A Response to the Forbes Bandwagoners

Can you believe it?

Rockford and the year of 2013 has been represented by citizens in the cultural movement to be a year of progress through the arts: music, spoken word, vivid paintings and pictures, local clothing lines, video production. And yet we still suffer from the negative media attention we receive via infamous magazines because of statistics, a term that segregates the good from the bad by providing a number above or below a perceived threshold.

Nine used to be our ‘magic number’, a number that symbolized our obedience to unemployment and reminded us of our high crime rates, property taxes, and low income communities left in poverty. Decades of decline has labeled us an assassin of American character, a non-growing city with no more space to shrink. The American Dream still sleeps in Rockford…what will it take for us to wake up?


Or is it the media that still sleeps? Some dreams have been made reality in Rockford, Illinois. Leaders from the community have stepped up to embrace change and cause a turnaround for the city. Ample opportunity exists, but one reason why Rockford now sits close to the top of Forbes Magazine’s Most Miserable Cities list is because not enough citizens are stepping up to embrace our positive movements and evoke change themselves. The type of citizen who complains, but never takes part in a movement.

Yes, I am talking to you. You sit at home and complain constantly about how you have nothing to do. Or how you can’t walk outside because you’re afraid of getting robbed. You post Facebook statuses that smear mud on the face of your hometown and tweet your little ‘Rockford sucks’ update to your followers. You don’t commit to change, you prevent it. You don’t inspire people; you hold them back by your silence. You weigh yourself stagnant by not getting involved with people in the community who bring changes to the environment, to government, to business, to culture, to communities. No, you hide behind your computer and promote Rockford as a slum town full of scum and dusty building windows.

You stray from making a difference in the community’s life due to your inherent ability as a human to willfully ignore an emerging problem. Chores are left accumulated, dust is left collected, and momma is no longer proud to have you as her child. Collect your belongings, and get the F#@% out!

There isn’t enough room in this shrinking town for the both of us: the movement embracers vs. the movement crashers. Lately I have seen many of you, not at public events or out in the open, but through quirky comments online about your hometown, the city that you may or may not have grown up in but still decide to reside in or around with your own witty, humorous opinion of your lame Rockford experiences.

We aren’t perfect. Hell, some of the things I experienced growing up on the west side of Rockford purposely instilled in me visions of hopelessness and gray goals. Not until my later teenage years did the color begin to fill up the black and white picture of Rockford I held in my wallet. I, too, once had dreams of leaving Rockford and prospering elsewhere. But no, I can’t do that, that would be too easy. Anyone can just pick their sh*t up and go somewhere else. Where I come from, we don’t do things the easy way. Corners don’t get cut, time doesn’t get wasted, and lives don’t go unlived.

But just like it takes a real man to raise his children from birth to adulthood, it takes a real leader to raise his own city from ashes to a prosperous, community involved, culturally evolved, business-oriented place to live and grow. A real community leader doesn’t leave his community for a better one because it will be easier.

Would a parent leave their child for a more intelligent one?

I must say, it is a shame to see some of, and I dare say it, my own friends take part in the #Rockford #bash-a-thon. It’s a shame because all of you are leaders in your own rights, and all of you hold the key to all of your dreams. But wake up, this isn’t a dream. We need work. We need a better standard of living. We need people. We need YOU, the ones reading this who have not yet contributed to their community through ideas and offerings of intelligent decisions, as well as creating opportunities for youth and economic development. We cannot wait for these things to be handed to us by the government, local, state level, or federal. We need everyone to pitch in: tax-payers, welfare recipients, naysayers, yea-sayers, police officers, immigrants, entrepreneurs, students, fathers, mothers, blacks, whites, sisters and brothers, Latino and Asian, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, the Green Party, block parties, neighborhood groups, local businesses, non-profit organizations, local government, comedians, poets, leaders, you, and me.

Basically, Forbes Magazine is telling us that in order to get off their list, we need to create jobs. We need to lower property taxes. We need to better educate our children to be book smart, as well as street smart.

