February 3rd was an exciting day to kick off Black History Month with special events at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Proceeding Word Church, First Church of the Brethren, and Chicago Community Mennonite Church.
Thank you to everyone who attended and to all of the speakers, artists, dancers, musicians, and farmers market vendors who made this day possible!
The idea for this event came about at a Winter Farmers Market planning meeting, held in the sanctuary of the building in East Garfield Park where First Church of the Brethren and Chicago Community Mennonite Church worship. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s office with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was housed in this same building during his activism in Chicago.
Inspired by the sanctuary’s large stained glass window commemorating Dr. King’s legacy in Chicago, the event organizers decided to tie the market to larger themes of food justice in the neighborhood. This also sparked the idea to collaborate with Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church and Proceeding Word Church a few blocks away in North Lawndale – both congregations worship in another building with historic ties to Dr. King.
This unique partnership allowed the congregations to garner enough support from community members to support an indoor Winter Farmers Market.
It also presented a unique opportunity to celebrate Black History Month through dance, music, and poetry, and to lift up environmentalists of color.
Throughout the day of the event, people could attend the indoor Winter Famers Market at Stone Temple. Stepping into a warm room filled with colorful vegetables, jars of honey, delicious soups, and more was a welcome escape from the chilly, windy February morning. The local farmers and vendors present brought seasonal foods grown or produced within 250 miles of Chicago.
Stone Temple opened the day’s festivities with a lively program featuring African drumming, singing, poetry by students from nearby schools, a Haitian Basket dance, telling of an oral history of Dr. King’s involvement at the church.
Farmer Tony Williams of Mother Carr’s CSA Farm in Lynwood, IL spoke about how Vernon Park Church of God started this farm to increase access to fresh, healthy, local foods in the community.
Mark Hicks, an assistant farmer at Mother Carr’s, rapped about his experience working at the farm and the impact of growing his own food.
All too often, the environmental movement leaves out the important contributions of African Americans.
To counter that, information about Black History Month Environmentalists was highlighted in the program booklet: read them here. Bios of contemporary environmentalists of color working in Chicago and across the country were also visible: view them here.
Creatively displayed with clothespins on a clothesline, this was a symbolic reminder that ancestors who hung clothes out to dry, sewed quilts out of scraps, grew their own gardens, and canned their own food out of necessity were some of the most environmental and local-foods conscious people of all time.
First Church of the Brethren/Chicago Community Mennonite Church hosted non-food vendors selling African clothing, jewelry, and books.
The closing program at First Church of the Brethren included singing, storytelling about Dr. King’s presence in the neighborhood, poetry from youth at nearby schools, and a performance by the Leif Ericson Scholastic Academy Vikings Dance Team.
Mr. Leavelle Abram, Leif Ericson Academy's principle, and Alderman Jason Ervin of the 28th ward, joined the event.
The faith-based environmental movement is expansive and recognizes the interconnections between many different issues. Celebrating Black History Month and hosting a Winter Farmers Market in church buildings that hold the legacy of Dr. King’s work was a powerful reminder to consider how we are called to examine our history and act on the interrelated issues of economic justice, racial justice, food justice, and environmental justice.