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10.06.22 | Sage Advice

Storytelling: Chicago’s Essential Book List

Similar to armchair travel, one of the best ways to understand unfamiliar cultures and experiences is simply by opening a book. Numerous authors and poets have been inspired by Chicago’s neighborhoods and residents and a rich array of literature has been created detailing the Chicago experience. And, since Sage Collective’s roots lay in the Windy City, we’re no stranger to the endless amount of rich stories we believe should be shared. From soul-nourishing poetry to unforgettable thrillers, here are a few of the classics that have endured for generations and continue to illuminate the city in new ways to all readers.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Erik Larson’s best-selling work of non-fiction set at the cusp of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair follows the lives of famed architect and city planner Daniel Burnham and one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Dr. H. H. Holmes. Throughout his notorious time in Chicago, Holmes lived in multiple residences, one of which was at 1220 W. Wrightwood Ave in Lincoln Park, which has been demolished and reconstructed as a single-family home. Larson creates a portrait of two men making names for themselves in a city that, at the time, was set to be the largest metropolis in America. Devil in the White City is gripping, gives a vivid glimpse into Chicago’s boom age, and shares a historic perspective of its inhabitants and how the city came to be known as the “white city.”

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street follows 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic quarter. The novel is considered one of the modern classics of Chicano literature. Written by Sandra Cisneros, this coming-of-age masterpiece depicts the trials of being young and poor in Chicago and what it means to belong in the city as a young Chicana girl.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Considered the “greatest of all American urban novels,” Sister Carrie is the story of fame and aspiration in Chicago. Follow 18-year-old, dissatisfied Caroline Meeber from small-town Wisconsin as she rises to fame during the turn of the century in the big city of Chicago but continues to grapple with the loneliness and unhappiness she felt at home. Dreiser is considered one of the masters of realism, focusing on the instincts of his characters to drive the plot and presenting his characters to the reader without judgment.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

One of the greatest American novels of all time, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is perhaps one of the first books that come to mind when considering Chicago literature. Not for the faint of heart, The Jungle reveals harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants working in the industrial centers of cities. The Jungle does not shy away from gruesome details depicting the realities of Chicago’s stockyards in the early 1900s and caused a public uproar. 

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks writes about Chicago’s south side like nobody else. A Street in Bronzeville, Brooks’ first book of poetry, is a display of her poetic genius and an ode to the beauty and hardships of the city’s south side. The sensational work of poetry touches on her own living conditions in Chicago as a Black tenant. And, many of the poems were created at Bronzeville’s South Side Art Center.

The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek

Stuart Dybek is a local legend, and The Coast of Chicago, one of Dybek’s earlier short story collections, is a testament to his genius. Dybek depicts the city in an honest, but poetic light true to his experiences growing up in Pilsen. The Coast of Chicago is an intimate portrait of the city through Dybek’s eyes, and each story in the collection is a little gem of Chicago-centric storytelling.

The main branch of the Chicago Public Library system, the Loop's Harold Washington Library
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01.20.22 | Sage Advice

National Bills Look to Recognize Bronzeville as a National Heritage Area

At Sage Collective, Bronzeville has always held a significantly special place in our hearts and identity. And, even as we continue to expand beyond our neighborhood’s borders, one of our favorite things is to spotlight the achievements and impacts that the community leaves on Chicago and the rest of the country. Today we’re exploring our neighborhood’s latest recognition: the national bills seeking to honor Bronzeville as a National Heritage Area.

Over the past few years, Bronzeville has seen a true renaissance; welcoming new businesses, families and cultures while still showing deep respect and appreciation for its vibrant history. As one of the most thriving Black communities throughout the early 20th century, Bronzeville set itself apart as a hub for talented artists and musicians, stunning architecture, booming businesses and more. 

Introduced by US Representative Bobby Bush and Senator Dick Durban, the bills intend to identify a new national heritage site within Bronzeville because of its rich contribution to the country’s culture. Although a similar bill in 2016 proved unsuccessful in passing, the latest version is backed by extensive planning and organizing.

If passed, the exciting recognition would welcome a breath of energy to the community. With more and more developments blooming each day, the implementation of the bills would further expand the resurgence within the community. They now head to the subcommittee on National Parks, where they get reviewed before being voted on by the United States House and Senate. 

