A LOST OPPORTUNITY OF STELLAR PROPORTIONS

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In order for anything of consequence to manifest it has to be met with an opposing force/incident that helps to actualize it. This is the reason why any issue that becomes important in Black communities should be analyzed from multiple standpoints. If that is not done, the observation will certainly end up misinterpreted resulting in lost opportunities.

Recently, the group Friends of the Parks proved to be less of a friend to the economic viability of the city of Chicago when it forced the pull-out of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. This was done in the name of preserving the lakefront. The question can be asked – “What is more important, preserving a small dot on a lakefront that already has structures occupying it or having access to the billions of dollars that could result from such a venture? The Friends of the Parks’ stance rings hollow when looking at the development that has already occurred along the lakefront: The Field Museum of Natural History, The Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, McCormick Place, Soldier Field, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the new bike and pedestrian suspension bridge in development along Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street among others.

Make no mistake; Chicago is a very beautiful city and because of the investments made by former mayors and their allies it has become a world-class tourist attraction. Tourism is BIG in the Windy City. A Lucas Museum could only serve to enhance its lure and it would have been a boon to Chicago. Not only would people gain temporary employment during its construction, but there would be jobs created within the museum on an ongoing basis. And the tourism dollars would significantly increase the city’s coffers resulting in even more job opportunities.

The land that George Lucas and his wife, African American businesswoman Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native, had targeted for the museum is currently a parking lot adjacent to Soldier Field. Friends of the Parks wants it to be “parkland.” So now, after several years of public and court squabbling, Mr. Lucas has decided to pick up his bag of marbles and leave the game. The state of California will now be the recipient of his largesse.

According to an online article titled, George Lucas Abandons Plan to Build Art Museum in Chicago written by Julie Boseman, Juanita Irizarry, the executive director of Friends of the Parks, and Lauren Moltz, the chairwoman of the group’s board, said in a joint statement, “It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of the several alternative sites that are not on Chicago’s lakefront.” “That would have been the true win-win.” Not so. The lakefront location is already in proximity to other tourist attractions. Why expect this world-class filmmaker, one who has tremendously influenced popular culture all around the globe through his Star Wars franchise, move inward away from most of the action? That was not a reasonable request when you consider the number of dollars that he would have had to invest.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in favor of locating the Museum in Chicago and as a result of the loss he has suffered a political blow. How much did Rahm Emanuel’s tarnished political capital play a role in the loss? Would the Museum proposal have met with a better outcome if Emanuel were not so beleaguered? Whatever the case, the loss of the Lucas Museum will no doubt have long-ranging economic and cultural consequences for the City of Chicago and its economically fragile communities. Moreover, it is unfortunate that there was not a greater outcry from those communities in support of the project. As stated at the outset, manifestation is the result of opposing forces. In this case, those forces were a vocal advocate for the parks meeting with a silent Black community, possibly angered due to a historical dislike of the mayor, resulting in a lost opportunity of stellar proportions! A luta continua.

 

 

 

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