Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, the summer meant snowballs and penny candy, camp at the local park district, somebody’s uncle or cousin busting open a fire hydrant to cool us from the sun and big family vacations.
The signature end to summertime Chi was the Black family reunion in Washington Park, the Bud Billiken Parade.
When the Bud’s on the horizon, we’ll see kids in the streets and on the sides of the expressways trying to get people to donate to their cause of getting new uniforms. Politicians gearing up for their campaigns using fancy floats and cars, their teams and a few staples from the community who are ready to march down King Drive and make them look like they’re “for the people.” And we’ll see a couple of organizations handing out information so the people know who they are. But, nine times out of 10, if it’s not seen as useful information it might end up on the ground.
But I think the Bud has so much more purpose than what the larger community sees. Its official mission is to “connect the community to opportunities dedicated to education, health, wellness, business training and entrepreneurial development.” The vision is unity, empowerment and an enriched quality of life for our communities.
I’m not saying that it has lost those elements, but, more than anything, it feels like Chicago Idol and the political pander party with a looming anxiety of potential violence.
There are a lot of lost learning opportunities and hidden resources.
Let’s Help Young Entrepreneurs Get Started by Bringing in Great Teachers
First, I am a hardcore advocate for education and proponent for turning almost any experience into a learning opportunity. So to see kids on the streets asking for money, rather than working for it, bothers me. Even more so when the adults around them encourage it.
When I was growing up, we sold candy, washed cars, cut grass, had yard sales—did whatever we could do to make our own money. And when we were old enough, we got jobs.
If one of the goals of the parade is to promote entrepreneurship, make it happen! One way to do that could be to engage and include more schools and educators in the planning and parade itself.
The South Side has been plagued with this narrative that all of our schools are terrible and people just don’t care about teaching our kids. That’s not true, as teachers like Kareem Sayegh of Goode STEM Academy show. (And yes, Kareem is still there.)
And our kids are eager to try their hand at running their own businesses. Just look at the more than 30 CPS students who spend time at Future Founders summer camp for tech entrepreneurs.
Why not teach more South Side kids the same business skills? Embolden them to be innovative and entrepreneurial in their fundraising instead of encouraging them to ask for handouts. Because in the adult world, nothing comes easy and hardly anything is free.
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