A letter on Market Days

To the organizers of Market Days at the Northalsted Business Alliance:

I write to strongly urge you to consider cancelling, or at least postponing, the Market Days festival this weekend.

Covid-19 cases and deaths are increasing again across the country, and us here in Chicago are no exception.

This pandemic has already taken so many lives from our neighborhoods and our families, and we should not be going forward with events that will inevitably raise the risk to everyone — festival goers or not.

As a resident in Northalsted, I have noticed that many businesses in the area — which include members of the Northalsted Business Alliance — are re-implementing masking and covid-19 vaccine requirements. It is clear that all of us are increasingly concerned about the delta variant, the reports of breakthrough infections amongst the vaccinated population, and the sizable remaining portion of our communities who are unvaccinated, either by necessity or, regrettably, by choice.

I cannot imagine how anyone would consider allowing an event like Market Days to go ahead.

I note that the Howard Brown Health Center has issued a public request for these events to implement strict measures in the interests of public health. And I was appalled to read in Block Club Chicago that Northalsted was planning to disregard Howard Brown’s advice in favor of the city’s, which does allow the event to go ahead.

It upsets me that one LGBTQ pride organization would so cooly disregard the request and recommendations of another, and it angers me that any LGBTQ organization would consider the city’s health advice over those of Howard Brown.

I recognize I am fortunate to not have lived through the beginnings of the HIV/AIDS crisis. But even I respect Howard Brown — an organization founded to care for LGBTQ patients in Chicago when governments and hospitals were failing us — far more than I do for the government of the City of Chicago.

How can we even consider the advice of a city government that has repeatedly fail to deliver on basic social needs — utility disconnection protections, rental assistance, providing homes for the homeless — for so many, including LGBTQ people? How could we prioritize a city government that employs the Chicago police, whose officers harassed us in the past and continue to work in ways that disproportionately affect minorities — including us — now?

This is a city government led by a mayor who has not only been repeatedly criticized for her poor response to the covid-19 crisis and her many policy U-turns after election, but is a government that went to extra effort to cover over its rainbow sidewalk outside city hall right at the end of Pride Month. This city government could not even respect the most basic of performative acts of respect for our identity and community.

How any person or organization could disregard Howard Brown — an organization founded on, and continuing to demonstrate, its caring for us in the LGBTQ community — for the City of Chicago’s advice is beyond my comprehension.

I’m sure we are all keen to move beyond this pandemic and to focus on recovering our community and our businesses. But that does us little good if more of us are sick — or dead.

Regards,

Leo Ji