Chicago Tonight, WTTW, channel 11, October 11, 2017
For some residents, their approach to improving their communities might begin with violence prevention or education initiatives. But in Woodlawn, one group is getting back to its roots—literally—partnering with the Morton Arboretum to harness the positive impact of trees on everything from the crime rate to the business community.
When the Future Energy Jobs Bill (FEJA) passed the Illinois General Assembly and was later approved by Governor Rauner in early December last year, a key component of the legislation was to expand solar access for low-income communities. To get a feeling for how the legislation came about, I caught up with Naomi Davis, president and founder of the Chicago-based non-profit Blacks in Green (BIG). She has been on the front lines of developing this innovative program and is excited to finally see it coming together.
Blacks in Green is a Chicago-based economic development organization that aims to create self-sustaining black communities through green initiatives. “We’re using the green economy to galvanize, organize, energize,” says founder Naomi Davis. Davis has met with Scott and CRTI multiple times over the last few years in order to plan BiG’s approach. “When you’re starting something, you should take stock of what you got,” Davis says. “We realized we were going to need to start with a tree inventory. Now we’re finally getting that inventory.”
At first glance, the collection of people spilling over from the parkway onto the sidewalk on St. Lawrence Avenue appear to be at a midsummer get-together. Many in the multiethnic group of 30, ranging from toddlers to seniors, are standing around a table loaded with food and drinks.
However, this is no ordinary neighborhood gathering on Chicago’s South Side. There’s another table — one covered with brochures and flyers on tree species and plant care. A nonprofit organization called Blacks in Green (BIG), which promotes green infrastructure and “garden-oriented development” in Chicago, is behind the afternoon activity, billed as a “tree inventory.”