Tag Archives: community building

See Potential: helping us all envision the rebirth of abandoned buildings on the South Side.

See Potential in what’s around us. That’s the goal of photographer Emily Schiffer’s See Potential initiative: affixing huge weatherproof photographic works to undervalued community assets. It’s a great idea that can help harness the public imagination for the greater good. It’s the sort of greater good that Schiffer always hoped her art would serve. She related to Benevolent Media:

“It’s very clear that publishing an image in a magazine or having a gallery show or having a book isn’t actually going to change anything… I’m always jealous of people who do pottery, for example, because their art has some sort of practical use.

For instance, Gladys’ Luncheonette (a Soul Restaurant that served Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood for decades, but recently closed) is re-imagined through imagery as a healthy corner store offering cooking classes. For members of the neighborhood, this is definitely a soft sell; but Schiffer, alongside Orrin Williams and Judith Helfand, is also trying to sell the viability of community development to outside investors (as well as the City of Chicago itself).

The works will illustrate the Center for Urban Transformation’s revitalization plans for shared community spaces such as:

– Locally owned corner stores that will sell nutritious food and provide on-site, healthy cooking classes.

– Year-round, indoor growing sites using aquaponics technology will train and employ community members and supply food to local healthy corner stores.

– Cooking schools or community centers refashioned from blighted homes that will provide holistic living practices through diverse forms of community outreach and education.

– Community gardens created in empty lots.

According to their Kickstarter proposal:

“Each photographic installation will include a text panel encouraging onlookers to send a text message in support of that specific site transformation.  Using a custom-designed SMS text messaging infrastructure and GPS technology, [they] will collect all messages and record the location from which each text was sent.  By pinpointing the different locations and by tracking the amount of public support at each site, we will be able to present a series of interactive, web-based maps to potential funders, policy makers, and city officials.”

This is just the sort of paradigm shift that Darkjive is all about, something I term as Lack versus Fat (outlined fully here). Using the analogy of the coffee can full of grease that my grandmother kept on her stovetop, the grease (and the can itself) could, at first, be considered waste material. But upon reevaluation, it can also be considered a resource that can contribute to the kind of meal that sustains life. The same can be said for abandoned buildings, or so many things in our communities that can be seen as deficits.

for more on the project (which was recently successfully funded via Kickstarter) click here.

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Building sm/art cities: portoluz potluck and talk at the chicago honey co-op

Building sm/art cities:
Spaces for progressive
culture and sustainable cities
Sunday August 7th 3-5pm
The Honey Co-op 3740 West Fulton

This open air, potluck conversation at the Honey Co-op will be anchored by successful entrepreneurs, land stewards,
and other forward looking urbanists– gathering together to share their experiences building catalytic enterprises, and visionary spaces. Bring your lawn chair and a dish to share and let’s talk how to build an inclusive, robust, creative Chicago for the 21st century.

With Marguerite Horberg, founder of HotHouse and portoluz;
Sherry Williams, founder of the Bronzeville Historical Society; Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green; Michael Thompson, founder of the Honey Co-op; and Michelle Uting, outreach coordinator with Chicago Wilderness.

The Honey Co-op is an urban beekeeping cooperative
practicing sustainable agriculture,
job training, and education.


version 11: the new chicagoans

This Month, Chicago welcomes back both springtime and Versionfest (BTW, I think I saw a daffodil on South Shore Drive the other day).

Organized by the good folks behind local Arts & Culture publication Lumpen, the Fest runs from April 22nd until May 1st in Bridgeport (a neighborhood that’s been going through a lot of changes in recent years).  Speaking of change, according to their website:

These years of recession, insolvency, uncertainty, and calamity have affected us
in ways we couldn’tve imagined before.

…But there is hope… Version 11 is a
celebration of the Chicago communities — projects, spaces, groups, individuals
— creating their own strategies for participatory economies,  co-prosperity,
and the pursuit of genuine happiness. Version will demonstrate the possible,
celebrate the impossible, and showcase the ingenuity, spirit and passion that
create The Community we aspire to take part in together. This is an invitation
to share your community, your goals, your dreams for a better Community of the
Future. It’s all we have left.

Events for the Fest include:

* The New New Chicagoans
* The MDW
Fair

* Materiél Magazine
*
Maria’s Community Grant

* TLVSN
* reenactment of the Haymarket
Affair

Below, an image from “Printervention” (an part of Version Fest 10). Jive On.


Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects

What do you get when you mix a maverick artist with strong community ties and an Urban Planner? For one thing, Theaster Gates. For another, the Dorchester Projects, pictured above. Theaster has been purchasing properties in the Woodlawn/Grand Crossing neighborhood for a few years now, and has quietly acquired the stock of the former Dr. Wax record store as well as the now defunct Prairie Avenue Bookstore (both businesses were revered in their respective collector communities). He created a home for glass lantern slides that depict the canon of Western Fine Art. Using reclaimed materials, he is turning his properties into cultural community hubs, featuring curators and programming that reflects the collections and the community.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be curating the record collection in May and June of 2011, culminating in a series of talks on Chicago Music History (details to follow) and a couple of good, old-fashioned dance parties starring local-born music.

