It all started about 9 months ago when my boss asked me to attend some group meetings with a large non-profit funder and several other non-profits. He wanted Coalfield to be represented and involved and I was happy to oblige.
Sitting in the first “Hollywood Square” like screen of the first zoom meeting, the first thing that struck me was the diversity of the group, black, brown, white and from all over the country. I was excited to be a part of this group.
Time passed, conversations were started and more meetings were spawned. We talked about our communities, our organizations, and the problems and barriers that our communities faced. We shared our work, our concerns, our frustrations and true friendships were forged. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was in a car driving almost 500 miles to attend my first Juneteenth celebration. I was heading to Sweet Water Foundation in Chicago to meet Emmanuel Pratt and his team.
The first thing I noticed as I drove through the southside of Chicago were the blocks and blocks of empty space. Some blocks would have a house or two, some would have a closed down school, and some with shuttered industrial sites, just block after block devoid of any signs of life. The evidence left of an economic struggle and the chalk outline of the attempted homicide of a community. Wounds inflicted by red lining, financial exploitation and municipal neglect. But then I turned the corner and immediately realized that the neighborhood still had a pulse and that it wouldn’t just survive but thrive.