Chicago sabotaging swimming program and water polo teams at Harrison Park by removing the coach whose teams have dominated the city for years... Is gentrification behind it?...

Harrison Park water polo and swimming coach Juan Rosillo giving advice to a player during a game. Substance photo by John Kugler.In the ongoing fight against gentrification -- and what many are calling "ethnic cleansing" -- in the Pilsen neighborhood (a South Side Chicago community that is predominately Hispanic), parents have learned that a beloved coach is being unilaterally moved to another pool without any public notice or explanations. According to the Chicago Park District, coach Juan Rosillo will be transferred from Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood St, to another Chicago Park this coming season. Juan Rosillo has been with the Harrison Park Piranhas Family for 17 years.

The Harrison Park swim and water polo teams have won citywide championships on a regular basis -- including the citywide water polo championships Under 14 for the boys, girls and Coed. The swim team is the elite team for Chicago Park District out of all the parks in the city. The "Harrison Park Piranhas" swimmers and water polo players are recruited by private high schools and colleges.

Many of the families that are part of the Harrison Park water programs are undocumented and are therefore less able to protest such maneuvers against them. For many families, this is their way to move up the economic and social ladder to documented status. In many instances players get scholarships to schools and special training opportunities that lead to four-year degrees or good paying job opportunities.

Emi Yamamoto, parent activist, is seen trying to explain the Harrison Park pool problems to former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn at Pete DeMay's 12th Ward IPO BBQ on August 20, 2016. Community activists and parents are organizing to save a winning water sports program in Pilsen, charging the city is dismantling it for gentrification to push Hispanic families out. Substance photo by John Kugler.Diego Leanos, a Piranha, talks about what a good coach can do for young people: “Living in a community such as Pilsen, Juan has not only been a role model, but also an individual who has helped younger generations such as myself from the danger on the streets with his swim team! he has and always will be the face of Harrison Park Pool.”

In the beginning, the emphasis of the swim program was to keep kids safe. The Piranhas focused on getting kids off the streets and away from gangs. Pilsen has a high incidence of gang and drug activity that claims many youth that have no other options for their future. The swim and water polo programs take all youth without question: training them to become the best at their sport and specialization.

Abel Rosillo who went through the program his father coached for 17 years makes the point clear that this is not a job for his dad but his passion.“He is my dad and I know he loves doing his job at Harrison Park," he told Substance. "it's his second home. He has been working at Harrison for over 17 yrs. My dad enjoys what he does at Harrison, he knows the kids, parents and staff. The kids love him and know him as Coach Juan, but to me he will always be my dad. His home for lifeguarding and coaching will always be at Harrison Park.”

The Harrison Park Piranhas Pool Program is a community social program that works to bring stability into the lives of many who have no idea what the next day may bring. Now it seems that the Chicago Park District arbitrarily and capriciously has made the decision to destabilize a winning neighborhood program.

At time in our history where corporate media constantly blasts pictures of shootings, crime and civil unrest that has government officials scrambling for answers, Chicago again is destroying what works. Instead of copying the Piranha water program, the city is seeking to dismantle a winning team in serving minority neighborhoods. The pattern of institutional racism is clear and obvious without a doubt.

In talking with local activists and parents the motive is clear. The city wants to move out undocumented families and poor Hispanic families to make room for gentrification.

“We will be there to help fight this.” In talking to Byron Sigcho from the Pilsen Alliance he agreed that something was strange to remove an acclaimed coach from a well-known neighborhood community program.

“If they destroy our program families will not come. Many people come her because it is safe and they love winning. Many parents send their kids here to stay out of gangs. Now the city wants them out for gentrification. They want to kick out Mi Amigas. My friends are strong and they fight for their families, that is why they want them out,” proclaimed Emi Yamamoto a Harrison Piranhas parent activist.

Substance News has been investigating and exposing the gentrification, segregation, and institutional racism in Chicago for more than four decades. The recent program closures throughout Chicago include the closing of 50 schools, most of them serving minority communities, during the past decade, but the patterns have to be examined in each community. It is becoming more evident that the city is now focusing its efforts to “clean out” Hispanic areas of the city that are predominately undocumented to move in gentrification.

According to local critics, this process started a few years ago with the proliferation of UNO charter schools that segregated Hispanic students away from neighborhood schools. The gentrification attacks included the demolition of La Casita -- a community meeting place for activists adjacent to Whittier Elementary Schools-- and the continued rounding up of undocumented families for deportation.

In a more recent example of the Hispanic neighborhood sabotage, the Juarez High School water polo team’s pool was shut down right when they went in to the playoffs. They had an unbeaten record. Despite having time to maintain the pool and spring break to get the pool fixed, the Chicago Public Schools made the decision to shut it down and sabotage the post-season for the Juarez water polo team.

Incidentally, many of the Juarez water polo players come form the Harrison Park water polo and swim teams. Furthermore, the Chicago Board of Education has decided to punish and retaliated this reporter for uncovering the sabotage rather than make sure there are procedural controls to safeguard the water polo program for future interruptions.

Critics say it's simple: If you’re the wrong color in the “City that Works” and in the way of "progress", the community programs that can lead to your success will be destroyed.

The Piranhas parents have set up a petition to save Coach Rosillo and are asking all those interested to attend a parent meeting at 6 pm Monday 8/22/16 at the pool entrance 1824 S. Wood St.


To Stop Transfer of Coach Rosillo

MONDAY 8/22/16 6PM





1645 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60608


Please sign the petition today and share will all your family and friends.


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