On Tuesday morning, a caller left a message on my voice mail with an urgent request: "Please dig a little deeper into the Curtis Cooper death," the unidentified woman asked. "White residents don't want black residents in CHA property to come over to their property. The fence was really illegal. Nobody is talking about why a fence was put up in the first place. It was to separate the blacks from the whites."
Curtis Cooper was the 3-year-old boy who was killed when a heavy steel gate broke off its hinges and crushed him.
I called Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who represents the ward where Curtis lives, and asked him about the perception that the fence was installed to separate the impoverished blacks from families who were moving into the upscale, market-rate housing a couple of blocks away.
Alderman used to live in the same apartment:
Burnett grew up in the 900 blk. of N. Cambridge, in the same apartment that the Cooper family now resides.
"That is not true. Those gates were up there when my mom lived there. They were put up for security purposes and because the row houses were consistently being broken into. Where that child lives, where he played, that was my house," Burnett said. "They put the gates up as a safety measure before the Plan of Transformation came about in 1995."
Saw neighborhood change:
"I went to the home and consoled the parents. When I went into the house, I realized it could have been one of my nieces or nephews. I used to play back there all my life and the space was wide open. But that was before the drugs and gangs came around, and police had to find away to keep criminals from going back there. Those fences were there before white folks."
Priorities mixed up:
What Cabrini-Green residents out to be outraged about is that a black developer, Cullen Davis, who hails from a family with long-standing ties to the Daley administration has made a hefty profit from the renovation of dilapidated CHA housing, apparently by taking some shortcuts.
And why is that? Perhaps because the CHA residents are black and poor and seen by some of us as not deserving much better.