With only two other National Historic Areas in the state, Bronzeville would continue to set itself apart as a cultural landmark not only within Illinois but throughout the country. You can find updates on the progress of the House of Representatives’ bill here and the Senate’s bill here

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01.06.22 | Sage Advice

Health Benefits of Natural Light

For many of us, winter can be tough on our bodies, so the cold weather encourages us to shelter indoors. You’ll often hear from doctors and medical professionals the importance of Vitamin D in our lives throughout this season especially. Today, we’re highlighting the importance natural light plays in our lives and the significant benefits it can provide to us, especially during the winter: 

Improves Physical Health

There are a slew of health benefits you receive from catching some sunny rays. Spending time in natural light ups your Vitamin D level, also known as the sunshine vitamin. Appropriate levels of Vitamin D support your immune system as well as promote muscle and bone growth, as well as can help prevent depression, heart disease, and even some cancers!

Improves Productivity and Mindset

The more time you spend in the sun, the more you may notice your productivity going up. Studies have shown that there are strong links between natural light and daily productivity. Also, as mentioned earlier, natural light works to keep your mood lighter, actively working to prevent mental illnesses like Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression. All in all, natural light can truly help improve all aspects of life – whether it be mental or physical, natural light improves your general wellbeing! 

Ways to Find More Natural Light

Of course, the best way to improve your intake of natural light is by going outdoors. However, there are some adjustments you can make in your home to give yourself that sunny, natural feel. Mirrors and reflective metals can be your best friends! Things like reflective tiles, silver picture frames and glass chandeliers are going to reflect light in your home beautifully. Pair these things with a light color scheme–like white tones and light colors–in your home to maximize the amount of natural light you receive. 

At Sage Collective, we believe in the power of vibrant living. One of the best ways you can live vibrantly and boost your health this winter season is by providing yourself with as much natural light as possible.

A woman with headphones touches a green plant outdoors.
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12.30.21 | Sage Advice

Resolutions for 2022

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success in a new year is by making a list of resolutions before it starts. This tradition is a powerful way to articulate your values and can hold you accountable for your goals heading into the new year. In case you’re unsure of what to add to your to-do list, here are some resolutions you can take into 2022 to continue championing a vibrant lifestyle.

Start Something You’ve Always Dreamed About

Heading into the new year, make it a priority to make an ambitious dream come true. Not only is it essential to set goals for yourself throughout the new year, but achieving them leads to significantly rewarding experiences. Whether you want to head back to school, discover a new hobby or change career paths, don’t be afraid to take initiative of your life. Fulfilling dreams helps give your life purpose, control and meaning. And, if this isn’t the year to do it, when is?

Put Your Health First

Putting your health first encompasses a variety of choices that you can make throughout the year. It’s important to remember that your body’s health consists of both physical and mental elements. So, while making sure you try to incorporate moderate, regular physical activity into your life along with a variety of nutritious foods, taking care of your mental health is just as important. And, lucky enough, sometimes specific actions will go hand in hand with helping both areas of wellness. 

Live in the Moment

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We believe one of the most significant goals you should have in the new year is to live in the present. To do so, you must focus on the now. A few great ways to do this are by practicing mindfulness, performing meditation or simply performing random acts of kindness in your community.  

We’re thankful to keep learning from the lessons that 2021 has taught us and couldn’t be more excited to see how our resolutions will play out in the upcoming year!

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12.28.21 | Sage Advice

2021: A Year in Review

2021 was a year of growth for Sage Collective, as we continued evolving and celebrating exciting milestones. Today, we’re reflecting on the past year and sharing our proudest achievements:

Breaking Ground on Our King Drive Properties

In 2020 we acquired our first two properties located in the Bronzeville community at 4108 and 4112 South King Drive. This year, we were proud to officially break ground on the project. In September 2021, Sage Collective’s Board of Directors and various members of our wonderful construction crew including, the General Contractor Shevaz Freeman, Owner’s Rep Ernest Brown and the Architect Gregory Williams, gathered to celebrate the event. In addition to the groundbreaking, we sat down with Board Member and VP for Legal & Development Dwain Kyles to learn more about the project and how it contributes to Sage’s vision for the future.  

