Safety, schools, and shops are all factors in suburban migration
By Patricia Muhammad
LANSING, Ill. (February 2018) – Since the mid-1990s, the south suburbs—including Lansing, South Holland, Harvey, Homewood, and Matteson—have seen an influx of African-Americans. The demolition of public housing during the Daley era was a major factor that pushed thousands of African-Americans out of the inner city, where they had no choice but to leave. Some left with Section 8 housing vouchers, and others—those who were financially prepared to leave—left Chicago to start a new life in the suburbs.
Census statistics show that since 2010, more than 181,000 black residents have left Chicago headed to other states and the greater Chicagoland area.
People leave the city for many reasons. “African-Americans leaving Chicago to live in the south suburbs is definitely becoming more of a trend,” said Darvel Stinson, a 12-year resident of Lansing and a Parent Coordinator for TF South High School. “A lot of African-Americans are looking for a better environment to raise their children and better opportunities for academics as far as the school districts are concerned.”
“I believe this flight of African-Americans will continue to become a growing trend as long we continue to see in the news what’s going on in the inner city of Chicago. You will see a lot of African-Americans moving not only to the south suburbs but to the northern and northwest suburbs as well,” Stinson added.
Yvonne Zollicoffer and her family left Maywood in 2006 because of the turbulent violence. “I have nothing negative to say about Lansing,” said Yvonne, a paraprofessional at Thornwood High School. “I left Chicago because of the violence. I would never move back to Chicago.”
It was a close-call shooting incident involving her daughter that convinced Yvonne it was time to leave. She remembers vividly the day her daughter, a student at Finger High School, told her how she had to beg the security officer to let her in while gunshots sounded around her.
The Zollicoffers appreciate the more peaceful life they enjoy in Lansing: “I really like the school system here,” said Yvonne, “as well as my neighbors. They look out for me, and I look out for them. As far as things to do, I like the Fourth of July fireworks, the Farmer’s Market, and shopping in local stores. I support wherever my tax dollar goes.”
Stinson, a former Englewood resident, said that before moving to Lansing, he and his wife were concerned about the quality of education available to their children. Finding a suitable school in Lansing became a serious part of their house hunt. The Stinsons selected Memorial Junior High and TF South High School as the best academic institutions for their two children.
“One thing we did our homework on,” said Stinson, “was the school systems in the south suburbs. Lansing has a great curriculum we felt our children would benefit from.”
Kim and Cliff Mansker agree. They have lived in Lansing since 2006, moving here primarily for the school system. Kim said, “It’s a lot more structured than what my children were accustomed to. The teachers are excellent in identifying what my children need.”
A mother of five, Kim has sent her children through TF South High School, Memorial Junior High School, and Reavis Elementary in Lansing. She said, “I enjoy being a member of the Lansing PTA because it keeps parents in the loop of what’s going on. We are there, active in the school system for our children’s education, and we want them to know that they have parents that care.”
Kim’s husband Cliff has served as coach for three years with the Lansing Little League baseball team, and he currently coaches basketball at Reavis.
Stinson believes Lansing has embraced diversity, so blacks and other people of color feel more accepted living and working in the community even though it is predominately white. “The majority of your white residents in Lansing have welcomed a great deal of diversity into the Lansing community.” For that reason, Lansing is more appealing to many African-Americans than surrounding communities like Harvey, Dixmoor, Phoenix, and Calumet City, where the population is mostly black and Hispanic.
Four years ago, Lansing School District 158 appointed Dr. Kelli Ross as its first ever African-American female principal at Memorial Junior High School. Ross served as assistant principal before being appointed principal.
“The school district selected a highly qualified African-American female to serve as principal of the school, and I thought this was a milestone for Lansing,” Stinson said. “I have seen the number of educators grow over the last four years at TF South. There are two African-American assistant principals—one male, one female. Also, on staff are African-American deans, dean assistants, and counselors.”
City-data.com lists these 2016 demographic estimates for Lansing residents, extrapolating from 2010 census data:
- 15,125 Whites
- 8,871 African-Americans
- 4,183 Hispanics
- 255 Asian
Other data are also available at the site.
Stinson knows all too well the downside of not getting involved in community awareness programs to make neighborhoods better and safer. Born and raised in Chicago’s tough Englewood neighborhood, Stinson witnessed firsthand its decline. Englewood was once a community filled with educated men and women who owned businesses but were politically unaware. He attributes its decline to apathy and lack of concern for community problems.
“I was there throughout my whole life, watching the turnaround of Englewood,” he said. “So, coming to Lansing, I wanted to give my children a better opportunity. And I wanted to be more involved than some of the parents I saw in Englewood. I wanted to give myself an opportunity to help our children, to fight for them.”
Running for, not from
Stinson continued, “I would highly encourage Blacks in Lansing who are on the political or professional level to run for Mayor as well as political positions such as Board of Trustees. Apply for professional positions such as Chief of Police, Chief of the Fire Department, Village Administrator.
“Just get involved—whether it’s the school district, parks and recreation, and/or politics. It’s easy to sit and watch what’s wrong. We need to join in being a solution.
“Just get involved.”