The American Dream is slowly being re-awakened within the Rockford community.

But most of you don’t know it.

I have written my own words, utilized my own resources, witnessed mind-intense artwork, felt non-verbal words, read touching stories, engaged leaders, listened to poetry, viewed inspiring videos, lived in poverty, gone hungry at night, broken the law, rejected friendships, influenced negative decisions, loved, and hated. I’ve empathized and sympathized, legitimized and revitalized. I’ve experienced Rockford, Illinois, just like the rest of you. Rockford isn’t just about crime and poverty. We’re about togetherness, holding all citizens accountable for our progress, promoting growth through positive features and forms of art, and creating opportunities for each other.

And last but not least…I’ve survived the 3rd most miserable city in the United States of America.

“Sometimes a flower is best left without water, for it may soon evolve, and then learn to feed on the dryness of the ocean.” – Unknown


Categories: Community & Events

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11 replies

  1. Thanks for taking the time to share that. Change not only will come, it’s here. Rockford pride is stirring up and for good reason. Love our city!

    • Forbes seems to mislead many by using “misery” as a descriptor for socio-economic facts. Those facts are decades in the making and can’t be ignored. The arts scene is anything but a scene. People see work, they rarely buy it, and prefer to spend their money in bars. That is Rockford. The art scene is a jaded, nepotistic fragmented ‘scene’ driven by political forces. Artists inherit the role of public speaker for those in the community who have no voice, and rarely do you see an artist here who yells against the system being championed as you would anywhere else.

      It is not a healthy arts community. It is being pillaged by those you think are doing good for the community. People need to wake the f*ck up and fight back. That’s what artists are supposed to do but how dare they do it in Rockford without pretending to smile and make the community feel like a proud loved puppy.

      I’m quite amused by the overtly-proud more than the bashers most days probably because pride is one of the 7 deadly sins and as a human, sorry, I’m draw to it-amused at best but rarely inspired by the same things you mention. Pride is often evil and loaded with delusional intents. Speaking of.

      Delusion seems to be running rampant which is sad for realists like me to observe. I admire what you’re doing here with this blog thing but it is fueling a local epidemic rooted in civic pride. As far as my own contributions towards my community, I don’t need to defend my actions and my work for many–I do plenty, done plenty, and receive as much disrespect from my own community as one could imagine. This is not a good town. This is a poor town with poor ethics. All artists should be on guard and if you aren’t now, you will be later. Rockford’s business and city gov leaders are a part of the problem as well. They’re using many individuals for charitable labor and expecting everyone to make change happen for them with this sick socio-politico psychological marketing agenda many in the community are high on.

      This isn’t a declaration of complaining either. This is a declaration of proof.

      Although it’s nice to see a younger generation take up the technological fight with neat little videos, websites and the like that promotes philanthropic civic pride, it should be noted that wishful thinking is still not productive thinking in the end.

      Many of us who are looking at work we’ve done and work we still need to do are now tired of the Rockford talk–too much for too long, nothing changes aside from faces and names fighting the same fight–and want to be somewhere where opportunities and the abilities to survive, raise a family, provide health care and live a good life NOW, not later or down the road.

      Time is of the essence and many people who have done good things were forced out by default to survive, many people doing good things are leaving now to have a chance. The same talk I heard 20 years ago is the same talk now, only the city is in worse condition than ever. It’s natural, it’s economics, it’s evolution. Migrate or disintegrate.

      I do wish you luck as your intents seem pure, but beware of pride.

    • I woke up this morning, checked my facebook and found a thoroughly insulting article making the rounds: https://therockfordblog.com/2013/02/22/a-response-to-the-forbes-bandwagoners/

      I get that the author is trying to be inspiring here, and to some people i’m sure it is. My take away from it is that the author means to insult anyone who dares speak up about the shit state of affairs in this city. That anyone who dares insinuate that anything is wrong here is simply “stagnant by not getting involved with people in the community who bring changes to the environment, to government, to business, to culture, to communities.”

