by Max Harkavy
Communications Intern, JCUA
On January 31st at 6pm, the Hull House on UIC’s campus will be hosting an event titled “Lawndale Conversations Series: The Contract Buyers League.” The Hull House is convening in partnership with the North Lawndale branch of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) in order to raise awareness about the Contract Buyers League and the history of its neighborhoods, specifically North Lawndale. North Lawndale has a rich narrative and many feel that in order to bring about change in the community this narrative has to be brought to light.
The Contract Buyers League was a union of African Americans during the 1960s that fought the exploitative sale of homes to blacks through the selling of contracts.
“I think it’s really important to tell this story to make all the people that lived through it proud of their accomplishment, and to raise awareness among the younger population,” said John Wolf, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the NHS North Lawndale office.
Neighborhood Housing Services seeks to promote positive change from within the community. Director Charles Leeks believes that, “In order to turn a neighborhood around, you have to recognize what the community has been.” Leeks explained that sometimes people choose to ignore the community’s past, “if it is not convenient for them at any given moment.” The goal of this event is to raise awareness of North Lawndale’s rich past and to foster pride from within.
There will be three guest speakers at the event. The first is Beryl Satter, author of the book, “Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America” which tells the tale of the Contract Buyers League and the struggle against unfair housing practices that occurred throughout the 40s to the 70s. Satter’s father was an attorney who fought for equal rights for African Americans during the time of the Contract Buyers League.
The second speaker will be Clyde Ross, who was at one time the co-chairman of the Contract Buyers League, and was recently named the recipient of the Neighborhood Heroes Award given to him by the NHS. Ross still lives in the house he bought under contract.
The final speaker is Jack Macnamara, a Jesuit seminary during the time of the Contract Buyers League. He also worked as a community organizer that brought people together on issues concerning the Contract Buyers League in the 1960s.
“The image of community and the way north Lawndale is projected in the press is often negative but this event is a way of talking about positives from the community and one the biggest positives of North Lawndale is its history,” said Wolf.