One of my two favorite NPR shows is “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” Two special weekly segments are “Bluff the Listener” and “Not My Job”— pertinent portrayals of the Trump Presidency.

The other is Marketplace. My work schedule often has me driving home when it airs at 6:30 pm CT. Those who know my community development origin story can imagine my surprise when on February 15th, the first words I heard on my car radio were:

“this law — the Community Reinvestment Act — did not foresee a lot of the urban dynamics that we have today.”

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal was interviewing Aaron Glantz, a reporter at Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, who was sharing his new article, “Kept Out,” which explores how redlining lives on in today’s economy.

April 11th this year will be the 50th Anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act that banned racial discrimination in lending. Yet, as this article reveals, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts.

I started my community development career in 1974 researching lending discrimination and sharing stories of communities throughout the US who were organizing against redlining. On May 5, 1975, Chicago’s Gale Cincotta joined community leaders from Milwaukee, Oakland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Boston and Providence who testified before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee in support of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act [HMDA], passed by Congress later that year.

Philly redlining_1937

A 1937 map of Philadelphia shows redlining of neighborhoods.

Reveal’s yearlong analysis, based on 31 million records, found modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to a mountain of HMDA records analyzed. It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio. African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities – Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida – and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa.

In addition, Glantz told Marketplace that there are a “lot of neighborhoods where banks are making a ton of loans to white newcomers at the same time that they’re denying a large proportion of people of color who want to buy or refinance or get a home improvement loan to stay in that same neighborhood.” Nothing like financing gentrification and reverse block busting to make housing even less affordable.

Given how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is already being dismantled, we can anticipate that all Trump financial regulators will be “bluffing” when it comes to enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act [CRA] while encouraging a Republican Congress to repeal it and not even bother replacing it. We can also be certain that building local economies and encouraging racial and economic diversity will be regarded by Trump as “Not My Job!”

That’s why it’s still our job. It’s why you should attend the Just Economy conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] on April 9 – 11 in DC.

NCRC & Key Bank 3.18.2016

NCRC Conference March 2016

Our communities can’t afford to be “kept out” any longer. It’s time for a #JustEconomy

Oh by the way, Happy President’s Day?



I don’t remember the last time I stayed up past midnight. But on Friday January 19th I did until 12:30 am Eastern. Don’t know why but I thought maybe Mitch McConnell would have something constructive to say about reaching a compromise on immigration. But no it was just the same old blame game. disclosure-oct-1976

Rather than do their job by passing a bi-partisan bill, Congress chose to let our government shut down. They could reach agreement in the coming few days or this drama and sham can play out for weeks.

When I studied political science [BA & MA], I learned that the core of our democracy is embedded in our three branches. Congress can reach consensus to pass legislation and send it to the Sh__ House. The President can then decide what to do with his fancy pen.

More midnights at the impasse are not viable options for the American people. Compassionate immigration is a core American value. It is only fitting for Women’s March Rallies to assemble across the US on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration and day one of this Trump Sh_tdown.

Women's March B Jan 2018

This coming November we can only hope that thousands of women candidates for local, state and national office will be elected so conversations can flourish and consensus for action can be reached.

However, earlier this week, I heard one woman candidate who does not merit votes. I attended the MLK Day Faith in Action Assembly. I have attended previous ones also organized by the Community Renewal Society. This year our church, Old St. Patrick’s, MLK Assembly Jan 2018hosted the forum. Besides a panel of local aldermen asked to support changes to police union contracts to assure effective reforms, the Action Assembly focused on candidates for the Illinois Governor race.

All five of the Democratic candidates were impressive. The Republican candidate, IL State Rep. Jeanne Ives, not so much and then she really blew it. After a few “No” answers to supporting a few issues, she addressed the final issue of gun violence by replying that the solution is “Fathers in the home.” Sitting next to her was Democratic candidate Chris Kennedy, son of assassinated U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy.

Chris responded, “I didn’t have a father in my life. Somebody shot him.” He then departed to a standing ovation. The Chicago Tribune headline to its story the next morning was “Kennedy criticizes Ives for ‘stupidity’.” That appears to be a prevalent Republican trait these days.

A year ago, I quoted Bobby Kennedy’s April 5, 1968 speech after Dr. King’s assassination as the appropriate counterpoint to Trump’s inauguration speech. The U.S. Senate would have benefited last night from remembering it.

“Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and women. Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and sisters, countrymen and countrywomen once again.” — Robert F. Kennedy



“It was my destiny to join in a great experience.” – Herman Hesse, The Journey to the East

When a director of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA-USA] shared this mantra at a November 2017 board meeting, I remembered Hesse’s famous book from college days, but was uncertain I had read it. Picking up a copy in ICA’s Archives, I discovered I hadn’t. Now that I have, this opening line serves as an appropriate opening refrain for 2018.

My first 2017 blog offered reflections on the relevancy of Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.” My March 2017 blog, “MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY,” was inspired by Senator George Mitchell’s role as narrator for Old St. Patrick’s annual Siamsa na nGael concert. No doubt, my most formidable experience in 2017 was the tour of Auschwitz.

Pope at Auschwitz

Pope Francis enters the Auschwitz gate.

One personal revelation is that I do check my daily horoscopes [in both the Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times] and save my annual birthday ones. One from last week’s birthday prediction claims 2018 will be a “year full of excitement and change!” The other noted: “Family, friends and community groups can accomplish more together.” This is not fake news; these are real horoscopes.

MI Sunset Nov 2017

Lake Michigan 11/25/2017

ICA-USA’s thank you note to 2017 donors quotes Margaret Mead on its cover:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

As the sun has set on 2017, best wishes for a Just 2018.



Two and a half years and 40 blogs ago, I noted that one blessing of my job as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs is the wealth of human spirit and wisdom of our Living Archives. “Their aim is to share the experiences and tools from an energetic 20th century peoples’ movement for social justice and human development with today’s citizen activists, civic leaders, thinkers, and students.”

Band of 24 LogoEarlier this month, 50 former ICA colleagues and current volunteers reunited for the 2017 Fall Archives Sojourn to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of their “Band of 24”. Launched in the early 70s, Human Development Projects [HDPs] were participatory community-building initiatives and coordinated regional development, which by 1977 were in locations across every one of the world’s 24 time zones.

I categorize the Band of 24 as a non-governmental Peace Corps with the aim to empower through measures such as motivating residents, releasing their creativity, and building leadership skills to enable comprehensive change. Each project began with a week-long consultation during which residents and volunteer consultants from around the world shared their expertise in building a plan to meet the community’s needs.

First, the consultation elicited from the community a picture of its hopes and dreams for the future. Then the major factors blocking this vision were identified so that practical proposals and specific tactics, unique to each community, could be created by residents to ensure the implementation of their plan for comprehensive socio- economic development.

Band of 24 10-12-17This month’s Sojourners shared stories, reflected on lessons learned and challenges addressed, stopping to remember those no longer present to share. Video interviews now swell the treasures of ICA’s Global Archives. The origins of ICA’s Technology of Participation [ToP] structured facilitation methods can be discovered in these stories from:

Majuro (The Marshall Islands) / Oyubari (Japan) / Oombulgurri (Australia)

Kwangyung Il/ JeJu-do Korea) / Sudtonggan (Philippines) / Hai Ou (Taiwan)

Nam Wai (Hong Kong) / Kelapa Dua (Indonesia) / Sungai Lui (Malaysia)

Maliwada (India) / Kawangware (Kenya) / El Bayad (Egypt)

Shantumbu (Zambia) / Termine (Italy) / Kreuzburg Ost (Berlin)

Ijede (Nigeria) / Isle of Dogs (London) / Caño Negro (Venezuela)

Ivy City (Washington DC) / Lorne de l’Acadie (Canada) / Fifth City (Chicago)

Delta Pace (Mississippi) / Inyan Wakagapi (North Dakota) / Vogar (Canada)

Band of 24 group photo

ICA Human Development Training Institute for local leadership in Maliwada India (late 1970s)

I am thankful for their past service and their persistent commitment to social justice. Their work forty years ago remains relevant for today’s challenging times. We must re-embrace the value of community-led development if we are ever to attain a just and equitable society.

Singing is a core of ICA’s organizational culture so there were copies of the ICA Songbook in each Sojourner’s packet and numerous songs sung during the course of the week. I offered the following lyrics in my welcoming remarks that I thought were appropriate for the journeys they shared and for my on-going search:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for…

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

The River of Dreams
by Billy Joel



I had some expectations when we decided to tour Auschwitz on our first day in Poland. But I’m still processing the experience.

First, I did not know that the first to be rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz were the Polish intelligentsia, who could be resistance threats. So if I had been a college graduate in 1939, I very well could have been among the 150,000 Poles interned and exterminated there along with 1.3 million Jews.Auschwitz PlagueThere were several staggering exhibits: the collections of shoes & luggage; the firing squad Wall of Death; and the gas chamber and crematoria. But even more shocking was when the tour moved to the Birkenau Camp and I comprehended the scale of mass extermination that was designed and implemented over the course of only six years. Yes, let this place forever be “a cry of despair and a warning to humanity.”

