South Side Chicago faces low youth literacy rates despite Democratic leadership. One pastor works to empower through education amid political neglect.


South Side Chicago neighborhood, Democrats wield political power. Every handshake with an elected official, without exception, connects me to the Democratic Party. Just a stone’s throw from my pastoral duties, construction is underway for the expansive Barack Obama Presidential Center. This August, Democrats from across the nation will converge in Chicago for their National Convention.

These Democrats tout themselves as champions of justice and equity—it’s their badge of honor, their core message. They enter our impoverished yet resilient community, declaring solidarity with Blacks, minorities, women, the impoverished, and the marginalized. But if they truly stand with us, why do so many of our children struggle with basic literacy?

Reading isn’t just fundamental; it’s the gateway to knowledge, opportunity, and personal fulfillment. It unlocks doors and empowers minds. Yet, in my city, reading proficiency seems conspicuously absent from the Democratic agenda. I can’t claim to know the full itinerary of their upcoming convention, but I’d wager not a single speech or agenda item will address the alarming illiteracy rates plaguing my community and countless others nationwide.

I devote my days to serving the youth of South Side Chicago, striving to embody the American Dream in action. Just a short distance from the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center lies Hyde Park Academy High School, a stark emblem of educational failure. According to Wirepoints, a mere two percent of its students were proficient in reading in 2023—meaning 98 out of every 100 students are exiting the public school system devoid of this essential life skill.

I hold parents equally accountable. If a child cannot read, the blame must be shared—100 percent. Parenting demands nurturing essential skills, and there’s no excuse for failing to prioritize literacy. Some may find my words harsh, yet they pale in comparison to the cruelty inflicted upon 98 out of every 100 children who leave school unable to read.

The irony deepens when we consider that 82 percent of Hyde Park Academy High School’s students manage to graduate, despite the abysmal reading levels. How then do we reconcile the fact that only two percent achieve basic reading proficiency, while a majority attain diplomas? The reality is grim; many of these graduates, lacking fundamental literacy, find themselves destined for incarceration or early graves on the mean streets.

The Democratic Party, self-styled guardians of our society, has turned a blind eye to this crisis. At this juncture, one must question whether this negligence is deliberate. They’re not oblivious to these statistics; they control the Chicago Teachers Union and wield substantial influence. If this oversight isn’t deliberate, it certainly borders on criminal.

This neglect assumes a criminal dimension when contrasted with their zeal for promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives—programs that, in my view, hold little substantive value. In Chicago, these initiatives segregate students and educators by race, enforcing mandatory racial sensitivity training. It’s a misguided emphasis, suggesting that diversity rhetoric eclipses the urgency of basic literacy skills.

My disillusionment with the Democratic Party dates back over a decade. I openly supported a Republican gubernatorial candidate, paying a high personal cost. I lost half my congregation, received death threats, and was forced into hiding with my family. Despite these hardships, I found liberation—a release from Democratic policies that offered fleeting comfort while eroding personal agency.

This newfound freedom empowered me to confront local challenges head-on. I’m now spearheading the construction of a significant Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center near my church—a beacon of hope in our community. Our primary mission will be to instill reading skills in our youth. If necessary, we’ll extend our efforts to educate parents. Reading proficiency isn’t an insurmountable hurdle; it demands patience, dedication, and above all, empathy—a quality sorely lacking in our city’s Democratic leadership.


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