Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210235
Story Retrieval Date: 10/2/2014 5:27:38 AM CST

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Rebecca LaFlure/MEDILL

Former Ald. Wallace Davis, owner of Wallace's Catfish Corner; Danyele Leonard, a Chicago teacher; and Zoe Young, supervising manager at Wallace's, talk about their reaction to President Barack Obama being elected to a second term and the issues that are important to them.


West Siders celebrate Obama win at Catfish Corner, political hub for decades

by Rebecca LaFlure
Nov 07, 2012


Wallace Davis promised himself he wouldn’t have another alcoholic drink unless Barack Obama got elected to a second presidential term.

But when the results came in Tuesday night, the former Chicago alderman, who hasn’t had a beer in a year, said he was so overcome with joy that he decided to stay sober for the event.

“I am so ecstatic,” Wallace said Wednesday at his restaurant Wallace’s Catfish Corner on Chicago’s West Side. Voters “sent a message to the world that we are going to stick with leadership that has love and passion. It was a breath of fresh air.”

It’s no secret that Wallace and the people who frequent his soul food restaurant support the president. Catfish Corner has served as a hub for Democratic politics since it opened more than two decades ago on West Madison Street, across from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ (D-Chicago) office.

A portrait of the president with the word “Forward” is painted outside the restaurant’s entrance, and photos of Barack Obama and Chicago politicians cover the restaurant’s walls.

Wallace, who served time in federal prison for a federal bribery conviction in the ‘80s, proudly showed a photo of Obama visiting the restaurant during his run for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Even Ill. Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), who was re-elected Tuesday night despite being impeached on federal bribery charges, stopped by to chat with Wallace.

The patrons who dined in Catfish Corner Wednesday expressed excitement at Obama being elected to a second term. They generally believed Obama inherited a string of challenges that were out of his control and think another four years will give him more time to address them.

“I’m with him 100 percent,” said Levi Davis, a retired businessman. “He’s qualified to be there.”

However, diners said there are many issues that have yet to be resolved, namely the area’s high unemployment and crime rates.

“When you’re unemployed you have nothing to do all day but think about how to commit a crime, how to be violent, how to be a bully,” said Zoe Young, a West Side resident and supervising manager at Wallace’s Catfish Corner. “If (Obama) could work on the issue of unemployment, it would give our community the chance to thrive.”

Danyele Leonard, a teacher at Kellman Corporate Community Elementary School, said she hopes Obama will focus on education issues during his second term, particularly helping students in low-income areas succeed.

“Poverty has a role and their environment has a role,” Leonard said of the nation’s challenges with student performance and dropout rates. “Until these issues are looked at, to know the cause and effect, we really can’t have functional, literate America the way we would like.”