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Bronzeville Sees Cultural Opportunity From NATO Summit

The sign for Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. (CBS)

The sign for Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Promoters of the Bronzeville community on the city’s Near South Side say they’re hoping the NATO meeting next weekend exposes more people to their historic neighborhood.

Bronzeville was the center of black life in Chicago until open housing laws allowed African Americans to move to any neighborhood they wanted. It was the center of jazz and blues in Chicago, from Muddy Waters to Buddy Guy and it helped form the writings of famed authors Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright.

It’s a neighborhood on its back way up.

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Harold Lucas of the Black Metropolis Convention and Tourism Council says Bronzeville is ready for NATO-related visits.

“When they tired of hollering at the NATO, they can walk right down the street and visit Bronzeville and have a lemonade and cool out for a minute while they are not demonstrating against the powers that be,” he said.

“We want to have an open door for them.”

At the corner of 35th Street and King Drive is Victory Monument which was dedicated in the 1920s to black soldiers from Illinois who died fighting in France in World War I.

It may be fitting then, according to Paula Robinson, president of the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, that the neighborhood may be called upon to host “one of the smaller French delegations.”

Robinson also points out that, Quinn Chapel, Chicago’s oldest African-American church congregation, at 24th Street and Wabash Avenue, is welcoming protesters to visit and also to find out more about the church’s part in the history of the protest movement.

Robinson says the NATO summit is “a good exercise for Chicago because we’re really poised to become an international city. … This is going to be the first of many world, global events that we host”.

Robinson says her job and those of other Bronzeville promoters this coming weekend will be to get as many people as possible talking about the community and telling people back home about Bronzeville.