January 13, 2004

Checkerboard protestors misguided

The degree to which the University has organized and controlled Hyde Park and its surrounding neighborhoods through its substantial influence and wealth remains an interesting and important question. Over the past 50 years, the University has made many decisions about the kind of community in which it wants its students to live, and occasionally may step over the ‘good neighbor' boundary to protect its interests. Facilitating the re-establishment of the Checkerboard Lounge within Hyde Park, however, does not fall under this category and will be advantageous for all parties involved.

The protestors in this matter are either misguided or misinformed. For the past several years before the club's closing, the Checkerboard was almost entirely patronized by University students. If keeping the venue in Bronzeville is such an important issue, then community members should have voted with their wallets before it was too late and not with their mouths after the fact. When the club was faltering, no one visited. When the club was closed for months, no one offered any financial support. Now that the University has offered a helping hand, it seems that some want to slap it away out of spite.

The Checkerboard is not a place, or an owner, but a moment lost in time: a collection of stories and memories about a period of music and those who played it in a small, dark room on the South Side of Chicago. This tradition will be better served in a venue that can carry on the spirit of the blues in a successful and entertaining manner. The University is not stealing anything, but merely helping a businessman open a new establishment that will benefit him and the community at large. It may be a shame that the Checkerboard has to move—a result of changing times and tastes—but to ignore an opportunity to revive a legendary club only minutes from its former location would be the saddest song of all.