Back of the Yards: Lessons from a Community Organizer, by Mike Gecan

community organizing, IAF, Institutional Organizing, Saul Alinsky

Back of the Yards: Lessons from a Community Organizer, by Mike Gecan

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Boston Review

On the Wednesday after November’s presidential election, I found myself in the Back of the Yards area of Chicago’s South Side. I was there to meet with Roman Catholic priest David Kelly. Father Kelly is executive director of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, which he runs out of a converted school building on Fifty-first and Elizabeth. He and his team feed the hungry and bring together the perpetrators and victims of gang gun violence in the community. 

The Back of the Yards neighborhood—once a sprawling, spewing, foul-smelling collection of stockyards, polluted streams, tenements, and churches—was the original industrial area of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the largest network of community-based organization in the United States, of which I am co-director.