      So let me get this straight, Dan.

      In order to be a “movement embracer” as you put it, in order to be an asset to this city, we have to get on board with the same group of “haves” that have put us on the Forbes list in the first place. We have to want change, delivered to us by the great white hopes that already hoard the limited resources in this town and most importantly we’ve gotta choke the sewage this city has to offer in terms of crime, poor education, ridiculous taxes and lack of civil service down with a grin? We’ve gotta stop saying things are bad here and suffer with a smile?

      I reject that notion entirely. Injustice isn’t corrected via silence, Dan. It’s corrected by speaking out. Maybe if enough of the little people, the “movement crashers” cry out that “Rockford sucks” loudly enough maybe someone in power will listen. I doubt it, but maybe.

      And the notion that moving out of Rockford to seek better opportunities is weak or cowardly by taking the “easy” way out is insulting. It’s also inaccurate. Relocating is never easy for anyone. However, when I look at my friends, the people I know who have left to go elsewhere and work hard, to chase their dreams and goals where opportunity was attainable, not easy, but attainable, I see happiness and success.

      Locally, I see struggle, misery and uphill battles for anyone who wasn’t born to success.

      I posted this to my Facebook as well. I welcome discussion.

  2. Great piece. Why isn’t credit given to us for having one of the top fire departments in the country? Or a recyling effort that has been the model for a good number of cities? Or the establishment of a city market that has spawned many small businesses? How about the fact that this city is cleaner than most? How neighbors help neighbors?
    Yes, we have high property taxes but compare them to those in Wisconsin. What do we get for our taxes? An EMS system that is just a few, short minutes from aiding those who need help. I see growing medical facilities that are reaching out to people,

  3. I’m sorry, but we really need to stop kidding ourselves. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people here who have tried to get the community excited about Rockford and trying to change it for the better. Not only does the Rockford community, as a whole, really not care, but neither does the Rockford city government or the Chamber of Commerce. I have repeatedly tried to hold fundraisers for the updating of our slowly growing city, only to be met with rude comments, jeers, and hateful remarks from people who WORK FOR THE CITY. Why is no one standing up and trying to help? Because you need support, funding, and permission. None of which is available to the ones trying to make a difference. The small amount of people with money in this town only wish to buy the new iPhone. Not help a dying city. Prove me wrong, Rockford. I’ve tried to help you my whole life. Who else wants to sink 23 years into a black hole? In order to grow further as a city and a community, we need citizens who are willing to listen to its peers, and a government who cares less about its paychecks and more about its people.

  4. For every negative story, there needs to a be a positive story to combat it.. If you don’t have anything positive to write about, go make/do something positive to be written about..

    It’s our responsibility to change the current status that we continually hear.

  5. Greg, you’re assuming that you can’t make/do something positive to be written about while pointing out the flaws in Rockford.

    The core article implies the same thing.

    Both are wrong.

  6. Yeahhhh, maybe the river in the center of town is DE NILE because no one wants to own up to the very real problems that Rockford has been unable to solve for decades. 20 years ago I took the same view as the author and worked hard to support this community, and what do I have to show for it? My property in Rockford is worth less today than when I bought it in 1995. My business only survived because we were able to get away from Rockford’s economy which has been circling the drain for years. I’ve watched for 20 years as Rockford’s best and brightest constantly leave Rockford in search of success, and only the least and lightest remain. I’ve watched as a bar manager friend routinely erased security video that showed elected officials accepting envelopes and bags of cash (10+ years ago). I’ve seen sweetheart deals and questionable dealings go ignored by the local (3rd rate) media because the people who should be questioning the authorities and reporting the facts instead act as the mouthpiece for those same authorities. I’ve watched as a decrepit downtown area molds and decays because no one wants to tear down a bunch of eyesores to open up land for development and bring the infrastructure up from the 19th century. One of Rockford’s largest tourist draws is the gaggle of prostitutes marching down 7th Street (or is it 11th these days? I’m not sure anymore…).

