights family scraped together a few hundred dollars to pay the fees to get nonresident library cards in another district, they couldn't be issued cards because they have their own district, state library officials said.
A book is the most fundamental way to learn, to explore worlds beyond our own, to be exposed to new ideas, to interact with a community of great thinkers who are a connection to our common heritage through the agelessness of the written word.
Yes, there is the Internet and many libraries in affluent communities are evolving into "knowledge centers."
But to the young primarily African American youth of Ford Heights, there's not even the opportunity to find a quiet refuge to study in or check out a book.
Nothing is likely to change. There will be no happy ending to the library-less library district in Ford Heights.
That's because, quite simply, America has written off young economically limited blacks as expendable. They are just a stereotype -- with some exceptions for the ones that make it through due to special circumstances (think of Barack Obama attending the most prestigious private school in Hawaii). Yes, there is still a bit of upward mobility wiggle room for poor minorities, but that maneuvering space is contracting as the middle class erodes.
What you are left with is a surfeit of pawns in the great economic shift of the nation's wealth into the hands of a few.
And blacks have long been in the position of being a commidity in a white man's game.
Young minorities in Ford Heights may never read about that; they may never learn the historical context of their plight.
They have no accesss to a house of public literacy: a library.