Partnership With Chicago Commons

At the beginning of April, Sage Collective collaborated with Chicago Commons, a longstanding trailblazer of change in our community. The two-part live Q&A event addressed both facts and myths regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccination that was new to everyone at the time. Rear Admiral (Ret) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC, who is one of the brilliant minds on our leadership team, helped answer a variety of questions and addressed the medical inequity in Black and Brown communities. Stay tuned for upcoming events with Chicago Commons in the new year.

Expanding our Vision

Following the launch of our website, blog and social media platforms in 2020, we have continued to share engaging material that enlightens audiences with our rich vision for the future. Along with elaborating on our 9 Vibrant Ways of Living, we were able to have meaningful conversations that amplified our work as we continue celebrating the historic community of Bronzeville. With the wealth of knowledge and experience from everyone on our team, we have broadened a collective understanding of older adult living, health and wellness that has led us to become changemakers in our community, where we are focused on creating innovative strategies for older adult programming, residences and lifestyles. 

We can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you and see what 2022 brings!

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12.23.21 | Sage Advice

Best Winter Day Trips Close to Chicago

While Chicago brings a variety of enjoyable activities to partake in during the winter, sometimes a break from all the bustle and noise of the city is welcome. For our fellow Bronzeville residents who might need a getaway this winter, here are the best day trips you can take to brighten your perspective with a change in scenery:  

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Only a 1-½ hour drive away sits the quaint city of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The beloved destination has been a top destination for Chicago residents for generations and offers a variety of fun-filled activities and stops for all ages. While the summer months are Geneva’s most popular tourist times, winter brings a much tamer atmosphere. 

For lovers of the outdoors, Geneva’s Lake Shore trail is the perfect opportunity to enjoy spectacular views in the brisk air. Once February arrives, the famous lake becomes filled with extraordinary ice sculptures, bonfires on the beach and more. While it is the coldest season, don’t miss your chance to experience the incredibly warm community.  

Lake Geneva’s impressive ice sculptures

Michigan City, Indiana

An adorable city located just off of Lake Michigan’s shores, Michigan City should be high on everyone’s list to visit this winter. The town is only one hour away from Chicago and is surrounded by one of America’s most stunning national wonders, the Indiana Dunes State and National Parks. While winter isn’t typically the time of year many choose to visit the lakeside landscape, witnessing the sand-swept mounds covered in layers of soft snow is sure to delight all visitors.  

While many enjoy a stroll on one of the many trails found in the park, the town offers guests a variety of other ventures, including shopping at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets, dazzling architecture at Barker Mansion and an array of wineries and breweries. 

Take a Joyride up Lake Shore Drive 

Sometimes the best day trip is just hopping in the car and taking a drive to enjoy your surroundings, which is exactly what Lake Shore Drive delivers. Arguably the prettiest extended urban parkway in the nation, the 18-mile expressway runs from Ardmore Street on its north end to 71st Street on its south end, and lucky for Bronzeville residents, the best place to start the journey is from the south.  

The ride is filled with recognizable Chicago landmarks that include the Museum of Science and Industry, Soldier Field, Navy Pier and Lincoln Park alongside spectacular views of Lake Michigan. However, once you reach the end of the trip, don’t be afraid to stop there. Exiting on N Sheffield Road will take you through several alluring suburbs filled with even more attractions and impressive architecture. 

Whether you’re taking a thrilling trip to a neighboring state or simply enjoying a joyride down a historic street, we hope this inspires you to find your new favorite winter getaway from the city! 

The stunning view of Lake Michigan from the Indiana Dunes near Michigan City, Indiana
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12.21.21 | Sage Advice

A Brief History of The Chicago Bee

The promotion of Bronzeville’s rich history is something we continuously advocate for and give voice to at Sage Collective. That’s why today, we’re spreading the word about The Chicago Bee, a local paper that dominated the press for decades while distinguishing itself by its promotion of Black history.

History

The Chicago Bee, often referred to as Chicago Sunday Bee, was founded by Anthony Overton in 1925. Overton was a successful banker and manufacturer, and the first African American to lead a major conglomerate (Overton Hygienic Company, which was a cosmetics business). After its founding, the Bee moved into the now-famous Art Deco building located at 3647-55 S. State St., which is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a Chicago Landmark. 

