During the ’60s, Chicago's south 63rd street was viewed as an economic competitor to the downtown market. However, Chicago Lawn, like many communities in Chicago, experienced a rapid change in population due to white flight. White flight saw that as black and brown families moved into the neighborhood, many if not most white families left out of fear, distrust, or prejudice. From 1990 to the year 2000, the Chicago Lawn community saw a decrease in the white population of about 33% and an increase in the black (and brown) population of 70%. With this mass exodus came the loss of resources equity and infrastructure.
The process of redlining, which may seem like a relic from an unjust past, is still alive and well in the Chicago Lawn community. According to a new study done by WEBZ,
“For every $1 banks loaned in Chicago’s white neighborhoods, they invested just 12 cents in black neighborhoods and 13 cents in Latino areas.”
This severely impacts the communities’ ability to be healthy, happy, and ultimately equitable. Chicago Lawn, in addition to once being a southside downtown, was also home to an annual parade. This community-led parade lasted 20 years and traveled right along 63rd street. This history of economic disinvestment of this community means not only the loss of events like the parade but also leads to businesses and other potential resources and commerce avoiding the area as well. This further results in disinvestment, lack of access to essential resources, poorly funded schools, high mobility rate and so much more.
In light of Covid-19 and the movement for Black Lives that has swept the world in recent weeks, there has been a resurgence in conversation about the need for investment in black businesses, welfare, and life. What was not seen in the media during the riots was how many black businesses were protected by the community, and how black and brown business owners stood with their community members.
As an entrepreneur and community organizer for the past 10 years pieced together with the need for black businesses, I’ve made it my mission to transform the Chicago Lawn community. I started Truth Genius Integrity Movement, also known as TGi, as a response to what I saw in my community growing up. *explain what you saw, define dream desert* TGi focuses on dismantling these Dream Deserts by creating spaces, known as the Oasis, where black and brown youth can come together and connect with one another across neighborhood boundaries. Youth can use the Oasis to cultivate their community, talent, leadership skills, and passions. In addition, TGi’s focus is to promote youth entrepreneurship. The TGi clothing line not only acts as a way to generate funds for the other community-based work TGi does but, also sends a message of self-empowerment, love, and entrepreneurial awareness. Through this space not only will there be more opportunity for community-led events, but there will also be increased resources, knowledge, and entrepreneurial opportunities. In 2021 I plan to bring back the 63rd street parade, where it will focus on engaging the community around mental health awareness and access. The KLY Parade for Mental Health Awareness is dedicated to my mom, who suffered from issues surrounding her mental health and passed away in 2018.
As it stands, just along 63rd, from California to Western (.5mi Radius) 57 out of the 92 properties are vacant (62%). That’s just a small portion of the 63rd street strip. Through my 4-year plan and TGi’s community center I dream of changing that 62% and to use this as a model for other communities. My goal is to raise $150,000 to purchase and rehab the building(s) pictured above, located on 63rd and Talman, and to cover the startup cost of The Oasis. Half of the building will be a black-owned retail clothing shop called TGi Movement, while the other side will act as office space for my nonprofit TGi and a community space for people to host meetings, events, forums, and whatever else they may need. The purchase of this building is the first step in a 4-year plan I have to continue raising money to bring in more black own businesses, including but not limited to restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, and other retail spaces. Chicago Lawn has the potential to be a strong community, a beautiful neighborhood, and a source of inspiration for all those who see the beauty in working together to create positive change.
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