Read the New York Times article about what’s poppin on the South Side with the Dorchester Projects.


ReMake Estate: Brand New Day.

ReMake Estate is a really cool project going on in Gary (Indiana) in which an abandoned house on 24th and Massachutsetts will be reborn as a meeting space and a community garden.  The project is being organized in conjunction with interested local community groups and Australian-based artists Keg de Souza and Zanny Begg.  The artists (from an Australian Collective called You Are Here) are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of The Wiz (yessssss!), in honor of Gary’s most famous son, Michael Jackson.

In other MJ related news, according to the Gary Post-Tribune, the City of Gary is moving forward with plans to build a Memorial/Museum dedicated to Michael Jackson. Rudy Clay, the Mayor of Gary, was quoted at saying the only thing that could come between the City and the Memorial is “it’s people”.

 

images from the project….


Operation Breadbasket, the seed of PUSH

Harry Belafonte at Operation Breadbasket, Chicago 1968

I have dedicated a number of posts here at Darkjive to the PUSH Expo, a 1970s exercise in Black Economic Empowerment (or Black Power as it was then known). The PUSH Expo phenomenon was borne from the seed of Operation Breadbasket (a department of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference), but the roots took twisted turns.

The term “Civil Rights Movement” often brings to mind images of the deep south, but Chicago was a key battleground in those days. Not just because of the influx of new Black citizens that the Great Migration delivered, but because of the ongoing struggles for housing equality and empowerment exacerbated by said influx.

Jesse Jackson, whose ties to Dr. King traced back to the Campaign at Selma in 1965, was selected by King to head Operation Breadbasket’s Chicago Branch.  True to its name, the organization distributed nourishment to the communtity, but it also played a more proactive role to fighting for social justice. 

Tactics such as boycotts were implemented, but according to Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power by David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), a seamier aspect including cronyism and strong-arming businesses to donate money to Operation Breadbasket were folded into the tactics, as well.

Eventually, leadership rifts came to a head, and in December 1971, Jackson fell out with Ralph Abernathy, King’s successor as head of the national SCLC. Jackson and his allies broke off and formed Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).

Various sources tell me that this was a pivotal moment in Chicago History because a giant, organized black party (the largest in Chicago at the time) broke off into factions and never regained the traction it had built before that point.  Then crack hit the community like the atomic bomb (and the fallout is still being felt).  I argue that the hindsighted strength of the PUSH Expo-era was built on momentum created in the years that had preceded it, in conjunction with the genius of marketing with a major motion picture (!) and tons of press.   Documentation equals existence itself, and media has the power to romanticize just about anything.

In the end, please leave me the romance.  Let me believe that we were SO close to breaking free.  It gives me a fairy tale to build tomorrow upon.


Graffiti and Grub: Slaying Food Deserts, One Pear at a Time

Englewood and Washington Park get a Sustainable, Organic Grocery Store to call their own

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Tomorrow, August 28th, marks the highly anticipated grand opening of Graffiti and Grub, a market ten years in the making. Serving the underserved South Side communities of Englewood and Washington Park, Graffiti and Grub began simply: a husband and wife embarked on a journey to find food that their son (allergic to eggs, shellfish, dairy and peanuts) could eat. In their West Side community, this proved to be nearly impossible. “You could find drugs in my community, you could find a gun in my community, but you couldn’t find a tomato,” LaDonna Redmond lamented. Born of this reality was Ms. Redmond’s life trajectory of working to solve food justice issues. She entered the realms of reclaiming vacant lots for urban farming, and ultimately, creating a store to serve communities starved for wholesome food options.

This Friday, Graffiti and Grub will open its doors, a culmination of many dreams. Profiled in the Chicago Tribune, on Chicago Public Radio, and CNN, the vision for the space is something fresh for the neighborhood: a grocer that not only offers healthy choices, but is in touch with the hip hop generation (two graffiti murals are in the works, and the staff is comprised of youth who also work on urban farming sites in an employment program run through the store).

Graffiti and Grub is located at 5923 S. Wentworth on Chicago’s South Side.   Hours, beginning Friday the 28th, are:

Fridays 3pm-7pm. 

Saturday and Sundays they’re open 8am-4pm. 

For more info, visit Graffitiandgrub.com.


The Empowerment Experiment: Buying Black Exclusively for an Entire Year

I interviewed John and Maggie Anderson (an Oak Park, Illinois couple with two small children), who are conducting a social experiment: The Empowerment Experiment.  They are buying black, or patronizing Black-owned businesses exclusively, for one year.

andersons-art

In my interview with them (below), I talk to the Andersons about their “pledge” to buy black, the dark side of integration’s legacy, what it means to keep money in a community, whether buying black is racist, and what’s more important: buying black or buying green….

the above interview was originally broadcast on Vocalo.org 89.5fm.