‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Maywood

Situated on Chicago's West Side, the suburb of Maywood has deep African-American history, along with many landmark buildings, including Frank Lloyd Wright homes. Maywood also had a safehouse on the Underground Railroad (now marked by a memorial near the McDonald’s on First Avenue and Lake Street), and former Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton called the suburb home. 

“Maywood is geographically small, but it represents a political giant,” said Fred Hampton Jr., Hampton’s son and chairman of the Black Panther Party Cubs. “Not only to Maywood, or Illinois, but to the world.”

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Hampton Jr. has been working to save the Hampton house from foreclosure and to turn it into a landmark.

“Since we’ve been here for three years fighting to save and maintain the house in which Chairman Fred happened to grow up in, it’s been a reciprocal relationship with the community,” Hampton Jr. said. “People have been coming, bringing old photos, old testimonies about how Chairman Fred impacted their lives.”

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, there hasn’t been unrest in Maywood like surrounding areas, including Chicago, have seen, according to community leaders. 

“The things that I’ve seen, the parades, the marches, the rhetoric just in generally, is a peaceful and positive approach towards dealing with, again, being underserved, or under appreciated. I’m very proud of the way that that has transpired,” said Michael Rogers, the president of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization.

Video: Our full interview with Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr.

Coping with COVID-19

Maywood, like other disinvested communities, has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Maywood’s ZIP code has had more than 700 positive cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, nearby River Forest’s ZIP code has had about 100 cases of the coronavirus.

To help address this, a group of professors, students and community members at Loyola formed COVID Equity Response Collaborative: Loyola (CERCL). They’re working to help, test and track the virus in Maywood and nearby Melrose Park, including weekly free testing in Maywood on Wednesdays at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church.

“We’re really a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. We need to address the inequities in the lack of access to care and testing that still exist in these communities,” said Amy Luke, director of Research for the Center for Community and Global at Loyola’s Parkinson School of Public Health Sciences and Public Health, citing large inequalities within access to health care, poverty and other socioeconomic factors as larger issues at play.

“By and large that is a situation that exists not simply in Maywood, but really across America with the inequities in access to health care,” said Willie Norfleet Jr., the village manager of Maywood. 

Video: Our full interview with Mary Mora of Proviso Partners for Health.

Alongside issues of the virus itself and health care systems, the pandemic has exacerbated other inequities in Maywood: food security and access to healthy foods. Proviso Partners for Health, among other programs, works to address the lack of access to healthy foods in Maywood, which doesn’t have a grocery store within village limits

One of its programs, VeggieRX has seen the need grow in Maywood since the pandemic. 

“It’s actually changed our efforts tremendously,” said Mary Mora, senior coordinator, VeggieRx and Local Food Systems at Proviso Partners for Health. The program provides produce to community members, along with cooking demonstrations. Amid coronavirus safety restrictions, the program has moved to a drive-thru and delivery model. “We’ve seen our numbers rise tremendously. In the beginning of this year we were seeing about 30 to 35 people coming, and every week now have around 100 people driving through to pick up vegetables.”

And while Maywood is a mostly residential village, businesses too have been impacted by the coronavirus. Antonio Sanchez is the general manager of Mariella's Banquet Hall, which has been closed since March. They’ve shifted to catering, and are working on making outdoor dining possible. 

“We have no choice, we have to,” Sanchez said about pivoting the work and pressing on through the pandemic. “It's the call of the beast. The hospitality industry is at a complete halt. We’re just holding to see how long we can hold out. It’s unfortunate and it’s disheartening as well.”


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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