There were other museums and sights on our tour of Central Europe that bore witness to Nazi terrors as well as the decades of Soviet domination. There were also stories of hope and persistence such as the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and the rebuilding of Warsaw from rubble.

This was one of those lifetime trips. I joke that my wife Lynne and I watched so much Masterpiece Theater on PBS that we finally gave in to those Viking River Cruise ads.

Danube from the Cruise

Cruising the Danube

We are glad that we did. The cruise itself was great. Our pre- and post- cruise nights in Budapest and Prague added those cities to our favorites list. The Parliament in Budapest and the Charles Bridge in Prague are major photo opps.

Budapest Parliament

Parliament in Budapest

Looking at a map of our Viking itinerary, we realized that we had never been this close to Poland, where my father’s family emigrated from in the early 1870’s fleeing from domestic policies in the German part of partitioned Poland, where poverty, unemployment, and official discrimination aimed at Catholics were prevalent. So we added six more nights in Poland to our itinerary.

Krakow Square

Cloth Hall in Krakow’s Market Square

We especially enjoyed Krakow with all its buildings that avoided destruction in the war. Its Market Square is the largest medieval square in Europe, set out in 1257. Located in the center of the Square, the Cloth Hall is a former and present place of trade, where we did our souvenir shopping.

Throughout our guided tours, the history of these places was pervasive. Standing in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, one can imagine, among all of today’s retail options, where in 1989 hundreds of thousands of Czechs gathered for days and launched the Velvet Revolution, jangling their key chains and telling their communist oppressors — “It’s time for you to go home.”

Getting off the tram in Krakow on our way to Schindler’s Factory, Krakow Memorial chairsthere were the 33 memorial over-sized chairs in Ghetto Heroes Square, another historical testament and warning to humanity.

God knows; these are again times to be heeding such historical warnings.


“This is about the moral center. This is about our humanity.” — Rev. William J. Barber II

There have been a number of distinct stories in the papers over the last two months that from my perspective are connected. Unfortunately, their common denominator is the demise of affordable housing caused by the malignant neglect of government at all levels.

On June 10th, I was again inspired by the front page New York Times story by Laurie Goodstein, Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game. I have blogged before about the visionary and prophetic Rev. Barber. Rev Barber 2015Having keynoted the annual conference of the National Community Reinvestment Conference twice, he has become the harbinger for nationalizing state movements.

I respectfully suggest there is an imperative to also nationally coordinate movements focused on city planning departments.

Here in Chicago, the last weeks of July offered three strikes against communities by developments without moral centers. Strike one was a fast ball thrown in the community where I work, Uptown – still Chicago’s most economically and racially diverse community. One of my favorite columnists, Mark Brown captured the play-by-play in his Chicago Sun-Times’ July 21 article, Sale of ‘cubicle hotel’ in Uptown puts residents at risk.

“One hundred and 47 men reside at the Wilson Men’s Hotel — for decades one of the lowest cost housing options for Chicago’s down-and-out…. On Tuesday, the Uptown building was sold to a developer who plans to remove the tenants and remodel the decrepit flophouse to appeal to a more upscale clientele… remodeling the property into 75 to 82 studio apartments, with 20 percent of them set aside as affordable — for individuals with annual incomes of up to about $33,000. That’s just 16 spots in a place that currently shelters 10 times that many on a cold winter’s night.”

Single Room Occupancy [SRO] are now easily “remodeled” into units for single hipsters, who because of student debt and inadequate job opportunities are not able themselves to pursue affordable family home ownership.

Strike two was a splitter catching the “insider” corner, where I used to work in Chicago’s North Branch Industrial Corridor. This Chicago Sun-Times’ headline from July 26 captures the real estate frenzy ready to descend: Council unleashes North Side land rush despite infrastructure concerns.

The final “score” was 46-2 to open up 760 acres of previously protected (for 30 years) North Side industrial land for residential and commercial use, despite “lingering concern about a shortage of park space and infrastructure to accommodate an avalanche of new residents that nobody at City Hall is prepared to quantify.” Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) said he’s excited about the opportunity to preside over development “on a scale rarely seen, probably since the Great Chicago Fire.” northbranchfreedomcenterThe City’s public stance is that there will be three kinds of developer fees: for parks and infrastructure improvements; industrial development elsewhere in the city; and development of retail corridors in impoverished South and West Side communities. All those are commendable, but nowhere has anyone said “Affordable Housing” will be a mandate for “gold rushing” developers.