The Bee’s staff included many esteemed members of Chicago’s community of writers and journalists at the time. Chandler Owen, a talented writer, became editor of the Bee after moving to Chicago in the 1920s and worked with other savvy editors including Ida B. Wells and Olive Diggs. During the World War II years, when men were in active military duty, the majority of the writing staff were women, which allowed them unprecedented autonomy and opportunity for advancement. 

The Bee covered a wide range of issues of the day. It was the first newspaper to support the efforts of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the nation’s first all-Black labor union created during conflicts at The Pullman Company. It also supported and covered the Black women’s club movement, and gained distinction from other newspapers in the Chicago press in their publicity of Black history and literature.  

Following Overton’s passing in 1946, the Bee was briefly run by his two sons but ceased operation in 1947. Even though very little of the historic newspaper has survived today, it is still recognized as one of the most influential and acclaimed papers of the 20th century. 

Through Sage Collective’s vision, we are proud to contribute to the legacy of African American culture, community and success that is, and always has been, the heart and soul of Bronzeville.

The Chicago Bee front page from May 4, 1941
The Chicago Bee Building
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12.16.21 | Sage Advice

Chicago’s Adopt-A-Landmark Grant Makes Way for Repairs at Historic Bronzeville Church

In recent months, the city of Chicago has shown a growing interest in developing affordable housing and restoring historical structures across the city, and with the Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund, they’re doing just that in Bronzeville. Located only a few blocks from our King Drive Properties, Bronzeville’s Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, found at 4501 S. Vincennes Avenue is one of the 12  landmarks chosen by the city to receive the grant. 

For more than 100 years, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church has served its membership in the heart of Bronzeville. The beloved church is said to have been one of the birthplaces of gospel music and has hosted a number of distinguished guests over the years, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Olympian and Congressman Ralph Metcalfe, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, as well as renowned singers Dinah Washington and Mahalia Jackson. 

Thanks to unprecedented federal support from the Biden Administration, the Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund, which is supporting Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church’s renovation with a $900,000 grant,  will be awarding several Chicago landmarks with millions of dollars annually for essential renovation and preservation upgrades. Once funds approved by the City Council, the money will be awarded to these landmark buildings to cover extensive interior and exterior restoration and improvements,

Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church’s elaborate, historic interior

For the nearly 120-year-old church, this means that its roof and damaged  stained glass windows, that have endured harsh weather for decades, can finally be restored to their original beauty. As with other churches, Ebenezer’s membership has dwindled since the beginning of the pandemic almost two years ago. The church hopes that with the new renovations, more community members will be incentivized to visit the historic site and participate in their services. 

An exciting undertaking in the Bronzeville neighborhood, the restoration is not only one of the many developments that are part of Bronzeville’s renaissance, but proves that the city is showing more interest in improving the quality of life in communities like ours. To learn more about other Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund projects happening throughout the city, visit their website here

Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church’s exterior
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12.02.21 | Sage Advice

Exploring Bronzeville: The Little Black Pearl’s New C47 Work and Experiment Lounge

Bronzeville is a community whose residents are known to appreciate and demonstrate their love for their community. Sage Collective has been a part of Bronzeville since 1978, and we certainly aren’t the only organization that shares a deep respect for the historic persons and events that lived and transpired there.  Little Black Pearl, a thriving nonprofit found near Kenwood, is just one of the many other organizations actively engaged in bringing inspired change to the people of Bronzeville and its surrounding areas. 

The Little Black Pearl is popularly known as a ground-breaking educational program that provides youth with a safe environment within which to learn new skills, explore various programming and be surrounded by positive leaders and role models. The organization has been at the forefront of change on Chicago’s South Side for nearly 30 years. 

With this track record now established, Little Black Pearl is using its experience,  knowledge and appreciation for its community, to expand its programming initiatives to an older audience. Little Black Pearl’s founder Monica Haslap led the organization in its launch of  C47 Work and Experiment Lounge in November 2021. 

The lounge, which is found at 1060 East 47th Street, invites adults into a collaborative space to inspire creativity and explore new passions. Built with innovation in mind, this new environment includes fully operational workshops that range from culinary classes, to art projects and office spaces where anyone looking to escape the hardships of the past two years will gladly find tranquility.

Members who join the C47 Work and Experiment Lounge will be exposed to numerous creative visionaries and experts in music, technology, fashion and finance. For adults interested in becoming a member, memberships range from $50-$200 per month, and all offer a variety of different opportunities within the lounge. 

