Guest Column: Southwest Rockford dilemma in retrospect

Guest Column: Southwest Rockford dilemma in retrospect

By Henry Hamberlin, Jr.

The southwest side of Rockford is a story that ranges from discovery to pride and, in many cases, the brink of hopelessness. Yet, many of Rockford’s great beginnings flourished in this part of the city for years. Today, this area of Rockford is used and abused. Left out to dry. Its residents look for vision and responsible leadership, but many times they get a brick wall. Our children suffer because of our educational void. But even worse is the alarming loss of life within the boundaries of our community. What will you do, Rockford?

WOW! Look, what is that? A new restaurant? Furniture store? No! It is a “BRAND NEW BANK!” Yes, while the faithful wonder why all the local companies like Ingersoll and Sundstrand seem to be slipping away from Rockford, let’s not throw our hands up too fast because we have another “new” bank. Now, let me count? That’s at least eight to 10 banks built from the ground-up. Brand spanking new, all on Rockford’s east side, all near the Perryville corridor built only within the last two to three years. Now we all know that banks usually house large amounts of currency. They also show how vibrant a neighborhood or a particular part of that community is doing. If you look at Perryville Road and its surrounding neighborhoods, you would get the impression that Rockford is doing very well.

On the other hand, there is Rockford west (especially southwest Rockford). If we look southwest, we know for a fact that over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been no explosion of new banks, movie theaters, satellite health clinics or mega supermarkets. It’s as if someone or somebody has purposely ignored the importance of private commerce to the social economic fiber and well-being of those who reside in southwest Rockford.

On a recent discussion on the Doug McDuff Show on 1330-WNTA radio, a resident of southwest Rockford pointed out the bottled-up frustration that many southwest Rockfordians live with daily. The recent lawsuit in which the school district was found to be accused of years of discrimination of its minority populace has negatively contributed to the demise of social conditions today. The caller also pointed out the factual effects of “redlining” on cultural migration locally as well as the overall identity of southwest Rockford. The conversation went so far as to even suggest that a discrimination lawsuit be filed against the city for lack of represented services in accordance to the taxes that many west-siders have paid.

Looking at Rockford today, in many ways its humble beginnings are a lot like its present social and mental state. While there is a clear objective for the city to hype Rockford’s east side as the town’s social and economic center, downtown and west continue to wonder why they are not “Rockford enough”? In a recent editorial by Ed Wells in the Register Star, he states, “WE ARE A COMMUNITY WITHOUT A COMMON OBJECTIVE OR AN IDENTITY.”

Henry Hamberlin is a local musician and resident of southwest Rockford.

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