Interesting on the table conversation this morning at the Chicago Urban League:
May 10th, 2016
On the Table perspective from Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council::
Preserving and sustaining the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center within the historic Supreme Life building, strategically located a the Gateway to the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area, as an anchor institution branding, marketing and enhancing multiple cultural heritage tourism sites, attractions and destinations in Bronzeville, and the broader south lakefront region of Chicago, is the overarching goal of Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council.
As a native Chicagoan, career community organizer and urban preservationist, I have worked to protect and enhance the authentic cultural legacy of Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community since 1973. Moreover, as the branding and marketing visionary behind the “Restoring Bronzeville” campaign theme, we have successfully promoted the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area as a premier African-American oriented heritage tourism destination.
Through this protracted and cooperatively sustained grassroots community development process, myself and a variety of others key Bronzeville stakeholders in leadership positions have generated a new understanding of Bronzeville’s illustrious cultural heritage; one that can be distinguished by key characteristics. First and foremost, this South Side lakefront community’s’ upwardly mobile residents have emerged as a community of economic entrepreneurs and achievers. Through decades of effective branding, residents stakeholder now refer proudly to Bronzeville as the “economic capital of Black America” and can easily recall the achievements of early twentieth century’s middle class.
Bronzeville as, an emerging “ city within a city,” celebrates its citizens for having historically developed their own civic empowerment, fledgling local economy, religious institutions and cultural facilities, built their own buildings and entrepreneurial business enterprises that are grounded in the geographic boundaries of the original black belt.
Most importantly, as a direct result of our 30 years of effective community organizing at the grassroots level, Bronzeville today is understood internationally as the birth place of Chicago’s most significant cultural forms. Bronzeville residents have made four tremendous contributions to this world; electrified blues, jazz and gospel music and the grassroots politics that set the stage for the election and re-election of the first African American president of the United States of America!
Bronzeville has strategically and effectively been marketed by the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council (BMCTC), a 501c3 not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), as the home of a vibrant black renaissance community un-intimidated by the burdens of urban re gentrification. Just recently Quad Community Development Corporation released a Bronzeville marketing video, reflecting the upwardly mobile economic and cultural independence of an entrepreneurial black middle class that lives in harmony with its lower income neighbors.
Most Bronzeville residents are aware of and enjoying the proximity and near future new bridge access to the lakefront, great public transportation and the plethora of new economic, cultural, maritime/outdoor recreational venues being built simultaneously in Bronzeville and adjacent neighborhoods along the south lakefront region of Chicago.
In this centennial year of the Great Migration experience, as the CEO of BMC&TC, I am focused on preserving and sustaining the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center in the Supreme Life Center at the Gateway to the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area, as the hub of community civic engagement for social justice, economic development and environmental education & outreach.
The Bronzeville Visitor Information Center is one of the few existing authentic grassroots civic organization with the capacity to regionally connect and enable Bronzeville and other south lakefront resident stakeholders, regardless of class status or income to seek gainful educational and employment opportunities and cooperatively, create entrepreneurial business enterprises generated from implementing community based programs that take advantage of and connect the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area directly too America’s Great Outdoors, Millennium Reserve Initiative, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, emergence of Washington Park, Woodlawn, South Shore and South Chicago tourism attractions, creatively linked to environmental education programs in the Pullman National Park and Calumet Heritage Area.
In order to support the growth of a vibrant heritage tourism district in the historic Bronzeville community and throughout the south lakefront region of Chicago, it is absolutely necessary for city and state elected officials to link massive downtown tourism development initiatives directly to neighborhood based heritage tourism initiatives. BMC&TC and BVIC are the only African American not-for-profit business enterprises, experienced in promoting and marketing ‘bottom-up” community-based economic empowerment and wealth creation, by pro-actively fostering entrepreneurial business enterprise opportunities linked to the establishment of Bronzeville, and adjacent south lakefront neighborhoods as an internationally renowned historic and cultural heritage destination!
By Harold L. Lucas