    Rockford has wonderful music and arts and culture because it acts as an incubator, but if our musicians and artists want to earn a living at it they have to move somewhere else, generally Chicago. I saw the top jazz guitarist in America in downtown Rockford 3 weeks ago- tickets were 2 for $5, and only 12 people were there.

    So I have given up, and I moved to another community 20 minutes from Rockford. The difference is astonishing- why did I wait so long to get out? And then I realized what the deal is- Rockford is a sucker trap, and the only people left are the ones who can’t get out. They simply don’t realize how miserable they are, or how different every other place in the world is, and they can’t see how trapped Rockford is in time or how being mired in constant petty squabbles in holding them back. It’s like they can’t see that they’re in an abusive relationship. Maybe next time they get hurt they’ll learn…

  7. Thank ALL of you who commented..this really means a lot, even if we disagree. Some of us have spoken on Facebook about this article, but I also wanted to make one point clear on the article page as well:

    I did not attempt to glorify Rockford as being a “great” city. This seems to be a common theme here. My goal was to address the people who live in Rockford that neglect to try and make a change. I have understood one thing though: many of you feel like you have done enough with no ounce of recognition, respect, or reward in return; and that is just not acceptable. One reason why I began writing this blog in October 2011 was to simply create Rockford-oriented content that people could be happy to read.

    As stated in the article, we have TONS of problems in Rockford: unemployment, taxes, crime, poverty, unmotivated government, unmotivated citizens, unfair advantages, nepotism. Opportunities aren’t being created for the right people right now. I just want everyone to stand up, and work together to find a solution to the problem instead of living our life the way it is, miserable or not. We need more networking of different groups of people so that diversity can really take advantage.

    If I came across as someone that cannot talk or write about our city issues, then that is my mistake. I’m just trying to build up and motivate the ones who are trying to do something for the city of Rockford.

    Keep it goin!

  8. Rockford Potential: 10
    Rockford Actually: 4

    It’s like telling people not to be ignorant. People are ignorant to just about everything today, and the blame always falls on something else. It takes a lot of time, energy, passion, and personal responsibility for some one to continue to actively promote positive change in a place like Rockford. There is so much negativity, so much division, and so much bad reputation that it halts people from even attempting to take part. Our residents are often so thoroughly dissatisfied but remain stagnant. What a death trap that can be. Seeing how lively other cities are is a double edged sword. We want that for Rockford, but we don’t see it happening all at once.

    In a place that is equal distance from three major (and might I add “fun” cities- Chi, Mad, Mil), Rockford should be destined to be a place of cultural integration, arts, and community. We have a viable downtown to host new businesses, musical and artistic endeavors, and enough people to inspire. There is a group of people working towards it, however. Carrying more weight than normal people ought to, but they share that inspiration well. A life lived purposefully is often the most moving.

    It’s a mixed bag. Yes, action needs to be taken against the crime. But this doesn’t mean furthering the segregation that already exists (racism is alive an well in Rockford). Poverty is perpetuated in Rockford. Jobs should be created, and I can think of plenty of jobs Rockford could create in trying to improve its current state of un-bliss. People want clean. People want fun. People want places to go. Fewer bars, more coffee shops and cafes. Fix up the vacants. Reward local businesses (they’re the ones doing most of the work, IMO).

    I’ll say things are looking up. Take on the right mentality and one could say this is an exciting time to be a part of this community – let’s call it Revitalize Rockford. It’s a flame, and it’s catching, but people need hype, people need something they can bank on, they need the shoulders of some one else before they’ll go support a cause they don’t have faith in. It’s not that hard, though. There’s a lot of sheeple here. They just need to be told what to do by a credible source. Rockford kind of sucks in comparison to a lot of places. But. I’m in it for the long haul. I want it to thrive. I like a big-small city. And I love the Midwest.


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