Monday, December 16, 2013

Vacant Schools in Englewood.....Is there a solution?

For the last 10 months I've been working with a core planning team looking at ways that this school closing problem can possibly be shifted to an economic break through in Englewood. Back in September, this discussion was in the hands of the school district which was recently shifted to the city who created an Advisory Committee for School Repurposing and Community Development. This council is charged with developing the process for interested parties looking to purchase or reuse a vacant school building. Englewood was one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago and although it was devastating to have so many schools shuttered, this could serve as an opportunity to put Englewood back on the map economically if it is a community driven process.... Below is an excerpt from my white paper, please read and send me your feedback!

 Vacant Schools in Englewood Open Doors for Economic Growth Opportunities - White Paper
"The Englewood community is currently on the losing end of an economic war. Outside of having the highest unemployment rates in Chicago and 40% of the population is living below the poverty level, this community was recently hit with over 5 neighborhood schools being shuttered due to the school’s district under-utilization factors. Due to the demographic makeup of the community, Greater Englewood is unfortunately made up of many failing schools, high crime, rapid foreclosures and increasingly high unemployment rates.
Yale Elementary - 70th & Princeton - Shuttered in 2013
With these social ills plaguing the area it is essential for residents to organize in order to work towards positive change and economic vitality. This white paper will examine how a community like Englewood can leverage institutional assets and human capital in order to repurpose a closed school building to meet the immediate and long term economic needs of the community."  

To download the entire white paper link here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Englewood is On Fire!! Whole Foods, Safe Passages, RAGE Mania and More!

Greetings All!

I'm baaaaaack!!! As my blog readers know, I do not hold back on these posts. This is probably the only space where I get all my crazy thoughts and observations out without any judgement from my readers (well some of y'all)....So here we go.....So much has happened this past summer that I've been reflecting in other spaces outside of this blog....Let's start first with the SUCCESS of the So Fresh Saturdays Series!

R.A.G.E. launched this series in June and basically did an "Englewood Park Takeover Tour" as a part of the Nights Out in the Park Initiative with the Chicago Park District....We toured Sherwood, Hamilton, Lindblom then ended our finale at Ogden Park! These events were the talk of the summer and kept our R.A.G.E. members creatively busy. We also learned a lot through this process in terms of the needs of our parks, which mind you are institutional assets of our community!

Here are a few of my observations:

  • Parks in Englewood are extremely under-utilized - We talk about not having community centers, Boys & Girls Club etc., But honestly we are not utilizing our field houses, pools and facilities to its greatest potential...
  • Many of the parks have limited resources, staff and support from the big wigs downtown - It was interesting to find that some parks had a limited number of chairs, tables, supplies, etc.  It was also daunting to hear supervisors or staff who worked over 10 hours in a day with only one or two other staff members on site all while managing several activities and events.
  • The staff/supervisors are quite accommodating despite having limited resources, a few shady employees and some out of touch regional managers....I wholeheartedly appreciate all the staff who we met this summer...Keep up the good work!
  • Many of the parks need to be renovated so they are more inviting to our youth and families - Right now, the current conditions are only attracting thugs who want to smoke loud on the playground. Many of our parks are not equipped with air conditioners, are not ADA compliant, need decent bathrooms, and one of the parks we visited is experiencing flooding in the basement.  Come one now...
  • We need more residents, elected officials, organizations to support and take back over the parks in our area....As we can see our schools are closing, homes being tore down, resident owned businesses are fading away...We can't let this same trend happen to our parks....Ok, off my soap box and back to the recap!
At So Fresh Saturdays we made sure each event had performances from local artists, activities for all ages and of course we were intentional in TURNING UP PEACE in areas most people are afraid to visit after the sun goes down.   Check out these amazing pictures below!

This resident driven edu-tainment series helped expose the "R.A.G.E." brand to over 2000 residents in Englewood and West Englewood....We partied in the name of peace, provided free food, had guest speakers, workshops, a youth cafe and was even able to distributed over 1000 book bags to the families of Englewood....I don't know what tools others measure their success with, but we measured our success as an association from a historical standpoint. 

Looking back in 2010, R.A.G.E. was only able to distribute school supplies to 100 students compared to 2013 were we strengthen our relationship equity with various groups, organizations, elected officials and of course individuals to the point that we were able to equip 1000 students in the community with fully packed book bags as they started school on August 26th...

What a great feeling and yes I am still in awe with the success of these events!
Throwback Photo from Englewood Back to School Parade

Throwback Photo from Englewood Back to School Parade

Throwback Photo from Englewood Back to School Parade

Speaking of R.A.G.E accomplishments, we recently re-purposed our newsletter - The Englewood Call to a weekly hotline show on CAN TV Channel 21....It airs every Wednesday at 7:30pm. 

You can link here to view a few of the past episodes.  This communication medium has given us the opportunity to connect with more residents, deliver relevant content for residents by residents and also satisfy our goal of highlighting the positive news in Englewood! 

Special thanks to our production team for their dedication and efforts to make this show a success!

In other news, we recently learned that Englewood will now be home to a Whole Foods....Yes, a Whole Foods Grocery Store on 63rd & Halsted....As mentioned in my blog years ago, I said why couldn't Englewood get a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or another anchor grocery store that would help spark some development in the area and allow us to be walking distance to fresh produce? 

Well in 2016 this may be the reality....Now, don't get me wrong, I occasionally shop at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes but would have never thought it would be steps away from my home, however, like many other residents we are concern that this may be the beginning of the end of Englewood as we know it....

