By Ashley Banks
The Black Underground Recycling Program was created in 2016 by Justin Blake, who is a South Side native, community activist, business owner, and great-grandson of a Garveyite. Blake is also the son of the late Reverend Jacob S. Blake, and he contacted other local organizations and businesses to give back to the Bronzeville community in a positive way.
On June 6, Black Underground Recycling, in partnership with the Black Panther Cubs, the UNIA & ACL, the NEC, Sista Afrika Porter of Afrika Enterprises Consulting and Public Relations Company, Jerk Taco Man, Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream, The Almighty Nation of Moorish and Moabitess People’s of America, plus many other African American organizations and businesses, sponsored a “Food Challenge.” The goal was to feed 1,000 people in one day, and the event was located near the intersections of 47th Street and Indiana Avenue. The event began promptly at 1:00 p.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m. Residents and supporters were able to enjoy music, and those in need received hand sanitizer, masks, and groceries that included turkey, meat, bread, beverages, ice cream and chips. Families enjoyed the beautiful weather, and people passing by could see a united front.
Chicago had been under a shelter-at-home order, which was issued by Governor Pritzker in mid-March. It was finally nice to be able to come out and enjoy the day. Attendees expressed their gratitude, and Porter told the Crusader, “Black and browns do work together! There is a Black and brown coalition. Brother Justin and many others partnered to feed our communities and love on each other in such a time as this. We know that we are our own solution.”
Grand Sheikess Johnson Bey of the Moorish Science Temple of America Unity Temple 23 offered her praise: “This event was a showing of oneness regardless of what beliefs, nationality, background or religion one may follow or come from. We came together and did something amazing for our community and the love was real.”
Tu’ Rone Jackson, a 2020 graduate of the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, said: “[It was] an inspirational experience to see our people come together and stand for one thing. People of different colors and all. I wish I could see this globally.” Jackson also received a monetary donation from Blake and other male attendees at the event.
Blake concluded the event with these remarks to the community: “What we witnessed was the spark in the woods that ignites hundreds of thousands of acres, but instead of fire, there was African descendant love.” Blake also stated that the goals for the future are to expand the recycling program; open a 24-hour computer lab; educate and provide employment and develop people’s interests in an effort to improve their communities.
After the event, the giving continued as coalition members went to five senior citizen’s homes and also donated goods to the homeless.