Hello, neighborhood explorers! Last time, I left you with a template to use each time you go visit a new neighborhood: Try to plan three things: one inside, one outside and one that involves food.
Today, I’m excited to tell you about a neighborhood I love to visit: Bronzeville!
Located along the lake just south of the Loop, Bronzeville is a cultural mega-center for art, music, architecture, and a vivid celebration of the significant contributions of African Americans to Chicago’s history and present. So many legends have walked along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, from Ida B. Wells-Barnett to Louis Armstrong, to the man himself for whom the street was named. Check out the cast bronze memorials set in the sidewalk showcasing more than 90 heroes along the “Walk of Fame.” Your kids will love hunting for the next one and reading the names engraved there!
Recently I (literally) stumbled upon a true gem in Bronzeville: The South Side Community Art Center. Begun as a gallery to house the work of African American artists, the center is housed in an historic greystone at 3831 S Michigan that was dedicated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941. If the pristinely maintained walls inside could talk, they would whisper of piano concerts by Gwendolyn Brooks, writing groups led by Langston Hughes, and of the vision of the center’s founder, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who also founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park.
The space and the work it contains are unique and inspiring. During our visit, the many portraits of President Obama in the first floor’s rotating exhibit fascinated my children.
You can visit the gallery during its open hours for a suggested donation or check out Bronzeville this summer on one of the Summer Nights trolley tours! The next one is right around the corner on July 21.
Ask anyone who has lived in Bronzeville over the last 88 years what they do on the second Saturday in August and they will tell you one thing: the Bud Billiken Parade! It’s the second-largest parade in the whole country and it kicks off the back-to-school season in style.
This year’s celebration won’t disappoint: Chance the Rapper will be the grand marshal! Check it out on Aug. 12.
There are plenty of fantastic restaurants and bakeries in Bronzeville, many of them long-time staples of the neighborhood. A personal favorite is Pearl’s Place, located at 3901 S. Michigan. Since it’s just down the block from the South Side Community Art Center, this is an easy itinerary maker, especially since both are also close to the Indiana Green Line el stop.
Pearl’s Place bills itself as a “white-tablecloth restaurant serving Southern/soul food classics such as fried chicken & catfish.” I lived in the South for 27 years, and this place does not disappoint! My kids love the corn bread that comes out hot before your meal, and I love the atmosphere and the prices.
Keep exploring Chicago neighborhoods this summer—you’ll never run out of fun things to do!