Unity, Commitment, Transparency, Collaboration and Action are the values of the Austin Quality of Life Plan.
The entrance to our neighborhood at Chicago Ave and Cicero was the scene for State Rep La Shawn K. Ford’s 4th Annual Stand For Peace Street Dedication.
When I approached Mandela Road around 1030a on a perfect Tuesday morning the neighborhood had completely filled the plaza entrance to Westside Health Authority. Chatting with La Shawn one thing you notice immediately is that representation of black culture is an important topic for him. Although Cook County is home to more blacks than any other county in America, you don’t see many Chicago streets named after people of color.
This annual Mandela Road street dedication was inspired by the unanimous decision of the United Nations General Assembly in 2009 to recognize International Nelson Mandela Day. This year’s celebration was made even more significant by the unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther King Chieftain statue.
15th District CPD Commander Betts made it a point to address what it means to be an active citizen when expressing his concern toward to police efforts against violence. “ When we find youth with weapons they are never waterlogged or rusty. These firearms are kept in good condition. It means they are being stored in neighborhood homes. If you know illegal weapons are being kept in the home, you must contact authorities to help get these guns off the street!” says Mr. Betts during the rally.
The spirit of the Austin neighborhood was on display as community leaders took time to share their latest initiatives as well call the village to action. The theme over the course of the next two hours was the importance of gaining a collective voice to achieve to success we all wish for Chicago’s largest neighborhood.
10 neighborhood groups partnered to make the event a day to remember. The Good Neighbors Campaign Youth Division Cheerleaders kicked off the day’s activities. Everyone from Westside Health Authority COO, Quiwana Bell to Chicago Department of Planning’s Mark Roschen made an appearance at Mandela Day.
Austin’s newest resident, Jamaica Grill catered the event. Their next location will reside at 5241 W. Chicago Ave. The Retail Thrive Zone Grant Recipient worked with AV72 Chicago’s own Yemisi Dinkins on the grant. In addition to her economic development + finances roles at WHA, Ms Dinkins led efforts for the first SSA (Special Service Area) designation for Austin Village. Yemisi works with Department of Planning to maximize their impact in the SSA.
A beautiful display of what a neighborhood should feel like was in the air at the corner of Chicago Ave and Mandela Road on this day. During a UN speech Mandela once made a proclamation for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s injustices. “ It’s in your hands now. ”
We of course can’t change the world until we first decide to change ourselves, and there is an incredible amount of work ahead of us. One thing is certain, and this multi-race, multi generational gathering was reminder that, we as a village will get more done working collectively as one voice.
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AV 72 Chicago began Phase One of the Austin Beautification Initiative recently. It’s a partnership with the Westside Health Authority Youth Employment Division + the Good Neighbor Campaign. All three teams combined outreach efforts to local business and property owners.
Chicago artists are just are excited about AV 72 Chicago’s energy regarding the value of key retail properties in the area.
The 2017 Call For Artist Campaign was an application process where Chicagoans could submit their work for public display. The goal here is to create a series of rotating art installations that will swap boarded up windows and doors with commissioned works of art.
A cohesive appearance will be brought along the corridor using these art selections as the conduit. Selected pieces will also be printed on vinyl banners to be displayed through out the area.
Youth Ambassadors connect with local business owners during daily briefings to leverage resources and determine the most effective ways to improve the Chicago Ave corridor. This year’s artists theme is ‘Black Culture and Community’ There are centers throughout the world, both ancient and modern that have resulted by descent from the movement of black people.
As AV 72 Chicago is home to Mandela Road, submissions that incorporate cultural representation across continents were encouraged. The process values uniformity not monotony; while separate pieces were submitted, they needed to be unified under a central theme.
In the coming months WHA will partner with Austin Coming Together’s Vanessa Creightney Stokes on an art installation program at Chicago Ave + Mandela Road. Vanessa is the Managing Director of her family’s Photography Foundation. Her dad, Dorrell Creightney opened Chicago’s first black owned photo studio. The rich family archive has over 300,000 photos. After art exhibitions in River North and Wicker Park the family is excited for an exhibition in Austin.
These locations are in the Phase One zone of the Austin Beautification Project.
1.Second to None Barber Shop
2. Chicago Public Library Austin Branch, 5615 W Race.
3. Healing Temple Chicago 4941 W. Chicago Ave.
4. Courtesy II Livery, 4950 W. Chicago Ave.
5. The Promise Church of Chicago 4821-23 W. Chicago Ave.
6. Alderman Mitts of the 37th Ward 4924 W. Chicago Ave.
7. City Sports 5430 W. Chicago Ave.
8. Family Dollar 5410 W. Chicago Ave.
Westside Health Authority Founder, Jacqueline Reed is a powerful presence in the Austin area. The organization she built equips local residents with a community infrastructure that touches, healthcare, technology, law enforcement intervention, youth empowerment and everything in between.
