As we enter springtime in Chicago, a time of renewal and rebirth, something new is happening on the south-west side of Chicago that is founded on one woman's legacy of creativity and empowerment. It is one attempt by a few people to help make a big difference in the lives of young women in Chicago.
On Saturday April 5, 2014 I had the pleasure of attending a 5K “Walk for Peace” held at Chicago’s Ogden Park. Ogden Park is located on the south west side of Chicago in the Englewood area and was named after Chicago’s first mayor William B. Ogden. Ogden Park is on more than 60 acres of land and has beautiful trails which we used to mark our 5K walk that day.
Teena’s Legacy is the not-for-profit which was raising money that day for a summer program. The summer program will serve young women in the area and help them learn the trade of reupholstering furniture. At the end of the program, the participants will be able to sell their work.
The founder of Teena’s Legacy is Jamika Smith. Jamika was inspired by the talent of her grandmother Alberteen Stredrick. Alberteen was an accomplished seamstress and a self-taught interior decorator. She had an creative eye for fashion which resulted in unique and stylish clothes. She also had a gift in restoring and reviving old furniture back to its original glory. Alberteen believed strongly in self-sufficiency and having your own, her vision for her family was for them to tap into their natural gifts and use them to start their own business and leave a legacy for their children. Jamika made the decision to honor Teena's Legacy and turn her family expertise into an empowering experience for the young women in her area. Jamika describes the mission of Teena’s Legacy as providing a soul changing experience in which young women and women in general become the architects of their future. “We do this by presenting opportunities for economic transformation through a process of self-discovery and reviving, restoring and reupholstering furniture,” she says.
April 5th 2014 was the first 5K for Teena’s Legacy. More than 60 people participated on a very beautiful Saturday morning. The event was co-sponsored by Girls in the Game. Girls in the Game offered a warm up session to all participants prior to starting the 5K. The goal for the 5K was not just to walk 3.1 miles, but to walk with a purpose. As we admired the beautiful grounds of Ogden Park we learned more about Englewood along the way.
While there were many fine homes surrounding the park, each block had at least one foreclosed home and several vacant lots. To better this situation, the Chicago Plan Commission recently passed a new plan to allow homeowners and nonprofits in Englewood to buy city-owned vacant lots for $1. Mayor Emmanuel said in a Sun-Times report “It’s designed to move vacant properties out of the city’s hands and into private ownership,” Emanuel said. “People can use the land to expand the yards around their homes, to create gardens on their block, or for beautification, housing, or for other purposes.”
Crain’s Chicago Business reported in November 2013 that a depopulation trend on the city's South and West sides has been going on for decades. Englewood, for instance, has lost two-thirds of its residents since 1950.
With Englewood having a murder rates 10 times higher than other Chicago areas, Teena’s Legacy and its proposed summer program for young women is a wonderful attempt to curb this statistic among the area’s youth. By providing hands-on apprenticeship opportunities to the young women who participate in this program, Teena’s Legacy hopes for more than just learning a new skill. Teena’s Legacy will also provide mentorship for the participants and help them learn about themselves and about good choices. In addition, participants will be able to earn a small stipend for their commitment to the program.
Along our 5K route program organizers placed signage along the path which posed very moving and introspective questions. “Where is the Richest Place on Earth?” asked one sign. As we continued to walk we read finally that it was not the diamond mines of South Africa, nor the Uranium deposits of Australia. Instead the richest place is “In the cemetery- there lies all the books never written, the songs never sung, ideas that were never acted upon—dreams that were long forgotten.”
After the walk, we were greeted with complimentary massages by Everest. The 5K was also co-sponsored by Las Caras Lindas who provided healthy refreshments. Says Teena’s Legacy Founder Jamika Smith “ It was our hope that you will learn more about Teena's Legacy and its mission and vision, meet some wonderful people, and leave with a full heart.
Our hearts were definitely full and we pledged to continue supporting future fundraising activities for Teena’s Legacy. If you are interested in learning more you can visit their website.
Photography by Ellie Pritts Photography