Rev. Michael Pfleger: South Side Battling Virus on Uneven Playing Field


One of Chicago’s most well-known and outspoken priests, the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham has spent years organizing anti-violence protests and measures around the city. 

But since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s marshaled his church’s resources and outreach to aid many of the neighborhood’s essential workers and seniors. 

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Pfleger says because of disinvestment and a lack of resources on the South Side, residents are battling COVID-19 on an uneven playing field. 

“Our communities have come into this whole thing at a deficit,” Pfleger said. “Because we have communities here where we have food deserts, we have high unemployment, high rates of poverty, lack of health care, lack of unhealthy food choices in our neighborhood.” 

In recent weeks, St. Sabina has distributed masks to residents, provided care to children of essential workers, and is feeding about 800 people every week at the church’s food pantry. But Pfleger says those efforts aren’t enough to meet the urgent needs of the community. 

“We’re trying to just meet as many needs as we can, but realizing that the need is much greater than we have the resources for,” Pfleger said. 

Pfleger also says the neighborhood desperately needs more masks and personal protective equipment for residents, as well as a COVID-19 testing site in the 60620 area code, which includes Auburn Gresham and parts of the Washington Heights neighborhood. 

“Although we’ve seen some of the numbers in the African American communities come down some, I think once we start really testing in the African American community, I think we’ll see that number jump up,” Pfleger said. “Because we have communities with more health issues, and you’re going to see higher problems with testing positive.”


Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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