Strike three is an outside curveball in the neighborhood I have lived for 38 years, Logan Square. A July 28th DNA Chicago on-line story, Getting An Affordable Rent Apartment Under City Program Isn’t Easy, reports that developers continue to skirt Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance by writing their way out of actually producing affordable housing with checks for units not in their building and most often not even in the same community.

Two years later, the new rules have applied to 61 developments. But despite the effort, most developers are still choosing to pay millions of dollars rather than set aside units as affordable housing. Just 202 affordable units have been created under the provision so far, which means the city’s on pace to create about 500 units over the course of five years, well below its goal of 1,200 units.

Developers have paid almost $39.5 million in fees since the ordinance passed, which capitalizes the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund for affordable housing and rental assistance. While the south and west sides of Chicago can benefit from such investments, there remains a major moral dilemma being ignored – the continued economic and racial segregation of our city.

Unfortunately, this same game is being played in communities throughout our country. The pitches are being called by City Halls shirking their duties to plan for the future of their citizens and children in order to chase development at any cost, but to developers’ profits.

We are once again watching the “Greeding Out” of Affordable Housing. There will be no affirmative action on fair housing unless local action is taken project by project. Shark Week may be over but developers are still circling.


In the early 1960s, the Ecumenical Institute moved into an abandoned seminary in Chicago’s East Garfield neighborhood in order to facilitate ‘a model community’ in which all members cared for each other, regardless of economic circumstances. While Fifth Avenue is an obscure diagonal street on Chicago’s west side, the name “Fifth City” originated from the Institute’s goal to reconceive the nature of community organization and development. To go beyond the four geographic “cities” composing the urban setting of downtown, inner city, neighborhoods and suburbs in order to empower citizens. 5th City aimed to be a replicable demonstration of the capacity of local people to transform their own communities.

“Rebirth of the Human City” described the process: “Community residents began meeting in a dilapidated basement, patiently covering blackboards with lists upon lists of the community’s problems and the possible solutions…. The decision to build 5th City gave birth to songs and rituals and to the Iron Man.” Iron Man Plaza

This statue still stands today as a witness to those residents who decided to drive their very lives like stakes into the ground of the city and take responsibility for its rebirth. Plans are being proposed to refurbish the Iron Man Plaza at Jackson & Homan.

Ruth Carter was a dynamic teacher and director of the Fifth City Preschool, the first 5th City project, chosen to address the “victim image.” The following is an excerpt, written in 2000 from the book The Circle of Life.

“In the early 1960s, I was a mother with small children, and I was eager for them to have the best chance in life. I shared that concern with others in my neighborhood, and we decided to do something about it. We heard that there was an idea to organize some kind of day care in our neighborhood, and we were invited to be a part of it. We worked with the staff of the Ecumenical Institute to develop the curriculum.

Ruth Carter & 5thCity PreSchool

Ruth Carter [right] & 5th City Preschoolers

We knew that our kids were smart and that with help, we could be teachers. In those days, there were no books to tell us how to set up a school for infants and toddlers. This was all before Headstart and there were not even guidelines for care for three and four year olds. We wanted to care for all the children, so we created our own road map.

After all this hard work and fun focused on our own kids, you can imagine how surprised we were when we were asked to come to New York City to give our advice to a group that was planning a new television show. We went and had a wonderful time telling those folks what we had done with small kids and how we had done it. Their show became “Sesame Street.”

Working with a whole family methodology, the Fifth City Preschool continues to provide excellent quality care. With a current enrollment of 60 children, the Preschool is regenerating the next generation of community leaders.

On May 4, 2017, the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] had the privilege of hosting a performance of My Soul Cries Out: Stop! This grassroots play seeks to spark community transformation throughout Chicago. It was written, directed and produced by Denise Gathings, a Chicago Police Officer and lifelong resident of the Fifth City neighborhood. She is the daughter of Ruth Carter and the multi-talented cast are descendants of Ruth.

My Soul Cries Out Cast

Denise Gathings [in white jacket] at the podium with cast

The stories in Gathings’ play draw directly from her day-to-day interactions with local youth as a community police officer. The raw, powerful scenes authentically capture the pressures on the street that too often build to violence and its painful aftermath. There performing and singing in ICA’s GreenRise 5th City room were Ruth Carter’s legacy of community leadership.

The play closes with the hymn I Shall Wear A Crown by Thomas Whitfield:

I shall wear a crown.
When it’s all over
I shall see His face
When it’s all over
I’m going to put on my robe, tell the story how I made it over

An inspiring story and play for which Ruth can be proud.