BRONZEVILLE — The new Bronzeville Jerk Shack restaurant has had success this holiday season with a special of sweet-potato bread pudding, but it's offering a different special for Martin Luther King Day: a big, healthy helping of economic empowerment.
"We wanted to celebrate MLK Day," said Bernard Loyd, founder of Urban Juncture and its Bronzeville Cookin' project, which aims to spur development at the southern edge of Bronzeville through community and rooftop gardens, restaurants and a business incubator. "Our project is all about economic development, and of course that was a big focus of Dr. King."
All weekend, the Bronzeville Jerk Shack, which opened last fall at 5055 S. Prairie Ave., has been serving up talks on "different paths to economic empowerment," Loyd said, along with its Jamaican cuisine, including his presentation on the importance of education on Sunday. On Monday afternoon, he turned the talk over to Shyvette Williams, the restaurant's designer, who talked about making it as an artist.
"Many folks, when they hear 'artist,' think narrowly about what an artist does," Loyd said Monday. "But part of her career is that an artist is so many things — in succession or at once."
According to Loyd, the New Orleans product "has been many things in her career" — a fashion model working in Europe, an artist in her own right, an art collector and also an interior designer, a vocation she put to work in designing the decor of the Jerk Shack "from the smallest awning fastener to the stain that highlights the dining-room floor," according to the restaurant's website.
Urban Juncture and Bronzeville Cookin' were conceived as a focal point at the intersection of healthy food and economic development, both much needed on the South Side, and so the talks this weekend on empowering yourself fit right in at the Jerk Shack, Loyd said.
"It's all about community development," he said. "It's all about economic development.
"Our challenge is we have to bring Bronzeville back to 51st Street," Loyd said. "There hasn't been anything at 51st Street in so long that people aren't accustomed to coming to 51st Street."
The talks this weekend, including Williams' on Monday, are intended to "get 51st Street on people's radar again," Loyd said.
Yet just in case, for people stopping by just for a good meal in the area, there is another special Monday: pepper shrimp.
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