AUBURN GRESHAM — Hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a public address about coronavirus disproportionately impacting Black Chicagoans, Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. came upon something that shocked him: more than a dozen people on a South Side basketball court, playing ball on an 80 degree day.
The 21st ward alderman posted a photo of the crowded court to Facebook — and announced that the rims at O’Hallaren Park, 2000 W. 83rd. St., would be coming down as soon as possible.
“It’s heartbreaking that people in the community don’t understand the severity of this,” Brookins said Wednesday. “They may survive, but the community risk is too great, so taking it away to prevent them from congregating was the only solution.”
Brookins ordered all basketball rims in the ward be removed for the remainder of the stay at home order. Many were removed Wednesday.
Currently, the 21st ward has one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases in the city with 216 residents testing positive for the potentially deadly disease. So far, 72 percent of residents dying due to a COVID-19-related illness in the city have been Black.
These grave statistics made the basketball rim removal all the more necessary, the alderman told Block Club.
“I don’t know what else can be done. The information is out there. It’s on the television and the radio,” said Brookins, who has been sending weekly robocalls to constituents and holding virtual meetings with his staff to keep people informed.
Brookins added that while he remembers being foolish and reckless in his youth — “I can look back to when I used to ride my motorcycle down the Dan Ryan at 120 miles an hour” — this is about putting the whole community at risk.
“There’s no time for debate or discussion,” he said. “People are dying.”
There may soon be a testing site opening in the ward as well, as the alderman is in talks with the Christian Community Health Center, which has several locations on the Southwest Side and south suburbs.
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