by Viva Yeboah
Last Saturday Outdoor Afro teamed up with Red Bike and Green-Chicago (RBG) for the Northside Community Ride in the Uptown and Roger Park neighborhoods. After a quick introduction and ice breaker, Eboni Hawkins, co-founder of RBG, gave us a rundown of traffic rules, road advice and details about the route we were taking.
Eboni giving us the traffic sign for “stop”
Our first stop was Winthrop Avenue Family Historical Garden in the Uptown neighborhood. Due to land covenants and legal segregation, the 4600 block of Winthrop Ave was the only area available in the neighborhood for African-Americans to live prior to World War II. People on this block became like family to each other (so much so that they refer to themselves as the Winthrop Avenue Family). In the mid-2000s, several vacant lots on the block were turned into a community garden for the neighborhood and dedicated to the Winthrop Avenue Families. For more information visit, https://sites.google.com/site/winthropinitiatives/home
At our second stop, we visited the Haitian American Museum of Chicago. The museum founded by Elise Hernandez, opened to the public in November, 2012. The museum goal’s is to show the culture of Haitian and Haitian-Americans throughout the diaspora. Included are a gallery showcasing Haitians and local Chicago artists and library highlighting Haitian literature. Not only are social events held at the museum but there are also language classes, for those interested in learning French and Kreyòl.
Our third stop was the Black Ensemble Theatre. Founded in 1975 by Jackie Taylor, the theatre produces plays highlighting notable African-American figures. Play productions at The Black Ensemble theatre have included “The Marvin Gaye Story”, “From Doo Woop to Hip Hop” and “Ain’t No Crying The Blues in the Memory of Howlin’ Wolf”. During our visit, we received a tour of the theatre and had a chance to see children practicing for an upcoming production.
Our last two stops were Unan Imports and Earth Center of Maanu Inc in the Roger Park neighborhood. Unan Imports is a great shop for purchasing items such as shea butter, black soap, oils, African fabric and other items that are difficult to find in the city. Earth Center of Maanu Inc. is a Kemetic Spiritual Center focused on economic, health and spiritual empowerment. Classes are held there weekly and items available for purchase include publications, herbs and educational videos.
We ended our ride at Badou Senegalese Cuisine for lunch. Our family style meal included Ginger and Bissap cocktail drinks, veggie and meat boulette, pastels, a Senegalese garden salad, soul food delight, jollof rice, and peanut stew. We topped off our lunch with desserts from Caribbean American Bakery!
A BIG thank you to RBG for leading the ride and navigating the group safely to each spot. Thank you to each of the businesses for welcoming our group. These community rides are so important in supporting local businesses, highlighting current developments and learning about relevant historical events/locations in our neighborhoods. In total we had close to 30 people attend our community ride. Great weather, beautiful people, great energy. I am still high off this energy!