The Austin Adams Block Club joined with businesses and community groups – including Austin Coming Together, the Counting on Chicago Coalition and Project Exploration – last weekend for a beautifying event along Adams Street, from Austin Boulevard to Parkside Avenue.
Tina Augustus, president of the Austin Adams Block Club, said “it all started with just a few pans of barbecue ribs.”
Smokey Zo’s was supposed to be part of the Taste of Chicago this year, but in the wake of COVID-19, the city canceled the in-person festival.
Smokey Zo’s then became part of the Community Eats program, which encouraged Taste of Chicago vendors to host a free meal between July 8 and 12 for a community organization.
Smokey Zo’s partnered with Austin Coming Together.
“Originally, we were planning to just, you know, bring the food, drop it off,” said Sherie Marshall, part of the husband-and-wife team that owns Smokey Zo’s.
Then the mayor’s wife heard about their community building event and wanted to come out to support them and plant some flowers, Augustus said.
Smokey Zo’s heard the mayor’s wife was coming, “so the restaurant said, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re gonna come, and we’re gonna cook on site,’
“Then the mayor said, ‘Hey, I think I want to get in the game,’” she said.
“You see this energy from the people, and they love their neighborhood. I want to do whatever I can to really uplift the voices and support them,” Mayor Lightfoot said in an interview for ABC7 at the event.
Augustus had the idea for a beautification event because she loves flowers and sees gardening as a way to beautify the area and bring people together.
“Gardening is like, you know, like a language in itself. That’s how I look at gardening. You don’t even have to talk to a person. [If] you know how to till the ground and put flowers in there, put some fertilizer in there, you don’t have to talk,” she said.
They settled on planting rose bushes, specifically pink double knock out roses, on the corners because they will grow large and bring something significant and attention grabbing to the block.
Rose bushes are perennials; they come back every year. Augustus said that represents “the strength of the community, of our area.”
The Austin Adams Block Club purchased plants and soil with grant funding from the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities.
They were awarded a $2,500 grant in May.
The Austin Adams Block Club was started last year by Augustus and Cardean Jenkins, who serves as vice president. They were both tired of seeing their neighbors from a distance but never getting to know them.
They started with a couple of community meetings and had their first block party last year.
Because of the pandemic, they’re not able to do a large block party again this year, Augustus said, but they’ve got several ideas for events to bring the community together while maintaining social distancing, including a sidewalk chalk art contest.
Their next event is an Austin Adams community day on Saturday, July 18. There will be games, prizes, PPE supplies, food and snacks.
If you live in the area and want to help plan events, you can send a text with your name, email and the message, “I want to help!” to Tina Augustus at (773) 931-2145 or Cardean Jenkins at (630) 670-2004.