Ford Heights, How Far You Have Fallen

On March 23rd in the village of Ford Heights, IL, at First Union Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Robert M Foster, Pastor, held a political forum. The Village will be selecting residents to serve on the Village Board of Trustees, School Board, Village clerk, Public Library Dist., and Park Dist. Candidates for the Village Trustees, School district, and Village Clerk were invited to the forum. Of the seven candidates running for Village trustee only two made an appearance. Of the three people running for Village Clerk only one showed up, the incumbent. Of the six people running for school District 169 only two were in attendance. Full disclosure, I was one of the moderators along with Yvonne Orr-El. The protocol officer was Pastor Dorothy Myles.

I must say that I was really disappointed that most of the candidates were no shows. I know Rev. Dr. Foster went through a lot of effort to put on this forum for the people of the Village to hear where, what, how, why these people were running for office. Then to determine who they thought would do the best job. Who was the most qualified? What were their plans once in office? How where they going to help turn the economic disaster of Ford Heights into an economically thriving Village?

The problems of Ford Heights (formerly East Chicago Heights) are multifaceted which makes this election so important. Corruption and gang violenceover the years is chronicled in the Sun-Times (click here) from the charges against the former Mayor Charles Griffinof embezzlement of $147,000.00 of public funds into a secret bank account to the highest property taxesin some of the most impoverished areas in the Chicagoland area.  

Add to this bleak picture the poor performance of the schools to educate the children in these communities, and you have the perfect storm for juvenile delinquency, crime, lack of opportunity and suitable housing. English proficiency rate for school district 169 is at 21%. The Math proficiency rate is at 21%. This means that about 80% of the students are not performing at grade level.

Unfortunately, it gets worst. In my discussions with others about the plight of the Village I was informed that when elections are held people are paid (read bribed) to go vote for individual candidates. In other words, it’s not about who can turn things around but who has the funds to buy your vote and take you to the polling place. 

As East Chicago Heights, the Village has claimed to be a stopping point for the Underground Railroad. My hope and prayer are that this historic village regains a modicum economic and sociopolitical stability. But this will only happen if the residence of Ford Heights R.I.S.E.[1]to the occasion and demand accountability from their New Mayor, Trustees, the school board, state legislators, County government, and Governor. 

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a story about a businessman (master) who leaves on a trip. But before he goes, he gives money to three of his servants asking them to invest the money while he is gone. He gave five talents to one. Two talents to another and one talent to the last one. He gave to them according to their ability. The Master returns to find the one who had five talents now had ten. The one who had two talents now had four. However, the one with only one talent had buried it in the ground and had only what he was given initially. The servant with on talent is reprimanded, and his talent is taken from him and given to the one with ten. One of the many lessons learned from the parable is to use what you’ve been given.

Ford Heights has been used and abused by those who did not care about the Village or its residents. Fortunately, there are still people in the community that care about what happens to their Village. They filled the church on March 23rd and listened to those candidates who cared enough to show up. And people like Rev. Dr. Robert Foster, Yvonne Orr-El, and Pastor Dorothy Myles all give me a glimmer of hope for a Village that needs it. For too long Ford heights has been burying its talent underground. It’s now time that they invest it in the people of the Village and watch the dividends grow. They must be willing to stop the “pay to play politics.” It is their Village, legacy, and home. They have the power to bring real change. Let that change begin this election cycle. 

[1]R.I.S.E. is an acronym for Responsible Government; Individual liberty and fidelity; Strong family values; and Economic empowerment (found here)

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