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A coalition of community organizations and students are saying no to the Barack Obama Presidential Library that might be built on the Southside if the community can’t even get a trauma center. The Trauma Center Coalition has plans to hold protest rallies all week to urge the University of Chicago to open up a new center, something they say is much needed.

The timing of their rallies isn’t random, but instead have been strategically planned. The Week of Action protests are happening right as the University of Chicago is preparing to place a bid to host the library. The first bid takes place June 15th and the final decision will be made in early 2015.

“We are marching this week because we want the President to know that the University of Chicago should not get the honor and prestige that comes with the Obama Library when they are neglecting the needs of Black and brown communities on the Southside,” said Victoria Crider, a high school senior at King College Prep.

“Until the University of Chicago shows real commitment to the surrounding community, the Obama library should be placed at another Southside institution,” she said.

The coalition is saying the university has the funds for the trauma center, but they just don’t want to use them.

The University’s president, Robert Zimmer was the highest paid in the private university sector in 2013, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. He earned $3.4 million per year.  The hospital also received a $782 million endowment. Zimmer announced May 8 that the University Board of Trustees approved a public campaign to raise $4.5 billion.

“The priorities of the campaign are built upon the University’s fundamental values and distinctive culture,” Zimmer said in a campus-wide email. “They include a variety of means, including innovative programs to support the research of our faculty; educational and related opportunities for students at all levels in the context of our particularly rigorous approach to education; and the reach, connectivity, and impact of our work locally and around the world,” the email continued.

Dr. Marie Crandall of Northwestern Hospital published research on what she calls “Trauma Deserts.” According to her, the longer it takes a victim to get to a trauma center, the more likely they won’t make it.

A stray bullet found Sheila Rush’s son, Damian Turner, a youth activist in 2009. He was four blocks from the University of Chicago, but was instead taken to Northwestern, 10 miles away, where he later died. His death is what initiated this demand for the trauma care center.

“We are protesting this week because its unfair for this community to not have trauma center, its heartless,” Rush said.

Veronica Morris-Moore is a member of Fearless Leading by the Youth, F.L.Y. and she said they aren’t opposed to the university building the library because it will bring jobs, but a trauma center on the Southside is more important. If they can’t have it, then they don’t want the library, she said.

Administrators of the university have been invited to participate in a conversation, as well as attend a May 19th event, but no one has showed up or reached out, Morris-Moore said. Last year, the university’s executive vice president for Medical Affairs, Kenneth S. Polonsky, said the hospital would support any regional effort to find a solution for the lack of a trauma center on the Southside said The Trauma Center Coalition.

Morris-Moore said that there haven’t been any conversations yet and they hope elected officials join them in this demand.

“We hope to gain national recognition, awareness in the community and results and we’re also hoping this will pressure the university to at least convene a meeting to fulfill their promise,” she said.

Here’s what the University had to say in it’s most recent statement:

“The University of Chicago upholds the right to peaceful and safe demonstrations, but cannot allow protests that jeopardize anyone’s safety. We actively have worked with groups that choose to protest on the medical campus by establishing locations where they can demonstrate peacefully without jeopardizing patient safety and privacy or access to care.” Read more HERE.

And from May 15:

“The University of Chicago Medicine is committed to providing the South Side of Chicago with access to the best health care and doctors possible. That commitment includes offering a number of distinctive, life-saving services, including the South Side’s only burn-unit, a neonatal intensive care unit that serves nearly 1,000 infants from the South Side every year, and the South Side’s only Level 1 trauma center for children.”

“Developing a Level 1 adult trauma center would compromise the medical center’s ability to support these critical services. It would be a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources and support, as well as a complex decision-making process involving the city and state.” Read more HERE.

Upcoming events:

A Prayer Vigil–5 PM, Tuesday, May 20 at 58th and Maryland

A Nurses Led Bus Tour–4 PM, Wednesday, May 21 at 59th and Cottage Grove

A Doctors’ Rally–12:15 PM, Thursday, May 22 at 58th and Maryland

A March for a Trauma Center–4 PM, Friday, May 23. Those interested can join the group at 55th and Woodlawn, 61st and Cottage Grove or at the University of Chicago Quads Flagpole. It will conclude at 5 PM at 58th a Maryland.

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