Our organization was started because we love our community and we are concerned about our planet. We live in a community with roots that started with the migration of African Americans 100 years ago to Chicago's near south side. The neighborhood became the Black Metropolis of Bronzeville. Because the community was racially segregated we lived and shopped locally. Over the years black families moved when restrictions were lifted. Businesses suffered. Recently the razing of public housing caused a tremendous shift in community population. Decrease population density led to school closings. In place of the vibrant community of the past we became a community with 43% vacant lots and diminished resources.
But our community went beyond the boundaries of Bronzeville. We had children and grandchildren inhabiting parts of our world from Chicago to the Netherlands. Farther afield we saw the effects of our current civilization on the planet. It only seemed natural to us that we had to combine our love of our community to a love of a sustainable future for all of us.
Our organization starts with education. Education is the source of empowerment for individuals and communities. Our particular emphasis is sustainability. We looked for a project that we could begin locally. The train embankment that once led from Bronzeville to the Chicago Stockyards was vacated many years ago. It occupied miles of Bronzeville from Lake Michigan to the old site of the "yards" to the west. Many thought of it as an eyesore but my husband and I thought of it as an opportunity to create a place to teach about renewable energy and urban agriculture. That was the genesis of Bronzeville Urban Development.
Since our initial vision other organizations and individuals have helped us to develop a framework that can be applied anywhere. Everything in your backyard is a resource. The people of your community are an invaluable resource. The project we started has become a lifelong pursuit. It's no longer an academic activity to teach others what can be envisioned. It now has to become real.
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