During this feelgood Friday night gathering she shared a story of her daughter recently meeting with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg about violence on social media. Brown Sugar Bakery wants their third city location to exist in this neighborhood in part because it aligns her business with Mrs. Reed and her family’s legacy. The Forest Park Historical Society was in attendance as well as a newly relocated priest starting a fellowship in Oak Park…but more importantly a packed house of Austinites made it out to the speakeasy level of the Bitoy Bistro for a fundraiser to restore a statue for the most important American citizen of all time.
The Martin Luther King Chieftain Statue was created after the riots following his death in 1968. This international symbol of peace needed a new caretaker and WHA gladly accepted the honor. Chieftain, a 300 pound, six foot structure sits near Chicago Ave + Mandela Road; a stretch of Cicero Avenue that runs through Austin named for revolutionary, philanthropist and South African President Nelson Mandela.
The symbolism of King and Mandela welcoming you to Chicago’s largest neighborhood creates a celebration of dignity and respect to our heroes. This is an important choice that reflects hope over fear. Having thoughts of a loving, supportive community as you cross into the village is an outstanding gesture for any area.
Westside Health Authority CEO, Morris Reed gave a passionate speech about the organization’s vision for development in the Thrive Zone on Chicago Ave that touched on a theme of community over competition. Board Members have pledged 30K to date and are looking to double that amount to complete statue restoration.
Community Organizing Director, Charles Perry is a key contributor to Project Safe Neighborhood. This initiative will be featured on the CBS network via 60 Minutes this summer.
Bitroy’s became an impromptu listening party when Motivator George Salter blessed us all through chorus with a performance inspired by a stroll one day in Austin Village. The walk started at the MLK statue then down to the next corner where Be Strong and Courageous intersect. George then passes the corner of Don’t Be Afraid + Don’t Be Dismayed. Further down that street was a circle where God stood to remind us that he is with us all the walk of the way.
West Side Health Authority’s slogan is Every Block a Village. There is an undeniable combination of spirituality and grace in their approach that stirs the soul.
In an area where it may be difficult for some of us to become what we cannot see, they are creating a clear direction that public image is an intrinsic element of the Austin Village revival.
Representative La Shawn K. Ford will be hosting the fundraiser for one of Austin's most important art displays, the Martin Luther King Chieftain Statue. Restoration efforts are currently under way at Chicago Ave & Cicero (Mandela Road)
The statue dates back to 1977 when it was erected to commemorate Dr. King's residency in Chicago eleven years earlier.
Highly regarded artist and teacher turned sculptor, Geraldine McCullough drew inspiration from Nigerian tribal art and created a Dr. King masterpiece that portrays him as an African chief.
Funds from the event will go towards rebuilding a structure that symbolizes the hope of all men, not just the African-American community.
This initiative needs your help. The six foot tall Chieftain sat in storage for years before moving to Austin from Garfield Park.
Westside Health Authority, a local nonprofit in the AV 72 Chicago corridor celebrates the re dedication of the MLK statue for a peace and justice plaza. You can help with the Plaza by making a donation. A donation of $1,000 will place your name on our recognized contributors list. Dedication ceremony will be held in our sister community, also called “The Soul of the City” at Bitoy’s Bistro: 5946 W. Chicago ($50 suggested donation for attendance)
Neighborhood recently celebrated economic progress with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Lawndale Christian Center’s Skyline Conference Room with over 30 grant recipients.
The Neighborhood Opportunity Grant is the city’s dedication to communities with commercial corridors that have the greatest need. To qualify the commercial business must commit to hiring from the neighborhood and provide good and services where those good and services are lacking.
Brown Sugar Bakery Chicago will be bringing their award winning treats to the Austin neighborhood. Owner Stephanie Hart was on hand to accept the award. Austin will be the 10yr old company’s third location (Navy Pier and Grand Crossing). Their fresh, custom baked goods are made with love and available 7 days a week through Uber Eats.
AV 72 Corridor elected officials, Alderwoman Emma Mitts and Alderman Jason Ervin were both in attendance along with City Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman. The Commissioner shared the Mayor’s investment vision, and explained how taxes from businesses in The Loop contributed 80% of the Neighborhood Investment Fund.
Please join us in welcoming Brown Sugar Bakery to Austin!!