20th October 2017

Bronzeville International Summit

This conference hosted by Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (BCDP) at the ComEd Chicago Training Center was a great snapshot into the discussion of and people behind Bronzeville's development. Panellists during the two sessions included local developers, businesses and financial institutions, and discussion remained mostly economic as a result, except for the occasional interjection from impassioned locals in the audience.

Despite a lot of corporate back-patting, I gained plenty of useful material for my upcoming thesis from this conference. Discussion ranged from funding methods for cultural projects, and the limited success of a controversially-placed Whole Foods in the Englewood neighbourhood, to broader housing issues, the importance of anchor institutions and infrastructure, and the issue of gentrification (a nebulous term at the best of times).

“I don't think African Americans really value their communities. Everybody values our real estate but us."

Patricia 'Pat' Abrams, director of The Renaissance Collaborative (a non-profit 501(c)3 organisation)

“We have to say we are good enough for our own money."

Audience member (local African American resident of Bronzeville)

The most interesting problem the conference highlighted was a lack of knowledge amongst low-income residents regarding available routes to local property acquisition. When some of the panellists expressed their belief that many residents are financially able to acquire property on the South Side, several audience members responded that even if this were the case, these residents do not know how to do so. One person said that "the information just needs to be packaged better and put out there."

The event was a useful networking opportunity and included a tour of the Woodlawn neighbourhood with a local historian, Scott 'Scotty' Williams. This was thoroughly enjoyable but unfortunately the photos I took were lost when my phone was pick-pocketed that evening. Strangely, the keynote speech, though interesting, was completely irrelevant to the summit and under-attended as a result.

I was excited to see a visual I made for BUD used for the 'Zone 2' title in the conference booklet (see image above).