Cleanup efforts aim to help South Side communities heal after looting, violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- While businesses continue to clean up after days of looting and violence, residents are pitching in to help their community heal.

"For too long, we, white people, have thought that this is someone else's problem to deal with, or it's not a problem, and so we're here to say that we think it's a problem too," said Jessica Marshall, who lives near Bronzeville.

Marshall, along with her three young sons and their grandmother, were among the hundreds of volunteers answering the call to help Wednesday.

"We wanted to make sure we had enough boots on the ground to make sure this store opened with fresh meats and produce but also the pharmacy could reopen as well," said Jermaine Anderson, of I Am A Gentleman organization.

Several community groups descended on the Mariano's at 38th and King Drive. It was one of many businesses across the city damaged by looters taking advantage of the protests over the death of George Floyd.

"If we destroy our community and make the living for our people harder, that's not justice," said Pastor Correy Wright of The House of Prayer Christian Ministries.

The Bronzeville grocery store has been closed since it's store shelves and pharmacy were looted.

"Mariano's is here in Bronzeville. We're ready to reopen on Friday," said Amanda Puck, Mariano's director of strategic brand development. "We're proud and happy to serve our community. We look forward to welcoming everyone back."

Across the city, residents also also came out to help clean up a Walmart at 83rd and Stewart and a Jewel-Osco at 87th and State.

A group gave out cleaning supplies and fresh produce to anyone in need.

"The looting happened. It is a tragedy that it happened, but we're out here to correct that wrong," said resident Eboni Wilson.

Chicago Urban League President Karen Freeman-Wilson was among those cleaning up some of the damaged business districts on the South Side Wednesday.

"When you see something you see as symbolic happening, then it really does send a message of healing," Freeman-Wilson said.

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Chicago Urban League President Karen Freeman-Wilson sees an opportunity to use disaster relief resources to improve race relations.

She said real change to improve race relations needs to be done, and she sees opportunity to do better as disaster relief resources are distributed locally.

"To use the resources that we know that will be directed at the recovery process to transform communities. I think there is a real opportunity to make that transformation," Freeman-Wilson said.

While the cleanup may be far from over, some neighbors hope that by working together, the healing can begin.

"American people reaching a point where they are saying we can't have this because it's poisoning us too," said Chicago resident Roberta Wood.
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