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Wefunder Blog

Portraits of Bronzeville, Chicago

on May 25 2016
Chief Storyteller at Wefunder. Mother of three beautiful guinea pigs.

The people of Southside Chicago work quietly, fervently. They are the boots-on-the-ground: building a better community one meal, one child, one story at a time.“The City within a City” & “The Black Metropolis.”

Bronzeville is a neighborhood in Southside Chicago, a once thriving epicenter of black music, politics, and commerce. Bronzeville was where Nat King Cole went to high school, where Louis Armstrong played on Friday nights, and where Ida B. Wells struck a foothold in activist journalism.

It is a town rich in history, but not in resources.

Here are the people changing that.

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“If Chicago is going to be successful, this community has to be successful. It’s too big a piece of Chicago for the city to be successful without it.”

Bernard Loyd is an astrophysicist, former McKinsey associate, and now real estate developer.

He found Urban Juncture to bring Chicago back to the “The Black Metropolis.” He’s opened The Jerk Shack, Community Garden, and Bike Box.

“All of us, as we move forward, have to have faith in the future that someday–even though it may be tough today–is going to be a better day. You have to believe that.”

Tim Black, 97 years old, is a life long civil rights activist.

He went to high school with jazz legend Nat King Cole and brought Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the University of Chicago. His autobiography, Sacred Ground, hits shelves later this year.

“I’m not walking around with a bulletproof vest on…We don’t live in a war zone. ”

Latrice Williams is the manager of the Bronzeville Community Garden, which hosts neighborhood events.

She grew up in Ohio with a garden in the backyard. That inspired her to grow vegetables right in Bronzeville, a food desert.

“I would like to see people investing, not just their money, but their lives into communities like Bronzeville.”

Elvin Charity is a Southside resident and former Chief Real Estate Lawyer under Mayor Harold Washington. Today, he runs his own firm and is one of Urban Juncture’s major partners.

He moved to Chicago in the late 1980s and hasn’t found the heart to leave the city since.

“This used to be called the Low End. We’re trying to get away from that name. Let’s make Bronzeville go back to the music, the culture, all of the good things that it has to offer.”

Kaaron Johnson is the Operations Manager of Urban Juncture—which means she does kind of everything.

She recalls being bored at her former job at Bank of America, when a friend told her about a business revitalizing Bronzeville.

“You played basketball, you sold drugs, or you were just in-between. My way out was cooking.”

Wonderful Jordan is Assistant Chef at the Bronzeville Jerk Shack, which won “Best Jerk Chicken” in Chicago by Red EyeMagazine.

He remembers waking up at 7AM during summers to learn cooking at the Gary Coleman Youth Center.

“We need tighter relationships in the city, across communities. North, south, east, west there just has to be tighter relationships.”

Krystal is a lifelong Chicagoan, born and raised on the Westside. Her work with BuildOn, a non-profit youth program, brought her to work in Bronzeville.

Her goal is to bring more hands-on learning to Chicago youths, such as working in gardens and rebuilding neighborhoods

“Five years or less, I would like to see 150% increase in service businesses in our community, period.”

Rhonda McFarland is the former Director of Lending at the Chicago Community Loan Fund.

Though she’s hesitant to say she loves Chicago, she’s been in the city since 1993. She says it’s the people—their resilience and their kindness—who keep her in the windy city.

“If I just look at the current state of the need for more housing in the city…I would say that we’ve got much work to do.”

Sherry Williams is the president of the Bronzeville Historical Society and is currently studying Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University.

She found the Bronzeville Historical Society after her daughter got tired of one too many stories in the car.

“Chicago’s a prototypical American city. All kinds of problems, but also all kinds of opportunities.”

Bernard Loyd
Founder, Urban Juncture