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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Phillip Jackson To Be Celebrated At Black Star’s 25th Anniversary This Weekend

The Black Star Project founder would've turned 71 this week. His legacy will be honored at the festival Saturday.

The memory of Black Star Project Founder Phillip Jackson will be celebrated at a festival in Bronzeville this weekend.
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BRONZEVILLE — One of Vincent Price’s fondest memories of his friend, the late Black Star Project founder Phillip Jackson, involves a group of teen boys and a fast food restaurant.

During a weekly mentoring session, the boys found themselves dissatisfied with the quality of their lunch, which they’d ordered from a place nearby. When they shared their frustrations with Jackson, he encouraged them to do something about it.

The boys made picket signs and protested in front of the store, demanding the owners treat their young patrons better.

The demonstration proved successful.

“He wanted to show the boys that they didn’t have take mistreatment, that they could advocate for themselves,” said Price, a deacon at Trinity United Church of Christ on the city’s Far South Side.

Now, Price will be honored at a festival 2-5 p.m. Saturday at 35th Street and King Drive. The event will also serve as the 25th anniversary celebration of the nonprofit he founded, the Black Star Project, which is focused on empowering and providing opportunities for youth of color in Chicago.

The festival will have food, activities, art workshops, neighborhood tours, a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and more. People can RSVP online for free.

From his humble beginnings in the Altgeld Gardens housing projects to his work as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority — and later as education chief of Chicago Public Schools — Jackson was a man singularly focused on improving the world around him, people who knew him said.

Credit: Provided
Black Star Founder Phillip Jackson in an undated photo.

When cancer quietly took him in 2018 at 68, he left behind four sisters and hundreds of people who loved him, each one tasked with continuing his work.

While some were on hand for the street dedication ceremony in Bronzeville recognizing Johnson on Juneteenth this year, folks from the Black Star Project are organizing the larger festival Saturday to honor the mentor, who would’ve turned 71 this week.

Gloria Smith said her brother was focused, determined and excited when he announced his plans to start the nonprofit.

“That’s just who he was, a natural leader,” said Smith, who serves as the organization’s executive director.

Since the organization’s founding in 1996, it has helped thousands of Black and Brown students find their purpose through programs aimed at closing the racial academic achievement gap, but Smith told Block Club that before Jackson passed, he was thinking more broadly about economic development.

The Black Star Project recently launched two programs: Building Chicago’s Next CEO and the Phillip Jackson Mentorship Program, the former an eight- to 10-week program created to introduce teens to entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The latter matches participants with student mentors from the University of Chicago, who offer life skills training in social justice and civic engagement.

After all, building the next generation of leaders is how Jackson lives on, Smith said.

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