You can view this 25 mins. video from our weekly call in show which clearly shows the mixed reactions from the public: 

Englewood Neighborhood TIF District
The Original Plan for 63rd & Halsted
This development definitely comes with some skepticism from many residents including myself and others watching the moves of our mayor....Of course the city is using our (taxpayers) TIF funds - $10 million dollars to be exact - to break ground....This really doesn't shock me due to the fact that many of R.A.G.E. inquiries about the Englewood Neighborhood TIF went unanswered for the last 3 years....So in a normal Englewood fashion, I am sure folks in and outside of the community are scrabbling to organize, boycott or just merely complain about this development vs. being strategic. 

We all know that Chicago politics is dirty, filthy, unclean....You get the picture which is why it is important for residents, organizers, elected officials and advocates to learn how to navigate through this filthy system and stay clean and true to your community....This is definitely not a easy task and everyone is not built up for this....As my friend always says....You have to learn how to work both the under and the overplay in this game that we all know is designed to keep black communities like Englewood and others stagnant, unorganized and divided....This is a sad truth that you face living in Chicago....

So it's essential to have a R.A.G.E., Englewood Political Task Force, Sustainable Englewood, Imagine Englewood If, Blacks in Green, Resident Matters, Teamwork Englewood and other groups who just don't sit quietly on the sidelines and watch this machine take advantage of our communities...

Norfolk Southern Land Grab in Englewood

Norfolk Southern Land Grab
So as you can see my journey continues because I am overly passionate to see authentic CHANGE in my community from the ground up and will continue to TAKE ACTION to CREATE the life, block and Englewood community I truly desire...

Later for those bias media reports....Please know that Englewood is a place where PEACE exist, history lives, and unapologetic residents who are sincerely PROUD of our community regardless of the wrongs' others choose to highlight.....

When I started this blog it was my personal mission highlight the GOOD from the WOOD and I hope I accomplished that today....So until next time....TAKE ACTION to CREATE the LIFE YOU TRULY DESIRE!! You are Englewood, We Are Englewood....I AM ENGLEWOOD! Peace~

Friday, May 3, 2013

Englewood State of Mind vs. Englewood Victim Syndrome (EVS)

Since my last post, I have received tons of feedback both positive and negative about the things mentioned in the Englewood Manifesto: Volume 1.0, which is what I expected....That tells me that folks are actually reading my blog, which is greatly appreciated...This blog has been my virtual journal of my experiences as a driven, passionate, community strategist here in Englewood....For the most part each experience has been a lesson that's been added to my wisdom toolbox....

I may have went a little hard with the Manifesto, but it was only to remind people that when you live in a community like Englewood, there is a state a mind that comes with the territory ...Similar to the "Brooklyn State of Mind"...
RAGE Founding Member Dj Dap at NIU Teen Summit

The Englewood State of Mind is a complex state that sometime borders on a survival mode filled with resilience and pride in the midst of hopelessness and despair....This Englewood State of Mind is a unique trait of many of the people who live here....Now don't get this confused with the Englewood Victim Syndrome commonly known as EVS....If you live, work or go to school in Englewood, you have been a witness of this syndrome...I usually see the signs at community meetings, bus stops, gas stations, etc., when the "no one cares about Englewood" statements start to fly....As if there is a secret agenda to wage war specifically on Englewood as if we are targeted more than any other black community in urban cities...We are no different from what's happening in Austin, Washington Park, Detroit, Philly, etc.  
Cooking & Chilling at Hamilton Park

The Englewood State of Mind, is a state that involves awareness, strategies, humbleness, and a sense of pride so strong that we will defend any negative perceptions or stereotypes that come our way....That's the Englewood State of Mind...This is what many of the students who come from all over the world wants to understand and use as a case study for school....for any researcher or journalist who is fascinated by the unwavering faith that many of us of 60621 and 60636 possess....

As I continue this work, I hold this state of mind with great value, love and pride...So when I see others take advantage of the people who have caught the Englewood Victim Syndrome and capitalize from our ills, I get a bit testy...Case in Point, Englewood Manifesto Volume 1.0....

Below you will find evidence of the Englewood State of Mind....Enjoy!

Message Board on 63rd & Halsted
Englewood Education Summit 2.0
Resident Tesha Dickerson at Design to Engage Workshop
       RAGE members Pat & Lauren Designing to Engage

RAGE H.S.Intern at Design to Engage Workshop

RAGE member Sonya Harper gracing the Mayor with a RAGE "I AM ENGLEWOOD" band

       See Potential Project at Kusanya Cafe - 69th & Green
See Potential Project at Kusanya Cafe - 69th & Green

The Message Board to Englewood on 63rd & Halsted

Bucket Boy on 71st & Racine

Students from Urban Prep at Greater Englewood Unity Clean Up Day

Message Book from Englewood 
Messages from Englewood
Greater Englewood Unity Clean Up Day

Volunteer at Imagine Englewood IF

Greater Englewood Unity Clean Up Day

RAGE Young Professional Taskforce Chair - Michael Johnson

Design to Engage Workshop -Kelly Library

RAGE Member sporting the I AM ENGLEWOOD gear

RAGE Members Joyce Scott and Deborah Payne at NIU Teen Summit in Dekalb

RAGE Member Justeen Pelt and Myself at NIU

NIU Teen Summit

RAGE Member Sonya Harper at Design to Engage Workshop

RAGE Member Sonya Harper at Design to Engage Workshop

Design to Engage with the Institute of Design

Volunteer at National Block Club University

Design to Engage to Workshop

Design to Engage to Workshop

Design to Engage to Workshop