South Side Community Groups Craft Community Benefits Agreement

Organizers launch Collective to embrace Obama Presidential Library and Foundation and to negotiate innovative measures for community wealth building.    

Chicago, IL—(ENEWSPF)—May 12, 2015. Leading community development practitioners on Chicago’s south side united to propose a package of community benefits in its June 2014 response to the Barack Obama Foundation request for submissions. The benefits proposal of the Bronzeville Regional Collective culminates now as the President and First Lady have announced their commitment to building their historic institutions within the south side community which cultivated them. In keeping with the First Family’s commitment to strengthening America’s middle-class families, the Bronzeville Regional Collective aims for a comprehensive south side master plan which sustains and expands home and business ownership, solid neighborhood education, and preservation of cultural heritage. The Collective welcomes working with the City, the Foundation, institutional and neighbor stakeholders, and investors who will coalesce to manifest the Obama vision.

The Library and Foundation offer a new way forward in the development of black communities, including systems of accountability to Great Migration communities – including those on Chicago’s west side. The Bronzeville Regional Collective plan focuses on building community wealth by:  

designating the Obama Presidential Library & Foundation within the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area where it will catalyze and circulate new income;

supporting and creating local businesses, with a priority on increasing the rate at which black-owned businesses are created and sustained;

increasing development of rental and owned housing affordable to middle-income families, and establishing legal protections against displacement for residents;

monitoring enterprise and construction hires, and especially trade apprentice sponsorships to ensure breakthrough metrics;

creating a Community Impact Fund which makes significant capital available for senior homeowners, neighbor-investors, small business start-ups, and community-based initiatives;

completing a comprehensive feasibility study for a south side Level 1 or 2 Trauma Center;

and ensuring the voice and authority of Bronzeville Regional communities to determine the policies, practices, and payments designed for their benefit as their communities are redeveloped.

Paula Robinson, Managing Partner of the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership led the team which submitted the widely acclaimed Michael Reese proposal for the Presidential Library and Foundation. Robinson remarks, “Bronzeville is an international African American heritage tourism destination, and we are empowered by the history of The Black Metropolis. The Obama Presidential Library and Foundation and the history of the Obama-Robinson families fit perfectly here. Locating the Library and Foundation within the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area encourages us to harvest, refresh, and weave the nearly 30-years of plans and studies for greater Bronzeville and the extensive planning and implementation efforts embodied within them for the benefit of the Presidential legacy and community stakeholders. Our decades of preservation initiatives to restore Chicago’s legendary ‘city-within-a-city’ will be leveraged for an ever greater good.”    

Naomi Davis of Blacks in Green™ goes on to say, “Our Great Migration ancestors are feeling overjoyed – those who began moving “upsouth” in waves 100 years ago, and who settled here in Bronzeville in search of freedom and economic opportunity. They paid dearly – too many with their lives and dreams deferred. We who’ve inherited their great gift of conviction are honored to ensure that south side neighborhoods they carved from restricted covenants and predatory contracts are restored and sustained for the benefit of their generations to come.” Based in West Woodlawn – Chicago’s first black middle class neighborhood and home of American icons Lorraine Hansberry and Emmett Till – BIG™ stewards redevelopment through their practices of Grannynomics™ and The 8 Principles of GreenVillage-Building™ – designed as a whole-system solution for building local living economies in black communities, a greenhouse gas reduction strategy of walkable-villages, one sustainable square mile at a time in a ‘City of Villages’.

In addition to Paula Robinson and Naomi Davis, founding members of the Bronzeville Regional Collective [which has removed “Ad Hoc” from its name] include Bryon Freelon, and Paul Thomas, Sandra Bivins of the 51st Street Business Association, and Donna Hampton-Smith of the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce.  

Anton Seals Jr., a board member of The Planning Coalition and new Collective member reminds us, “If history has taught us anything, it’s that equity doesn’t just happen. Here we have a rare opportunity to narrow the gap of extreme health/wealth disparities suffered from ages of policies, and practices that hurt black communities. Now we need honest conversation and a rigorous shared process to design and build our best intentions. All of Chicago’s south side communities should benefit from the economic catalyst of the Library.” He added “the Barack Obama tradition heightens the work of community organizers and the importance of viewing the community as an asset with a collective vision that lives outside of formal institutions.” Seals is a former staff member with Congressman Bobby Rush and is an artist and organizer with the Revival Arts Collective.

Sandra Bivens, Executive Director of the 51st Street Business Association states, “The Obama Library will have an enormous impact on businesses and communities on the south side of Chicago. As President and Mrs. Obama state in their video, this is truly an opportunity to give back to the communities that influenced their growth and success. We’re excited and look forward to working with the Obama Foundation to ensure our vital vote at the planning and development table. As a member of the Bronzeville Regional Collective, we believe the Community Benefits Agreement is the positive next step in ensuring the vision President Obama worked so diligently for during his early years as a community organizer create parity for today’s disenfranchised communities.”

The Bronzeville Regional Collective is a diverse group of perspectives, skills, and goals which universally agree that the Obama Presidential Library and Foundation have the power to restore suffering south side communities in innovative ways, and to begin leveling the playing field historically pitched against African Americans. While the old ways of redeveloping black communities have not created community wealth, they see exciting potential to develop differently now. They refresh the Obama refrain – “Yes we can change.”

Their original 2014 proposal to the Barack Obama Foundation can we viewed in full at  

About the Bronzeville Regional Ad Hoc Collective. The Collective honors the sacred memory of the migrations of African Americans – across the Middle Passage, through the Underground Railroad, on to the Great Migration paths issuing from the south in 1916, into the Chicago Black Belt where they settled. Today communities which did not keep the promise of the ancestors can be restored through new agency. Now called The Bronzeville Regional Collective, this group of leading community development practitioners aims to catalyze measurable and substantial increases in our community health/wealth through sustainable and inter-generational land ownership and transfer; increased revenue streams through neighbor-owned businesses and buildings; and revived thirst and resources for vibrant lifelong learning.

Source: Bronzeville Regional Ad Hoc Collective