By way of introduction, I am Dr. Lyn Hughes, Activist Scholar, Author, Founder of the A Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, and Cultural Economic Development (CED) consultant. For those who are unfamiliar with that latter term, it means all things related to the broader term of Tourism.
There are successful examples of the phenomenon that exist in African American communities around the country that are and have taken place, however in Chicago there is not a lot to point to. This is why there is a need to have this conversation. However to provide you with an excellent example I need only to use two words, Chinatown.
Culturally related products and or services are a huge part of the tourism industry and all things African American related occupy a very large portion of those dollars. However, unfortunately the irony of this scenario is that the vast majority of that segment is not packaged, marketed and sold by African American people. I believe the reason for that is that we have failed to recognize the value of our own cultural product.
I think it is because we have not informed ourselves on the many unrecognized and undeveloped opportunities that are right before our eyes. We do not and have not seen or recognized those opportunities because no one has come along and paraded them before us and said here is something that will benefit you. That is your responsibility. To take advantage of the multiple opportunities that CED holds requires that YOU do a little work—You must do the required research to develop the niche you decide you want to pursue for yourself. Trust me if you don’t someone else will. When you snooze you lose people. “It Ain’t Personal; It’s Business”
I need only say take a very careful look at Bronzeville. It looks like everyone else is seizing those lucrative opportunities that are really the reemergence of what was created in the history of the community born out of necessity; when African American people were not welcomed in other areas of Chicago. Arts, Entertainment, creativity, and ingenuity was the genesis of the Arts, Hospitality and Entertainment industry that created Bronzeville. “CULTURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT”
For two decades I have been talking about Cultural Economic Development and the Cultural Economy and how these unfamiliar components of Tourism can, could, and do affect our community. Most do not consider or grasp that museums, theaters; festivals, art galleries, cultural and heritage tourism destinations, conferences, art fairs etc., and lest we not forget the music industry and all of the businesses large and small that form the infrastructure of the tourism industry.
All of the things I have just mentioned can and do have an economic impact on a community, either adversely or positively. They are all in fact, a part of what is referred to as the cultural economy. Further, all of these things represent a substantial portion of the nation’s economy.
Let’s take moment and reflect on a few communities in Chicago that used to be considered undesirable, and where the population was at one time 100% African American. It is more the rule and not the exception that what seemed to be overnight, that these communities changed i.e., became gentrified, and became trendy neighborhoods.
During the transition that you did not realize was happening, first you passed and complained silently about the inconvenience, of what seemed to be the constant street construction, (infrastructure improvements), later a Starbucks appeared. Then you begin to pass various properties in the area that had privacy fences. Doesn’t this sound like I could be describing the South Loop?!
That is exactly what happened in the area once known as the old 2nd ward, an area that had been historically significant for African Americans as far back as 1916. Thus, the north end of Bronzeville is now gone! — And the transformation of record row is taking place. With all of the activity that is occurring, the remainder of Bronzeville is up for grabs.
The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing industries in this country. There are jobs and business opportunities hidden inside that multibillion dollar envelope. You certainly can’t stop it, nor should you want to; but can you say: Bed and Breakfast establishments, restaurants, and small retail shops all targeting those dollars that tourists have left in their pockets after they pay their hotel bills. They can take tours from downtown, and shop!
If tourist related businesses were available, they could head to Chicago’s Southside to spend some of those dollars. You could be the proprietor of one of those businesses, or you could be employed by one of those businesses. Wake up people or you are going to miss the boat. Get ready what is left of Bronzeville and Pullman, you’re next.
As the saying goes, pass it on! That is why I decided to do just that by starting this blog. I decided to call it “Just something to consider.” Who knows—there just might be something that grabs your attention and/or will motivate or inspire an idea. Thus, this conversation is my first installment of “Just Something To Consider”
Stay tuned! In future issues I hope to bring your attention to opportunities and activities that just might benefit you if you are willing to do the work, because the Calvary Is Not Coming, you on your own !
Until next time, “Just Something To Consider”
Dr. Lyn Hughes Founder
The National A Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum