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.
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.
Deliciously Healthy Winter Dishes For Any Gatherings
When winter comes around, no matter where you end up, it’s not difficult to find the sweet treats and savory meals that are traditionally associated with the season. However, for those inspired to maintain or start conscious eating habits, the winter can be a difficult time filled with temptation. Today, inspired by our vibrant living principles, we’re sharing a few deliciously healthy winter dishes that anyone can enjoy this winter.
A favorite during this time of year, sweet potatoes are hard not to enjoy. While most people enjoy sweet potatoes even sweeter, baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, there are various methods to cook the vegetables that are just as enjoyable but much healthier. Like a standard potato, sweet potatoes can be served in a variety of ways. Baking them whole, mashing them, and even dicing them in a salad proves how versatile the vegetables can be. No matter how you cook them, we promise they won’t lose the sweetness that makes them so delectable in the first place.
Who doesn’t love a mix of fresh vegetables? Crudités make the perfect winter dish for that reason. Not only can the appetizer appeal to virtually anyone, but it comes with a plethora of highly vitamin-packed vegetables that you can personally pick and choose. If you want to put a twist on the classic appetizer, make your own tasty dip to pair with the refreshing produce.
Festive Fruit Salad
While it might seem out of season, a festive and healthy fruit salad is sure to excite taste buds in the winter. Similar to the crudités, not only is this dish healthy, but you can bring it and eat it anywhere and anytime. The nourishing food makes a perfect option for a morning snack or a late-night dessert. Along with the fruit, don’t be afraid to add in extra ingredients that bring even more flavor to the salad like mint, basil, lavender or even cayenne pepper for a little heat.
Another versatile food, squash is the perfect vegetable to substitute in and out of almost every traditional meal. Typically harvested in the fall, the nutrient-packed acorn squash, sugar pumpkins, spaghetti squash and butternut squash are available for cooking your favorite dishes year-round. Some seasonal favorites include butternut squash mac and cheese, soup and casserole, stuffed acorn squash and roasted spaghetti squash with kale.
Even with the sweet temptations that surround us throughout the holiday season, healthy options are never too far out of reach. Whether you’re serving food at home for yourself or preparing a dish to bring to a gathering, there are various methods we can each take to continue practicing conscious eating habits and living vibrantly.
At Sage Collective, we love spotlighting extraordinary moments throughout African American history and the local monuments that preserve those stories. Today we’re exploring Chicago’s first and only national monument, positioned only 30 minutes south of Bronzeville, where our 4108 and 4112 S. King Drive properties are located: Pullman National Monument.
Pullman Historic District
Nestled in another one of Chicago’s largest African American communities, Pullman National Monument, also known as Pullman Historic District, exhibits one of the country’s most historical sites. Developed by Goerge Pullman in the 1880s, Pullman Historic District originated as the nation’s first planned industrial community for his namesake business, Pullman Palace Car Company. The community, which had established regulations and living standards for all of their employees, contained workers’ living quarters, the Pullman factory, a grand clock tower and the once elegant Hotel Florence, among other buildings.
The Pullman Company experienced the first of many disputes in 1894 with the Pullman Strike. After negotiations over decreased wages were discussed and shut down, Pullman’s workers organized a walk out of the train car factory. The boycott impacted railroad traffic across the whole nation. However, even with support from the American Railway Union, both the boycott and the union collapsed after local and federal governments intervened.
A second conflict over inferior wages and lengthy hours arose in 1925. However, this time, all of those involved were Pullman’s African American workers, who, organized and created the nation’s first all-Black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Founder A. Philip Randolph and union members fought for more than ten years until finally, in 1937, the first major agreement between a company and an African American union was met. The agreement granted union members increased wages along with a cap of 240 hours per month.
Visiting Pullman National Monument
Today, after nearly 140 years of existence, Pullman National Monument is now open to the public. With help from the National Park Foundation, donors and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, the historic site underwent extensive renovation and restoration over the past few decades.
The late-Victorian designed Pullman Clock Tower and Administration building act as the centerpiece for 12-acre monument grounds. Inside, guests are greeted in the newly designed visitor center, where information on the monuments’ numerous exhibits and tours is found.
Visitors have the opportunity to gain knowledge about everything from Pullman’s vision for creating the company town to the Pullman Strike and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters establishment. Along with delving into the campus’ rich history, guests have a chance to learn more about how the latter Pullman community came together to preserve the significant site.
The park is free to the public and open 9 to 5 on most days for those interested in exploring the momentous company town and reducing COVID-19 stress. You can find more information here!