With hopes of serving longtime members of the community as a safe, creative space where unconventional ideas can thrive, C47 Work and Experiment Lounge embodies the values that Little Black Pearl has demonstrated for decades. And, like Sage Collective, the organization will likely continue leading change in the community for decades to come.

C47 Work and Experiment Lounge Interior, Photo Courtesy of Armand Morris
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11.11.21 | Sage Advice

A Brief History of The South Side Community Arts Center

Widely recognized for its vibrant arts and music scenes, the Bronzeville neighborhood takes pride in its rich past. Throughout history, various venues around the neighborhood have been essential for Black artists across the community. One of Chicago’s Historic Landmarks, The South Side Community Arts Center, is one of those precious places that has had a lasting impact. 

Making History

Determined to overcome the seemingly never-ending hardships brought by the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the New Deal and its Work Progress Administration (WPA) to the country. Sponsored by the WPA, The Federal Arts Project (FAP) acted as a subsidiary program to the larger workforce development effort by expanding community art centers across the country. 

In 1938, FAP agents visited Chicago in hopes of creating an arts center focused on exhibiting the work of African American artists. Progress on the center’s development advanced once South Side businessman Golden B. Darby emerged as a champion for the project. With his insistence that the center reside on Chicago’s South Side, Darby organized the Community Arts Center Committee to advocate for the center’s location. Members of the committee included local leaders and artists from the Arts and Craft Guild, the lone group for African American artists in the community, including Margaret Burroughs, Eldzier Cortor, Bernard Goss, Charles White, William Carter, Joseph Kersey and Archibald Motley, Jr. 

An exhibition at South Side Community Arts Center, Courtesy of Tony Smith
An exhibition at South Side Community Arts Center, Courtesy of Tony Smith

After extensive fundraising through various lavish events, including Margaret Burroughs’ famous “Mile of Dimes” and considerable philanthropy from the Bronzeville community, a property was finally secured at 3831 S Michigan Ave. Originally serving as a residence, the grand brownstone building was nearly 50 years old and in need of considerable renovations and rehabilitation. 

After years of remodeling under the careful direction of Bauhaus designers Hin Bredendieck and Nathan Lerner, the restored structure became the South Side Community Arts Center (SSCAC) and featured classrooms, performance and lecture halls and a marvelous gallery. The grand opening showcased an exhibition of the work of numerous local African American artists’ including Charles White, Eldzier Cortor and Archibald Motley Jr, — finally allowing space for artists in the community to thrive.

Following its inauguration, the SSCAC was host to numerous celebrity guests, including First Lady Elenor Roosevelt, who visited the SSCAC in May 1941 to deliver its dedication speech. The address received widespread media attention and was broadcast nationwide via CBS Radio. Less than a year later, the United States entered World War II, and funding for the FAP was significantly reduced. 

A Community Hub

Throughout The SSCAC’s history, a rich, diverse range of art has graced its famous walls. In 1944, accomplished artist Rex Goreleigh became the SSCAC’s administrative director. Goreleigh furthered the center’s programming, introducing workshops on drawing, painting, sculpture, performing arts, photography and more to the community. Famous writers, including Gwendolyn Brooks, became associated with the SSCAC’s writing center, and legendary musicians like Nat King Cole and his Trio performed there often. 

A classroom inside of The South Side Community Arts Center, Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers
A classroom inside of The South Side Community Arts Center, Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers

More than 80 years after the center’s founding, The SSCAC stands proud in the Bronzeville neighborhood. After countless renowned exhibitions from distinguished artists, the SSCAC continues to thrive, and has been named a National Treasure and added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Today, The SSCAC remains the only arts center opened by the WPA centered on African American art that is still open in its original building. Permanent collections from the center’s founding artists reside alongside new artwork from emerging artists. A staple of the Bronzeville community, The SSCAC serves as an inspiration for artists and communities across the nation,  and remains vital and relevant as a very special place where connections blossom and relationships prosper. 

You can visit The South Side Community Arts Center Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. However, donations are strongly encouraged to support the center’s future. You can also visit their website here to discover their local events, exhibitions and collections. 

Bronzeville’s South Side Community Arts Center
Bronzeville’s South Side Community Arts Center
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