For decades Chicago’s Woodlawn community has struggled with disinvestment. But a neighborhood pastor and his son developed a vision for Woodlawn that addresses the needs of the community both today and for generations to come.
Dr. Byton T. Brazier And J. Byron Brazier are Chicago’s Very Own.
J. Byron Brazier and his father Dr. Byron T. Brazier share a vision when it comes to revitalizing their Woodlawn neighborhood.
“The mission is self-determination, being able to be an identifiable culture in America,” he said. “We have a Chinatown, we have a Ukrainian Village, Little Italy, but when you come to our community it’s the hood or the ghetto.”
In 2012, Dr. Brazier founded The Network of Woodlawn (NOW), a non-profit organization with a comprehensive approach to addressing the community’s needs.
Dr. Brazier said a dream for a better Woodlawn has been 60 years in the making, beginning with his late father, Bishop Arthur Brazier.
He said the organization began redevelopment in Woodlawn when it became clear there was a need to invest on a much larger scale.
The Braziers say the latest concept would make Woodlawn a cultural destination. By utilizing four currently abandoned schools, they envision a vibrant community where people can live, work and play.
Although the project is still in its planning stages, the father-son duo have worked tirelessly and will be presenting their ideas to city planners this month.
But they emphasize the Network of Woodlawn is a community effort and by holding community meetings every 90 days, residents have the opportunity to share their vision and participate in a process that will impact Woodlawn for years to come.
As the Network of Woodlawn works to leave a better community for the next generations, the Braziers also say its personal.
“This is really important to me because I think this fits into a lot of what my grandfather started,” J. Byron said. “So it has a lot to do with legacy but I think it also has a lot to do with the future.”