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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Lawndale Community Group Helps Keep Young Folks Busy Through Summer

The group is incorporating youth into its various plans to revitalize North Lawndale.

Teens in North Lawndale.
Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago
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NORTH LAWNDALE — The North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council held its quarterly meeting Thursday night to share updates with the neighborhoods on the organization’s various projects. The meeting also invited residents to participate in bringing the projects outlined in the North Lawndale Quality of Life Plan into reality.

And with the summer in full swing, many of the neighborhood committees were focused on ways to keep young people busy with enriching opportunities.

One priority of the neighborhood group for the summer is supporting the youth-led initiative to name the community’s biggest park in honor of abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass. Douglas Park is currently named for Civil War-era senator Stephen Douglas who notoriously advocated for the expansion of slavery as a state’s rights issue.

“He didn’t believe that Black people were equal to whites,” said Sheila McNairy, chair of the neighborhood’s arts and culture committee. “We’re going to ask the community to do letters of support, sign some petitions. And as community participants, we’re going to make sure this park is changed.”

The fight to rename the park is driven by the students at Village Leadership Academy, who are raising funds for a political education campaign centered around Frederick Douglass.

For most summer activities for youth, the neighborhood council is taking precautionary measures to make sure young people and their families are safe from COVID-19.

The group has collaborated with youth organizations like Boxing Out Negativity to reopen their sports and recreation programs with limited capacity so young people can still be engaged over the summer without being exposed.

And to promote public safety in the area, the community organization will be continuing to host a series of Light in the Night events that encourage young people to be involved in their community.

“It’s a way to set up around places considered hot spots where lots of violence might take place and to have lots community presence there. But we also provide things like different activities for young people and children, food giveaways, things of that sort,” said public safety chair Brittany Spralls.

The neighborhood’s greening committee — focused on public park space and environment — also formed a youth council in partnership with the Lincoln Park Zoo and Urban Growers Collective.

The group is working to transform a vacant lot on 13th Street and Millard Avenue into an engaging community space.

“I’m super excited about getting these young people together and teaching them leadership skills. Letting them be a part of what’s going on in their community and having a voice in the community,” said Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick, chair of the greening committee.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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