ROSELAND — The ground has been crying out, but no one seems to be listening, said Sel Dunlap, the self-described “vacant lot psychic.”
A strip of land along the southbound lanes of the Interstate 57 Wentworth exit has been covered in trash for too long, Dunlap said. The lot is full of pop bottles, cans, candy wrappers and more filth.
While standing outside watching cars exit the expressway recently, he said he could hear the ground speak to him over the traffic sounds.
“It’s saying ... 'I’m sick of this mess,'” he said. “This hurts. This makes me look bad. It makes you look bad. I don’t deserve this.”
He said he would like to see the city clean it up more, and the community maintain it.
He thinks police should give tickets for littering as often as they give tickets for blowing red lights.
A message to Ald. Howard Brookins office wasn't returned Thursday.
Dunlap’s "War on Filth and Fear Campaign" is supposed to encourage people to clean up their neighborhoods. It's in collaboration with the Black Star Project's local organizing committee. He credits the nonprofit's founder Phillip Jackson for supporting him and teaming up on cleanup days. Dunlap is also working on a reality show, to air on YouTube called “Cleaning Up Chicago North Lawndale Style.”
A nearly 20-minute YouTube video, "War on Filth & Fear," that Dunlap helped produce shows him and volunteers cleaning up a vacant lot in North Lawndale.
For more than 10 years, he has operated his nonprofit, the Lawndale Amachi Mentoring Program, which mentors West Side children and teens. The nonprofit also promotes clean communities. He has cleaned up and helped maintained several West Side sites in the past and is always expanding.
The Army veteran, in the past, has organized what he called a "filth summit" in which residents "can learn the importance of cleaning up their neighborhoods and the benefits that comes with it," he said.
Dunlap, a south suburban Lansing resident, has lived in both West Garfield Park and the former Cabrini-Green housing development on the Near North Side as a young adult.
In 1981 he cleaned the halls in public housing buildings as head of the Beautification Program for the housing authority in Michigan City, Ind.
"Cleaning up human body waste was the norm when I worked for the housing authority,” he said in an interview with DNAinfo in 2013. “People who lived in these buildings would step over waste and act like it was no big deal. Living in conditions like this had become a way of life for these residents," Dunlap said.
His campaign is so important, he said, because a lot of residents of some city neighborhoods, including many that are predominantly African-American, have become content with living in filth.
“My primary focus is on the amount of trash here, the accumulation of it,” he said. “Trash and debris are going to come, but there is no reason why it should stay as long as it does in our community. It further encourages more people to deposit trash there, thinking that nobody really gives a damn.”
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