Tuesday, April 28, 2015

FOLLOW OUR FIRST LADY'S LEAD...Volunteer To Green Chicago's FirstBlack Middle-Class Neighborhood...Help Make History With BIG's UrbanHomesteads...Bring The Family, Plant An Orchard...Celebrate Alice!


Thanks Alice, for everything.
From Beauty To Blight To Beauty!
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 come?
What To Wear/Bring
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 tree orchards.
What To Wear/Bring
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
Introduction to projects, work activities, and safety talk.
Work tools and first aid kit. Snacks and water for refilling your water bottles.
then to the 61st Street Tree Canopy...then to Parkways in the area
Above left: BIG's first garden transformation - Sustainability Teaching Garden.
Above right: site of West Woodlawn's first Urban Homestead - Fruit & Nut Orchard and Vegetable Sanctuary.
Below: BIG's Urban Homestead / Conservation Lifestyle Garden to be paired with our first residential new construction.
We Seek To Dedicate This Pioneering Urban Homestead Development
To Our Recently Departed Executive Board Member
Want 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 ourselves.

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!
As 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.
Did you know Bronzeville is an international tourism destination?
African American heritage is powerfully embodied in what many consider America's greatest under-told story:
The 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 Builders" -
a West Woodlawn Champagne Sip, Speaker Series & Walking Tour in conjunction with
The Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission.
We had brainstormed the concept through a 2 1/2 year process called "Green & Healthy Neighborhoods," coordinated through Chicago's Department of Housing & Economic Development.
We 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
...and still do!
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.

Join us as we transform blight to beauty with BIG's West Woodlawn Botanic Garden & Village Farm Initiative.
Get training you can take back to your neighborhood.
Meet everyday activists working to create a walkable-village where they live the conservation lifestyle - the beautiful life -
and walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play within a "City of Villages."
See you on April 25th?
Register and come get your green on!

...for a fun overview of our work...
A Fable from the Future of 2050
Naomi Davis: Revitalizing Chicago
Naomi Davis: Revitalizing Chicago
Chicago Ideas Week 2011

Our future is now,
Naomi Davis JD LEED GA
Founder & CEO
BIG: Blacks in Green

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