“I just bought my whole block, I’m a chief like I’m from O-Block”: the opening line from the song “New Years Freestyle,” from ITSREAL85’s parody character, Bloody Freddy, resonates with me because it references Chief Keef, O-Block, and Chicago, but most importantly because of the thought of buying his whole block. Yes, the fact that Bloody Freddy is a reimagining of Freddy Krueger as gang leader who runs Elm Street is pertinent, but the fact that a fictional character references owning his community is too prevalent. When I first heard the line I had just became aware of the “buy the block” slogan circling in conversations about dealing with intergenerational wealth, gentrification, and inequity in homeownership. Rappers were some of the first people I heard talking about giving back to the community they came from, but I had heard the slogan in community meetings in Englewood. Asiaha Butler, president of R.A.G.E., used it in the Buy The Block initiative that she was spearheading by educating Englewood residents on how to approach homeownership and how homeowners could take advantage of the city’s Large Lot Program. Seeing this concept being brought to reality in my community really was inspirational, but little did I know that the Buy The Block initiative would be an essential component of economic development in Englewood.
The Englewood Re-Up stands for “R.A.G.E.’s Economic Upliftment Program” and according to its website it “focuses on business ownership, job creation, real estate development, and homeownership in the Englewood Chicago Community.” This includes a range of initiatives including the Buy The Block program, a biannual job fair, a Black-owned business directory, a scholarship program for college bound HS graduates, a utility payments raffle, and my favorite, the land grant program.
According to the Re-Up’s manager, Ashley Johnson, the land grant program is a partnership with the Community Land Bank and it has gifted eight people a large lot on their block with one individual even getting two plots of land. This is thousands of dollars that build financial security for some and build intergenerational wealth for others.
Cherice Price was one of the recipients. An Englewood resident, homeowner, and owner of Price Insurance and Workforce Development Solutions LLC; she has already been deeply invested in the economic and workforce development of her community. Jobs On The Block is a program she pioneered; it has been a staple of community job fairs since I moved back to Chicago in 2015. Asked if there was a catch to the land grant program, she said, “From what I heard, initially, we cannot sell it for the first five years, but since we are the homeowners we were given deeds for the lots,” adding, “if you can show you have the funds to rehab it, they are trying to make it so that you can get the property without putting up so much money upfront, because for a lot of those properties you would need at least $10,000.”
Price plans on turning her property into a playground for kids on the block. Thinking of her granddaughter, she said, “I see the kids riding their bikes up and down the block and playing outside their home, so I was thinking about turning that into a kid’s playground.” She is only one of the grantees, but they all have plans that will generate a long-term impact. Before our chat ended she further advocated, “I just love the economics behind the Re-Up because it’s something we can hand down generationally, so for me that’s one of the biggest takeaways, not just from the vacant lot, but also from the Englewood Re-Up.”
You can follow the Re-Up by following @rage_englewood or visiting theragereup.org.