October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month, an annual tradition that celebrates a basic human need that many of us don’t think twice about — eating. While the history behind this special day is elusive, its aim is noble, and encourages us throughout the month to share meals with family and friends, and to promote healthier eating habits.
When was the last time you ate a meal with your family? Today, it isn’t uncommon for families to take meals separately due to busy schedules and increasing commitments. However, making the time to share a meal with family and friends is something we should all make more of an effort to do. Breaking bread with others has long been associated with improved social skills and allows you to reconnect with the people you care about. Since engaging in social life and family life are part of our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living, we encourage you to make it a priority to carve time out of your month to plan a thoughtful meal (or two) with family, friends or for your community.
Dining together is also linked to better eating habits and reduced stress levels. Preparing meals with a number of food options encourages people to fill their plates with a mixture of nutritious eats. Previously, we explored a number of “superfoods” that can easily be incorporated into any meal, which you can read about here. For those concerned about time constraints, planning preparation for multiple meals is a perfect way to produce sizable servings of healthy meals without the added pressure of making them last minute. To discover more healthy eating tips to implement this month and throughout the future, explore one of our former blogs here.
This month, Sage Collective encourages you to dedicate a few nights a week to eating better and eating together. Make a meal with your family, organize a community dinner or simply clean your cupboards of unhealthy snacks and replace them with smarter alternatives.
Bronzeville Spotlight: Ida B. Wells & The Light of Truth National Monument
The neighborhood of Bronzeville, where our 4108 and 4112 S. King Drive properties are located, is home to a variety of monuments and structures honoring legends from the community. Today, we’re spotlighting one of the neighborhood’s newest additions: The Light of Truth Ida. B. Wells National Monument.
Ida B. Wells
Wells was born into slavery during the Civil War in 1862, Holly Springs, Mississippi. She wrote for newspapers – under the pen name Iola – attacking Jim Crow policies, criticizing education in Black schools, and most notably exposing the lynchings of many Black citizens in and around her community. After establishing herself as a force in the journalism world, Wells became an editor and co-owner of The Free Speech and Headlight – a Black-owned newspaper based at the Beale Street Baptist Church in Memphis.
In 1893, Wells moved to Chicago and furthered her activism as a leader for Black feminism. She continued publishing famous works like Southern Horrors and The Red Record for the anti-lynching campaign and suffrage movement. Wells later participated in the National Afro-American Council and the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her reporting.
Officially titled The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells Monument, the impressive structure honors the outstanding legacy of its namesake and is the first monument in Chicago to honor a Black woman. It is the work of brilliant Chicago-native artist Richard Hunt, a legendary force who has broken barriers in the art world throughout his career and is known as the foremost African-American abstract sculptor and artist of public sculpture in America. You can view more of Hunt’s exemplary work here.
The 20-foot structure was dedicated in July 2021. It has three bronze columns shooting from the ground and supports an intertwining of braided bronze metal resembling flames at its top. The site where the monument lives is located just outside of Ellis (Samuel) Park at 37th Street and South Langley Avenue. It was the former home of Chicago public housing project (the Ida B. Wells Homes) in the 1930s, which was taken down in 2011 and replaced with new apartment complexes.
Organizers hope the new monument can be a gathering spot for neighbors and visitors alike and will serve as a backdrop for the future of the Bronzeville community. Be sure to check out the remarkable sculpture for yourself before Chicago’s winter approaches!
The Truth of Light Ida B. Wells Monument, Photo by Antonio Perez of the Chicago Tribune
Our Vision for 4108 and 4112 King Drive: A Conversation with Dwain Kyles
As we continue the renovation of the Sage Collective properties at 4108 and 4112 S King Drive, side-by-side buildings in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood, we sat down with Board Member and VP for Legal & Development, Dwain Kyles, to understand the project and how it contributes to Sage’s vision for the future.
Location is everything
Having owned and operated residential property in the Bronzeville neighborhood for more than 40 years, Kyles understands that these buildings were in the perfect location for Sage Collective..
Intending to add to the great cultural history that King Drive represents, Kyles imagines these properties will also foster secure, welcoming environments for the development and enhancement of intergenerational relationships in the future.
“We want to be very intentional about building community, and we think that King Drive has an appeal of its own. What we hope to do is add to that appeal by providing tangible, beneficial places for gathering, along with programming that will ultimately strengthen the self-image and empowerment of older adults in the community,” says Kyles.
