Preserving and enhancing the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, the cultural heritage anchor to the south lakefront region of Chicago

Strategically located within the Supreme Life Building, as the
Gateway to the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area, the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center preserves and sustains the broader south lakefront region of Chicago, while serving as an anchor institution for branding, marketing and enhancing multiple cultural heritage tourism sites, attractions and destinations in Bronzeville.Continuing to develop the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center as the precious cultural heritage archival resource remains the goal of the 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, my associates and I 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, 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, resident stakeholders 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. We built our 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 birthplace of Chicago’s most
significant cultural forms. Bronzeville residents have made four
tremendous contributions to this world; electrified blues, jazz,
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 (BMC&TC — a 501(c)(3)
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 enjoy 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 organizations 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. Through these opportunities, community members cooperatively create entrepreneurial business enterprises generated from implementing community based programs that take advantage of and
connect the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area directly to
America’s Great Outdoors, Millennium Reserve Initiative, Burnham
Wildlife Corridor, emergence of Washington Park, Woodlawn, South Shore
and South Chicago tourism attractions, all 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, city and state elected officials now possess a historic opportunity to link massive downtown tourism development initiatives directly with 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 significant cultural heritage tourism destination attraction.

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