This Saturday Eataly came up in conversation while we were attending the first annual convention of the Bronzeville Alliance, a group of community based organizations under one banner. One of the attendees walked over gave me a warm smile and hug followed by I read your article about the diaspora restaurant. I asked how she liked the idea. She responded quickly that she liked the article but I was talking about the idea. So I ventured into the subject of how she felt about the idea of the diaspora themed restaurants nestled amid a campus of museums dedicated to African – Americans. She loved the idea too but questioned me about Bronzeville Cookin’. ‘What impact would your concept have on Bernard Lloyd’s restaurant at 51st Street?” I thought about that for a nanosecond when I was writing the original blog. My clever husband had already suggested that any diners at 51st Bronzeville Cookin’ or at Diaspora would receive a coupon to eat at the other spot for ½ price. What a great marketing idea! We even thought of encouraging another local entrepreneur to start a tour and shuttle service between sites around Bronzeville. We thought about food and beverage tasting tours. Let’s face it we want to promote Bronzeville as the historically important and culturally significant community it is.
The Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission has been working tirelessly to promote and prepare a feasibility study to achieve the official designation of Bronzeville as an official heritage site. On September 10, 2013 Congressman Bobby Rush introduced H.R. 3075 to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of designating the study area as the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area in the State of Illinois. There is absolutely no doubt that we people of Bronzeville intend to celebrate our heritage and claim our spot in Chicago’s history with bravado and well defined boundaries. Here are the officially sponsored designations of the Heritage Area, 18th Street on the North and 22nd Street on the South, from Lake Michigan on the East to Wentworth Avenue to the West, 22nd Street on the North to 35th Street on the South, from Lake Michigan on the East to the Dan Ryan Expressway on the West, 35th Street on the North and 47th Street on the South, from Lake Michigan on the East to the B Railroad (Stewart Avenue) on the West, 47th Street on the North to 55th Street on the South, from Cottage Grove Avenue on the East to the Dan Ryan Expressway on the West, 55th Street on the North to 67th Street on the South, from State Street on the West to Cottage Grove Avenue/South Chicago Avenue on the East, 67th Street on the North to 71st Street on the South, from Cottage Grove Avenue/South Chicago Avenue on the West to the Metra Railroad tracks on the East.
Bronzeville takes up a large area of Chicago’s south side. 500,000 people of African ancestry came here from the oppression of the south between 1910 and 1916. Bronzeville will celebrate the centennial in 2016. Bronzeville Cookin’ at 51st Street will get a lot of business if we have anything to do with it. There is no shortage of cuisines for 51st street, 47th Street, 39th Street, 35th Street and for that matter a collection of themed restaurants located among fab labs and museums at the Michael Reese Hospital site all cozied up to an Obama Library and a space designated to our First Lady who put a garden on THE LAWN. As for available cuisines there are 58 countries in Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Algeria, Uganda, Sudan, Morocco, Ghana, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Angola, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi, Zambia, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Chad, Guinea, Tunisia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Benin, Somalia, Burundi, Togo, Libya, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mauritania, Gabon, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Swaziland, Djibouti, Réunion (France), Comoros, Western Sahara, Cape Verde, Mayotte (France), São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (UK). Wow that’s a BIG menu selection and we haven’t even talked about South America, Haiti, Dominican Republic, low country America, Creole from New Orleans and Oaxaca to mention a few. So there is plenty of room in the gourmet, foodie, and just plain good food in the Bronzeville sandbox. Let’s build this castle together.