While the neighborhood itself is a large part of the appeal, the buildings’ adjacency to the historic Metropolitan (Apostolic) Community Church also generated interest and inspiration for the properties’ future. “Given the importance of a spiritual basis for the work we are doing, reflected in our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living, the proximity to this iconic church was a good sign for us,” says Kyles, “and felt like more than just a coincidence.”
Introducing vibrant, high-quality, affordable living within these properties
“Rehabbing the two properties is no small undertaking,” explains Kyles. “Using our passion for vibrant, high-quality, affordable housing as a focus (a topic you can read more about here) we are putting incredible thought and care into the design and build out of the interior spaces. With the support of our board member Mary Frances De Rose, a renowned architectural gerontologist, we have been able to include accessible and supportive living enhancements for future residents of our properties that traditional housing for older adults lacks.”
“The physical attributes of the buildings are being designed in such a way that we will accommodate some of the desires and conveniences for older adults that are often overlooked. I’m talking about lowering the light switches so someone in a wheelchair can easily reach them, ambient lighting, high-quality cabinetry that is accessible and easier to use, and bathrooms with tastefully designed safety features that will allow our older adult residents to feel both secure and at home,” reflects Kyles.
The vision stretches beyond the physical buildings
Our passion for an exceptional quality of life for older adults goes beyond the physical space, however. This project, like other Sage residences for older adults in underserved communities, will come alive through the integration of interactive and exploratory programming.
Kyles continues, “While the King Drive properties themselves are a jumping off point, we are focused on the longer-term desire for Sage Collective to serve as a catalyst for real change for our residents and neighbors, government and civic partners, and leaders in the business community by rethinking and redesigning our traditional approaches to providing housing for older adults in our black and brown communities.”
“We tend to focus on what’s ‘new and poppin’ and what’s the hottest and the latest… while giving little care and attention to those things that have helped us to get where we are, including people. We have seen over and over again that distraction leading to deplorable outcomes and ones that have weakened the fabric of society,” explains Kyles.
Kyles continues, “Our vision for these properties on King Drive — along with all of our ambitious plans for the future — center around creating communities that are rich with diverse ages, families, cultures and experiences. By having the ability to rework the structural barriers hindering intergenerational and cultural interaction and progress, we are capable of establishing environments where there is an appreciation for people of all backgrounds and ages. And when we succeed, we’re stronger as a community, we’re stronger as a neighborhood, we’re stronger as a family,” and most important, we’re stronger as a collective.”
Board Member and VP for Legal & Development, Dwain Kyles
Strengthening Communities Through Community Gardens
With summer slowly fading and the harsh months of winter in the distance, the magnetic appeal of growing one’s own vegetables and herbs is more important than ever for many of us. Previously, we’ve talked about the health benefits of gardening and how to raise indoor houseplants, but one hobby we haven’t mentioned is community gardening.
Community gardens begin as collective spaces managed as a collaborative effort that leverage the expertise, time and energy of fellow gardeners who come together to provide fruits, vegetables and all varieties of fresh produce for anyone in the neighborhood to enjoy. And by their very nature, community gardens also add green space and vibrant beauty to city blocks that may be defined by asphalt and concrete.
With people working closely — literally and figuratively — community gardens improve personal well-being through social connections and have even been found to decrease violence in some neighborhoods.
Zoe Hansen-DiBello, program manager and visionary at Grow Education, helps promote healthy food access in neighborhoods by implementing community gardens. At TedxNewBedford, Hansen-DiBello explains the all-around engagement and respect that community gardens helped to encourage in a neighborhood close to her. Watch Hansen-DiBello’s talk below.
Gardens galore in Bronzeville
The popularity of urban farming and the adoption of community gardens can be seen throughout neighborhoods in large cities across the country — including our very own Bronzeville.
Situated at 4148-4156 S. Calumet Avenue, the Bronzeville Neighborhood Farm connects those living in the neighborhood with the use of green spaces and gardens. Managed by the Bronzeville Alliance and protected by NeighborSpace, the garden is a hub for community members to forge meaningful relationships built on the experience of working together towards a common purpose — tending the gardens and sharing the rich yield of fresh fruits and vegetables with each other and with the community writ large.
The neighborhood is also home to the Bronzeville Community Garden, located at 343 E. 51st Street. Supported by Build Bronzeville, the garden hosts many community events throughout the year including Volunteer Days and Crochet & Conversation meetups. Along with urban farming, the Garden is home to public art projects that enhance the outdoor spaces and provide additional reasons for neighbors to stop.
Starting your own garden
Thinking about starting your own community garden? One of the best places to start, The American Community Gardening Association provides a comprehensive education and resource platform for starting a garden of your own, along with a map of community gardens located across the country.
