West Woodlawn was Chicago's first black middle-class
neighborhood...home of Lorraine Hansberry and Emmett Till and other icons of our
Great Migration experience...subject of the book, Tight Little Island available online,
capturing the quintessential African American aspirational journey in search of
freedom and economic opportunity. Like thousands of Great Migration
neighborhoods across America, West Woodlawn experienced decades of targeted
disinvestment and has withered into a blighted shell. Officials, developers,
and others are now gearing up to reinvest..but for
what kind of redevelopment...and for whose benefit will the new beauty
Register and join with BIG as we
continue our work of green-village-building by planting 40 parkway and orchard
trees here in our home neighborhood of West Woodlawn. Gather in a previously
vacant lot turned urban oasis to work with us in our West Woodlawn Botanic
Garden & Village Farm Initiative. Ongoingly, we will replace parkway trees
lost to damage and disease, beautify vacant lots, as well as plant fruit and nut
Boots or sturdy shoes that support the foot. Wear your
scruffies. Dress in layers for warmth.
Hat for sun, rain jacket, layers, clothes that can get
dirty). Bring a water bottle and additional snacks.
What We Provide
to projects, work activities, and safety talk.
tools and first aid kit. Snacks and water for refilling your water
WHERE WE'LL PLANT OUR FIRST FRUIT & NUT ORCHARD
to the 61st Street Tree Canopy...then to Parkways in the area
left: BIG's first garden transformation - Sustainability Teaching
right: site of West Woodlawn's first Urban Homestead - Fruit & Nut
Orchard and Vegetable Sanctuary.
BIG's Urban Homestead / Conservation Lifestyle Garden to be paired with our
first residential new construction.
We Seek To Dedicate This Pioneering Urban Homestead
To Our Recently Departed Executive Board Member
to know the backstory...history and philosophy behind this project?
With a grant of 40 trees from Openlands, along with their gift of
supervised installation and 3 new Blacks in Green™ scholarship graduates from
their latest TreeKeepers course, we are baptizing our newest vacant lot
acquisition with the planting of a fruit and nut orchard, advancing the West
Woodlawn Botanic Garden & Village Farm Initiative. Twenty trees will be
planted in our orchard at 6044 S. St. Lawrence - acquired through the city's
Large Lot Program - and 20 in nearby parkways, including 4-6 on 61st Street to
launch our 61st Street Tree Canopy Project.
Our Chief Gardening Officer Duane Jarrett - the botanic genius behind
all our garden work - has prepared the lot landscape design below [adjustments
for different trees, pending], on which we will also build a multi-unit
residence, thanks to the support of Alderman Cochran. Pictures of our first
garden - a Sustainability Teaching Garden installed at the West Woodlawn Gateway
of 60th & St. Lawrence are included for context. The larger context for our
work is also described below.
Many thanks to Mr. Hal Eason, BIG's Streets & Sanitation Ward
Superintendent, for the most caring, courteous, timely, and generous support -
always - with our green infrastructure work in West Woodlawn. Huge thanks also
to Openlands and to the City of Chicago Bureau of Forestry, without whom our
green infrastructure work would not be proceeding; and to Freshwater Future,
Christy Webber, IDNR, and a dozen hearty neighbors whose early support helped us
mount such a strong start.
Friends like you - committed to community wealth - are needed. In a
single lifetime, green and healthy neighborhoods for black middle-income
families have nearly vanished in America.
BIG's mission is self-sustaining black communities everywhere. Our
goal is "The City of Villages" - where every household can walk-to-work,
walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, and walk-to-play. We authored and teach The 8
Principles of Green-Village-Building™ and Grannynomics™ across the country to
foster a transition - guided by residents of black communities - to
"walkable-villages" - sustainable one square-mile at a time, anchored by
neighbor-owned businesses and buildings, and driven by the conservation
lifestyle...the beautiful life. Your capacity-building support helps us help
And without your help on systemic planning in advance, blacks are
certain to be displaced from our Great Migration communities across America,
destined for permanent underclass status. As you know, historically, blacks are
moved out whenever amenities and market forces attract higher income residents.
