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December 20, 1991 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-12-20

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awareness and interfaith
Sandra Sokol, an Oak
Park community relations
representative, said the
village is sensitive to multi-
cultural issues, setting aside
days for black awareness
and Holocaust remembrance.
In the mid-1980s, an Oak
Park high school janitor was
discovered to be a former
Nazi guard. After his trial,
Kulle Reinhold was deported
back to Germany. Since
then, Oak Park com-
memorates Holocaust Re-
membrance Day.
"The Holocaust always br-
ings the Jews in this corn-
munity out of the wood-
work," Mrs. Sokol said. "But
the Jewish community is
mainly involved in social
justice issues. Diversity and
multi-culturalism is the
foundation and glue of this
Sherlynn Reid, director of
Oak Park community rela-
tions, oversees housing in-
centive programs such as
Equity Assurance, where
the city guarantees single
family home buyers an 80
percent return if they prove
racial change has lowered
the resale value of their
home. More than 150 people
are in the program.
An Oak Park Residence
Corporation also encourages
buyers by upgrading and
maintaining the quality of
housing in the community
through the purchase,
rehabilitation and manage-
ment of distressed apart-
ment buildings and single
family homes.
Six months ago, a black
family called Mrs. Reid to
tell her the apartment they
agreed to rent was given
away. Mrs. Reid sent a
white, phony buyer to look
at the apartment.
The realtor agreed to rent
the apartment to the phony
buyer. The next day, Mrs.
Reid asked the realtor to
come to her office. During
their conversation, Mrs.
Reid pulled out a set of keys
for the apartment.
"She didn't catch on at
first," Mrs. Reid said. "But I
got great joy from swinging

those keys. The black family
got the first month's rent
Since 1977, the community
relations department has
received between 4,500 and
5,000 housing discrimina-
tion complaints. Fifteen
have gone to hearings and
the village won all but one.
"Realtors used to follow a
code of not introducing a
person of a different race un-
til the block is completely
occupied by that race," Mrs.
Reid said. "You get one
whole block one color, then
you start on the next."
Mrs. Reid was introduced
to blockbusting techniques
when she lived in Detroit.
"Mine was a 'changing
neighborhood,' which is code
for the whites are on their
way out and the blacks are
moving in," said Mrs. Reid,
who lived at Seven Mile
Road and Wisconsin from
1964 to 1968.
The Reids lived on a street
with several Orthodox
families. One time, a real
estate agent came to her
door and told her to tell the
lady of the house that she
should think about selling
because "the niggers were
moving in."
"I told him I was the lady
of the house and that, yes,
I'd take his card," Mrs. Reid
said. "I was not intimidated,
but that was typical of some
of the kinds of tricks going
When Mrs. Reid left
Detroit, Jews and other
whites were leaving the
neighborhood. "My Or-
thodox neighbors needed to
walk to synagogues on their
Sabbath,"she said. "If their
synagogues move, they
move. Their commitment is
to their religious institu-
tions, not to their neighbor-
hood. Even if they wanted it
to be, they didn't organize
soon enough. By the time the
neighborhood was changing,
they changed with it."
Racial diversity doesn't
just happen in Oak Park,
Mrs. Reid said. It took
intervention. Today, there
are no For Sale signs
allowed in front of homes in
Oak Park. That ordinance
passed in 1973 when blacks

Photos by Brian Bahr

George Schneider,
owner of several
buildings in Oak
Park, ensures his
buildings reflect
racial diversity.

were hired by white real
estate firms to look at homes
for sale.
In 1977, Oak Park moved
public school students from
the northeast section of Oak
Park to the southeastern
section. Students from the
northwest section moved to
the southwestern section.
Oak Park Village monitors
Austin Boulevard. "That's
where we try and keep up
the most white demand,"
Mrs. Reid said. "If you're
white, and you're not ex-
pected to live in Austin,
that's where we want you to
live. If you're black and
you're not expected to live in
Oak Park, that's where we
want you.
"There's nothing wrong
with an all-black area, ex-
cept that's not what Oak
Park wants," she said. "We
believe we have a right to
live in a racially, ethnic, re-
ligiously diverse commun-
ity. We ask those who live
here to want the same." 0



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