The second half of our name, collective, is important to us — we’re a collective because what we do, we do together. It’s part of our DNA to share resources, ideas and successes with everyone in our ecosystem. That’s why today, we’re sharing a community spotlight to celebrate groups making a difference in our neighborhood, Bronzeville, and the surrounding areas. Here’s just a few:
Bright Star Community Outreach
Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO) is proud of its nine-year history and by-us-for-us roots. They’re led by founder and CEO, Pastor Chris Harris Sr., who grew up in Bronzeville and saw a need to address systematic problems impacting the neighborhood — problems like “violence in our communities, poor economic opportunities, inadequate mental health services, homelessness, child safety, and drug abuse.” Through resource development and collaborative partnerships, BSCO is empowering Bronzeville residents to share in the responsibility of building community. You can learn more about BSCO programs here.
My Block, My Hood, My City
The second group in our community spotlight, My Block, My Hood, My City, also known as M3, was started by Jahmal Cole in 2015 with a mission to “break down the social and emotional barriers of segregation, empower people to meet and serve their neighbors, and inspire Chicagoans to pursue their dreams.” M3 has been nimble in its approach, providing everything from youth education to engaging adult programming. Just one example: as part of their Viral Response, M3 performs Senior Wellness Calls, where volunteers perform senior wellness checks to help provide proper PPE and even just to chat with older adults to help combat social isolation. You can visit their website to learn more about their efforts (and get involved) here.
Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab + Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid Network
Food deserts are an ongoing concern on the South Side of Chicago, and as many faced food scarcity like never before during the pandemic, things got even worse when some grocery stores temporarily closed after the George Floyd protests in June. Seeing the need for increased access to resources, two Bronzeville organizations joined forces: Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab and Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid Network. Since the summer, their efforts have continued to stay strong and to have meaningful impact on the neighborhood; you can read more at Block Club Chicago here.
Sage Collective has begun the process of renovating the first two properties we acquired, since selling Willa Rawls Manor, a 123-unit property we owned and operated for more than 40 years. The two properties are located at 4108 S King Drive and 4112 S King Drive. With the buildings located side-by-side in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood, it will provide a tangible benefit to the community by celebrating and uplifting Bronzeville’s dynamic history, current-day culture and residents alike. In honor of this effort and of Black History Month, today we take a moment to look at a brief history of Bronzeville.
With the Great Migration beginning in 1916, African Americans fled lynchings and oppression in the rural South for brighter opportunities in cities in the North. Though segregation was outlawed after the Civil War, racist practices in hiring and housing practices remained steadfast. Many African Americans in Chicago landed in what became the Bronzeville area, there facing higher rent prices and population density (at its highest reaching 300,000 residents strong).
Despite this, true to the African principle of ujamaa, Bronzeville residents created a tight-knit community that boasted a network of black-owned institutions and a cultural vivacity that, in its prime from the 1920s-1950s, even rivaled Harlem.
The community had been growing, but the name Bronzeville only entered the scene in the 1930s, suggested by theater editor for the Chicago Bee (an African American-led daily newspaper with national reach), James Gentry. Gentry posited that African American skin was closer to bronze than black, and selected the name as an empowering alternative to racist nicknames for the neighborhood that had emerged.
Center of Culture
Though the official boundaries of Bronzeville are often contested as spanning anywhere from 18th and 67th Street north-south to the Dan Ryan and Lake Michigan west-east, the pulsing heart of Bronzeville landed somewhere in the middle.
Dining, shopping, dance halls and nightclubs abounded. Jazz, blues and gospel were the sounds of Bronzeville, and when the Regal Theater opened in the 1920s, it attracted the country’s most glamorous and talented Black entertainers. Bronzeville also boasts being the home of renowned African American artists and intellectuals like journalist and social activist Ida B. Wells, jazz musician Louis Armstrong, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, women’s aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman, sociologist Horace Clayton and dancer Katherine Dunham.
WTTW put it best when they said businesses and community institutions like Provident Hospital (where Daniel Hale Williams, an African American, pioneered open-heart surgery), the Wabash YMCA (which established the first Black History Month), the George Cleveland Hall Library, Parkway Community House, Binga Bank (Chicago’s first Black-owned life insurance, realty, and financial institution), and more, “were more than alternatives to racially restricted establishments downtown”. They were pillars of the community which helped to instill pride and contribute to the upward mobility of African Americans.”
Through our vision for vibrant, high-quality and affordable housing for older adults, Sage Collective is proud to contribute to the legacy of African American culture, community and success that is the heart and soul of Bronzeville.