In America and around the world, extreme black/white wealth disparity,
structural in nature and perpetuated by many of today's policies, practices, and
payments, ensures that blacks can never build and maintain high-quality,
center-city neighborhoods. Attempts at transformation are typically designed
and supervised by outside professionals who earn the fees to manage the
programs, and take the profits from increased land values. Equity is enshrined
as a seat at the table, fed by a friend - when owning the table, making the
meal, and inviting the guests is clearly more power-filled!
BIG is doing the new work needed to end the old ways: whole-system
thinking, driven by neighbors, designed to increase household income, while
building/circulating community wealth, and establishing resilience. Working at
the intersection of environment + economy, BIG™ has undertaken a whole-system
solution for the whole-system problem common to black communities everywhere - a
rare approach for vulnerable communities.
Rather than constraining attractiveness by making our community "just
green enough" to avoid gentrification, or by looking the other way while
increasing costs slowly turn West Woodlawn into Hyde Park, together with you and
our network of subject matter experts, we can create a national model for an
environmental/economic oasis with a local living economy as a greenhouse gas
reduction strategy...maintaining its cultural character through community
controlled development, land trusts, and benefits agreements...and leveling the
playing field with policies-practices-payments which prefer neighbor-owned
businesses and buildings. To avoid the "Hyde Park Syndrome" blacks must own a
critical mass of land and businesses, with the capital and protections to
preserve them. No other formula can save us. This is the heart
of Green-Village-Building™ - making an oasis wherever we live...restoring our
place in the world!
Making an oasis in West Woodlawn...one which preserves our heritage
as Chicago's first black middle-class neighborhood...the southernmost tip of
Bronzeville...the historic place about which the book Tight Little Island was
written...is our unique invitation to you. Especially with the prospect of The
Obama Presidential Library nestling nearby, we must bring world-class innovation
to the preservation and cultivation of heritage communities that nurture the
ascent of all black families, as they did the rise of our First Family. Thank
you for bringing your rich ideas and willing spirit to the table!
our economic epicenter, we launched the West Woodlawn Botanic Garden &
Village Farm Initiative - celebrating the southern roots and modern day assets
of the neighborhood - Chicago's first Black middle-class neighborhood, and the
southernmost tip of Bronzeville.
you know Bronzeville is an international tourism destination?
American heritage is powerfully embodied in what many consider America's
greatest under-told story:
Great Migration - the mass movement of millions of African Americans from the
south to the north in search of freedom and economic opportunity! We're
celebrating its Centennial in 2016 with BIG's "Artists Writers Gardeners Healers
West Woodlawn Champagne Sip, Speaker Series & Walking Tour in
Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission.
had brainstormed the concept through a 2 1/2 year process called "Green &
Healthy Neighborhoods," coordinated through Chicago's Department of Housing
& Economic Development.
launched the concept at a community party in 2011 and launched our first garden
in 2013, partnering with The Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Botanic
Gardens, Angelic Organics Learning Center, and others.
It was our "Year of the Backyard Garden" and we used First Lady Michelle
Obama's American Grown as our
key teaching tool
We promote the local living economy as a greenhouse gas
reduction strategy. Walking promotes health and relationship-building, which
fosters community resilience. With it we increase the rate at which
neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained; increase the capacity of neighbors to
own, develop, and manage the property in their community; and advance the
conservation lifestyle. In these ways community wealth circulates vigorously
before exiting and the heritage of a place is preserved.
We're working to build a network of land stewards to help
us restore our place in the world. Three captains per zone will receive agricultural and
horticultural training and stipends to teach, organize, and cultivate the
gardens and parkways in their zone.
Our first Land Stewards-in-training received scholarships
to Openland's Tree Keepers class and who graduated on April 4, 2015.