Photo: Paola Aguirre
Connecting the Past, Present and Future
Overton Stories Project celebrates residents, neighbors, former students and teachers, artists, athletes, business owners, activists and all who are connected to the former Anthony Overton Elementary School and to Bronzeville.
Sandra has been photographing the rebirth of Overton since late 2017. As the building is rehabilitated and repurposed into its new function as a business and technology incubator, Sandra continues to search for those who want to share their stories about Overton.
If you'd like to share your Overton story or know someone that would be interested, please contact Sandy at:
Click here to see installation from 2018.
Alpha Bruton is an artist and art consultant. She is the chief curator of the Phantom Gallery Chicago, located in Bronzeville. She was commissioned to work with Overton students to create the mural project, located on the first floor of the building, in 2007.
“During the summer of 2007, I took a group of students through the mural process to select images to represent the history of Bronzeville and what it means to live here. There was a lot of input regarding whose images and which symbols should be included. Images were pulled from books the children found that were being discharged from the school library. I asked them to select their favorite stories to add to the mural that showed cultural diversity. I think it’s important
that this building will be repurposed. The arts and business incubator, shared space and community center are all needed and valued here in this community.”
Lefty Boyd Boyd is a former semi-pro basketball player, basketball coach, and founder of I am Chicago Basketball, a youth basketball program headquartered at Overton. A strong part of his program is facilitating youth mentoring and community events.
“I went through the basketball system, I made mistakes. I want to help other young ball players to have bigger opportunities that basketball can bring them, both on and off the court. My program addresses youth safety too. If I take up their time with this recreational structure, they’re not out on the streets. I provide a safe haven."
Ghian Foreman is the owner of the former Anthony Overton Elementary School, co-founder of Washington Park Development Group and CEO of Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative.
“The community needs the ability to remember how to dream. How to imagine. How to see the beauty in themselves. How to see what’s possible. What can we be? What can we do for ourselves, rather than waiting for someone else to parachute in? At the end of the day, it’s always about community.”
Ladipo Famodu is a researcher, artist, futurist and founder of Astro Afro Studio. He embraces opportunities for experimental, collaborative learning and believes in the power of imagination. Ladipo is a Bronzeville resident.
“I think Overton is a great experiment, in thinking about how buildings that are in flux can still serve purpose to a community. This former school will be turned into an incubator in the future, but it’s still a usable space now. You can still do things, and by activating these spaces, you are bringing neighbors together. This is proof of concept that this can be replicated throughout the city. We need more focus on the great projects that are happening here on the South Side.”
Leslé Honoré is an poet, activist and Executive Director of K.LE.O. Center in Washington Park. She's also author of Fist & Fire, a collection of powerful, unflinching poems that confront issues of social justice through the lens of real human lives and voices, and that dive into the flames of love within the context of a relationship.
“My work is focused on access and resources through an art narrative. Accessibility to the fine arts for black and brown kids in lower economic areas has been very limited, but it is magical for them to find out how to tell their stories in any artistic way. We have to give them the tools and then the magic happens. It’s how they change the narrative, how they become empowered and how they know their story is their own to tell.”
Ronnie Matthew Harris Ronnie Matthew Harris is a social entrepreneur, community leader and Visionary at Go Bronzeville. Ronnie attended Overton for second and third grade.
“My life’s work as a community learning and development practitioner in Bronzeville is deeply rooted in the rich legacy of those that came before me. The best of city planners argue today that a community that walks, bikes and takes public transportation is more likely to be safer, healthier and more economically viable.
That withstanding, my vision is to see Bronzeville emerge as it once was--a self sustaining, thriving, safe, secure and entrepreneurial community.”
Miss Lee is the chef and owner of Miss Lee’s Good Food, one of a handful of South Side food spots to feature soul food and home cooking.
"I think of the neighborhood kids as my kids. The collection of toys in my store window are my connection with the kids for memory and legacy. They bring me a toy, and I share my spaghetti and a biscuit. Some of the kids leave the neighborhood, but wherever they’ve been, eventually they come back to Miss Lee, for the food and for the memory. I love my kids. They’re our future.”
Caleb "Little Lefty" Boyd is the son of Lefty Boyd. He spends time at Overton after school and during the summer, playing basketball and helping out on projects.
“Sometimes I work here and I get paid for my work. I play a little basketball, climb trees, do raps and karate moves. And I do a little security. I want to keep working and saving. This summer I improved my jump shot and I learned how to dunk. What I like most about being at Overton is you get to have fun.”
Eddie White "Edo"is a visual artist, entrepreneur and co-founder of BeCreative, a design and branding company located in Boxville Marketplace (Bronzeville).
“I’ve always been of service, to help people, especially young people. We do workshops and make sure we create job opportunities for the youth. I want them to be able to look at me, look at an African American man with locks and tattoos, with this creative business, and know, they can do whatever they want to do. What we are doing is similar to what Overton is doing. The mission is the same: inspire people, affect people and be of service.”
Jared Lewis Lewis is an entrepreneur, community activist and resident of the South Shore neighborhood. He is the great, great grandchild of Anthony Overton.
“Anthony Overton was running these social enterprises to serve his community, to serve people of color. This city is filled with creative entrepreneurs, who are ready to work for the public good. Repurposing assets like buildings will be increasingly vital to urban planning, policy and community. I think the best course of action is to honor the memory and legacy of our history and also to create pathways to the future that will foster self sustainability and legacy.”
Michelle Agins has been a staff photographer for the New York Times since 1989 and is one of only two African American female photographers ever to work at the paper. In 2001, she and her colleagues won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on race. She was raised in Bronzeville and attended the former Anthony Overton Elementary School as a child.
“We lived at 50th and Calumet. I was shy and didn’t want to play outside with other children. My grandmother won a Brownie camera in a Bingo game at the Pilgrim Baptist Church. She gave it to me and told me to go take some pictures in the neighborhood. I was about eight years old. I photographed everything I could. As I grew up, photography helped me to bridge the differences with my neighborhood. People could understand me through my pictures.”
Jade Foreman is an artist and high school student. She is a Southside resident and Ghian Foreman’s daughter.
“I have space in Overton where I go to work on my paintings. It is a space where I’m able to relax and feel free. I’m not the only one that feels this way though, there are many people and projects going on within the building- each so unique. There is something very special about being a part
of the Overton experience and seeing people make art and change. it is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, it is unmatched.”