According to Merriam Webster legacy is defined as something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the
past. Of course most of us consider the following definition when we hear the word, a gift by will especially of money
or other personal property: bequest. There are some women in and around Bronzeville who are taking the notion of legacy very seriously.
Naomi Davis is a tiny little dynamo who heads up Blacks In Green. She describes her mission in life, I awoke in the age of climate
change, granddaughter of sharecroppers cluelessly consuming global food; witnessing the extinction of black, self-sustaining, mixed-income communities like St. Albans, Queens where I grew up, and Minter City, Mississippi where my mother did – appalled at the notion of my life coach that “the world wasn’t broken and I wasn’t born to fix it.”
Of course Naomi did not buy into the belief that she couldn’t change the world. She determined she could and would by preaching and teaching sustainability one square mile at a time. The classes she teaches at the University of Chicago on Green Village Building are heavy on maintaining culture, history and art while going green.
This Saturday, August 27th Blacks In Green will be presenting “Migration the Musical, Calling My Children Home” at the DuSable
Museum. This is definitely a legacy event including stories shared about growing up in West Woodlawn, like Jean Polk’s remembrance of the night she fell asleep waiting for Nat King Cole to visit her parents’ parlor. Jean is ninety years old now and a master story teller.
Protecting Legacies is the group of savvy and beautiful black attorneys, Kimberly Jean Brown, Synthia Bell, Toya D. Horn-Howard, Julie Annette Jones and Ashaki T. Sailor in Bronzeville. They are confronting the absence of legacy planning in the black community. They define legacy as the thoughtful union of your wealth and your wisdom protected in such a way that you are an inspiration for generations. This goes far beyond the usual concepts of wills. A computer disc of old photographs is as much part of our inheritance as are property and investments. Like Naomi Davis of Blacks In Green the ladies at Protecting Legacies are mindful of passing along generations of wisdom.
In 2009 Paula Robinson, then Illinois advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, championed and led
efforts to have the “Black Belt,” a historically African American section of Chicago that surrounds the Black Metropolis National Register
district (also known as Bronzeville), designated by Congress as the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area. To quote the inimitable Ms. Robinson, “We have a huge preservation stewardship responsibility,” she says. “This is very much the Ellis Island for African Americans. They were coming here, being told the streets were paved in gold. That is our story and we have to find ways to tell it that are really relevant and accessible.”
The idea of preserving family heritage, wealth and history cannot be separated from the most important contribution to future
generations. I wonder how many of us have considered our responsibility to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.