For most of his life, 16-year-old Jeremiah Sterling lived in West Pullman, on Chicago’s far South Side. His mother’s house on May Street abuts the northern border, but the neighborhood goes south all the way to the Calumet River, east almost to Indiana, and west to Ashland Avenue. A cruise through West Pullman shows small, cozy bungalows, their lawns trimmed; in warm weather, there’s plenty of stoop seating. About 75 percent of these homes are made up of families – people actually related to each other – which is about 9 percent more than the rest of the country.
Altgeld Gardens, a historic public housing site on the far end of the neighborhood, is poor and troubled to this day – in spite of being the site of a young Barack Obama’s organizing efforts. A brown field on 120th Street near Altgeld Gardens is also the site of the largest urban solar plant in the country, Exelon, which opened this year. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff and now running for mayor, was key to bringing the plant to Pullman. David Axelrod, the president’s PR whiz, also did consulting for it.