BRONZEVILLE — Friends, family and colleagues gathered in Bronzeville Saturday to honor the memory of Black Star Project Founder Phillip Jackson at the foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration.
Jackson, who died in 2018, was honored with a street renaming ceremony on Juneteenth rebranding a part of 35th Street as Phillip Jackson Memorial Parkway. But many community members weren’t able to attend, so organizers created Saturday’s celebration specifically for neighbors.
Over 100 people made their way through the organization’s parking lot — temporarily transformed into an outdoor bazaar — where they enjoyed food from local vendors, picked up pumpkins from a pumpkin patch, or made a new friend at the petting zoo.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle noted Jackson’s efforts to improve education as Chicago Public Schools’ education chief under Arne Duncan years ago. Carmelita Lightford Hubbard, sister of State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-IL), presented Jackson’s family with a special proclamation on behalf of the Illinois Senate, recognizing Jackson and the Black Star Project for their work.
Black Star Project was founded in 1996, focusing on closing academic achievement gaps that disproportionately leave Black and Latinx students behind. Through community-based support programs like tutoring, mentoring, parent advocacy and development, and college preparation, Black Star Project has helped thousands of young people.
More recently, Black Star Project has grown its mission to include economic empowerment, launching two programs: Building Chicago’s Next CEO and the Phillip Jackson Mentorship Program.
Next CEO is an 8- to 10-week program to introduce teens to entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The mentorship program matches participants with student mentors from the University of Chicago, who offer life skills training in social justice and civic engagement.
Surrounded by family members, Joanne Jackson Crenshaw shared memories of her big brother, who was still trying to change the world from his hospital bed before losing his battle with cancer in 2018.
“Twenty five years and we’re still here, still relevant, still necessary. And if my brother was still here, this would be his testimony,” Crenshaw said. “He was committed until his death … directing Starbucks protests, supporting Black coffee shops, pushing for the circulation of Black dollars in the Black community. He’s not here on a physical plane, but I can feel his spirit.”
Crenshaw’s sister, Black Star Project Executive Director Gloria Smith said she was “overwhelmed” by the show of support for Jackson, and the organization to which he dedicated his life.
“He would be so proud and happy to see all these people and friends coming from all over the world to honor him,” Smith said.
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